Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Revisiting Gotland Wool: What is it Saying?

I talked about Gotland wool earlier this year, and I even talked about it on Fiber Talk:


Now that I've worked with more of it, I'd like to add a few things. First, I know that with many breeds, there will be a variety of qualities and characteristics the individual fleeces might exhibit, and that might be further compounded if the shepherd/ess is making crosses or upgrading bloodlines. If you're working with an older animal's fleece, it'll feel very different than a lamb's fleece. These points are all worth keeping in mind when working with any particular breed (with some exceptions, where fleece characteristics are tightly controlled).


Second, your experience with a wool will vary according to how you prep the wool and how you spin it. And last, what is your Gotland telling you? I actually debated about whether I should comb or card this fleece, since the locks were on the longer side. I decided to card it because I wanted the finished yarn to be fluffier, and the batt would help me spin a loftier yarn. After doing my cotton spinning challenge, I began making larger samples for testing techniques and the like. So, with this fiber feeling so soft, naturally, I wanted to highlight that aspect as much as possible in the twist. The batt fluffed up considerably after removing it from my drum carder...it begged to be spun with a delicate hand.


This fleece came from a soft, baby Gotland sheep from the UK. This coloring is impeccable for making a wonderful heathered gray yarn, as you can see in the photos. The fibers smoothed right through my fingers, so I kept the intake low and had on my largest whorls, but kept my fingers deft so I didn't impart too much twist.

I kept the single twist low and the ply twist low, which had an unexpected result. In most wools I've spun, when you spin/ply with low twist, you'll get a poofy yarn where the fibers poof in the same way. But I haven't really done this with a curly fleece before now. After I washed the plied skein, I noticed that little bits of curl would reactivate--but they wouldn't all reactivate as a cohesive curl. It was a bit like watching a kid walk a dog, where each had different ideas about which way to go. Maybe you can see what I'm talking about with this closeup:


Without any tension, this yarn seems to meander through the length, rather than just be poofy, as I would expect a fiber like merino to do if spun similarly. Does that make sense? The yarn bends one direction for half an inch, then it bends in a different direction, and so on. It takes on a wiggly appearance instead of a poofy or round one. I have some super curly Cotswold, so I kind of wonder if it'll do the same thing if I spin it similarly. :)

My yarn weighed 85g and had 452 yards. Since I don't have a spinner's control card right now, I figured out how many yards per 100g I had by setting up a proportion (hey, I'm using algebra!), which gave me 525 yds/100g (or, 5.25 yds/g; 2378 yds/pound). So, my yarn comes to about a heavy lace weight yarn, according to the Wikipedia yarn weights page. Once I knit up a swatch, I'll see what the stitch gauge can tell me about the gauge of the yarn...is it really a heavy lace weight yarn?


Let's talk about the prickle factor for a second. Gotland is typically listed in the upper 20s-lower 30s on the micron scale, but this seems to be a wool similar to Icelandic: if you keep the twist lower (think soft-spun), you can minimize the prickle factor of your yarn. My fleece came from a super soft baby lamb, so mine is probably in the low-mid 20s, so keep in mind the age of your sheep when you decide to spin Gotland. I probably could have spun this Gotland with more twist, but I'm still quite pleased with the final yarn. I think a low twist yarn really brings out the particular curly characteristics of this wool. Part of my breed study lessons come from letting the wool speak to me; in this case, I'm glad I listened! So, what has been your experience with Gotland? Have you worked with it more since we last talked about it? Post in the comments below and share with your friends!