Friday, January 18, 2008

Exploring the Down Wools: British Suffolk

The down wools fascinate me. No one talks about them much. And yet, here are wools that are

1. relatively soft
2. long-wearing
3. extremely elastic
4. resistant to felting
5. inexpensive

Am I wrong, or isn't this just perfect for sock yarn? Sure, merino is softer, but that's about its only advantage over the down wools. And feet truly don't have enough nerve endings to appreciate the softness of merino, anyway. Hands have more. (Lips have more yet. That is why I always touch a yarn with a soft hand to my lips....sometimes it still feels soft, sometimes it doesn't.)

Well, I haven't actually made socks with any down wools yet. But I am on a mission to hunt out as many of these traditional sock fibers as I can, try them out, and let you know what I like best.

I am starting with some "British Suffolk" wool from Homestead Wool and Gift Farm.
Eight ounces of raw wool for $2.5o. Not bad! Easy to process. I am carding it and spinning from the rolags. It drafts easily, so spinning an even single is no problem, and I find myself tending toward a long draw. The singles are around 40 wpi. I chain-plied a sample, to give an idea of what the finished 3 ply would be like. Very elastic (downright sproingy!) , around 15 wpi. And soft to the hand (though not to the lips.)

I draw information from this post from the excellent book, In Sheep's Clothing, by the Fourniers. They state that down wools are not called downs because they are downy (not at all!) but because they originate in the down counties of England.


Carissa said...

What a great idea! I have some Suffolk that I enjoy. Cary can sometimes get some from her brother. And Cindy has some very nice Dorset and Dorset crosses. I hope to blend some of the Suffolk with mohair for sock yarn, in my spare time! :) I look forward to seeing how your experiment progresses!

Cary at Serenity Farms said...

Donna, you have discovered one of the best kept secrets of the fiber world - LOL ;) And, I have three Suffolk in my own flock right now with very nice down fleece.

It can be fussy to process (can you say "looks like lint balls?!?") but it does take dye in a neat way, with a nice matte finish.

If it is strong (I mean no broken tips, etc.) it can wear like iron. One of the nicest I ever tried was an Oxford fleece that I purchased at the Indiana State Fair.

Have fun in your explorations...hugs, Cary

P.S. I think you are a very wise woman to wait on the wheel purchase.

Holly said...

I have some Cheviot fleece that I combed up with a smidge of mohair to spin up in to sock yarn-wait, I think I spun it already! Well, I haven't knit it yet, I know that! Maybe once my gloves are done :~)

fiberjoy said...

Don't you wish that you could spin a couple days at a fibershow test spinning all the various wools!

Your yarn is looking very fine. :-)