Primitive Breeds..oh how lovely you are.

Unspun Icelandic and Shetland Yarns

I’ve learned something from the primitive breeds this last month. I’ve learned to loosen up and let go. Leave room to bloom.

All this from a simple fiber, made from a simple breed of sheep. I started working with Shetland wool the first time I washed, prepped, spun and knit my own Shetland fleece into a Stonington Shawl. What an amazing experience.

Lately though, I’ve been working with a couple of pure Shetland wool yarns that are commercially prepared, and what I saw was that this prep is not much different than my own first attempts. The 2 ply is loose and relaxed. When knit up, especially in two color work, the relaxed ply allows the Shetland fibers to open up, filling the spaces within the stitches, adding warmth while keeping the garment light and airy. This is true of the Unspun Icelandic fiber too.

Here is a photo I took comparing the fibers side by side:

Icelandic-Shetland hor-sun-labeled.25

The top is the unspun Icelandic. It’s more of a roving than a yarn as there is no twist inserted into the fiber here. Under that is my own homespun Shetland. This is an example of some of the shorter fibers I drum carded then spun with a higher twist than the 2-ply beneath it, which is my original, ‘spun from a flicked lock’ product. Much more akin to the two commercial preps below it.

Unspun Icelandic is a fascinating fiber to knit with. It is much like a spinner’s very thin pencil roving, carrying no twist at all.  The long fibers stick together and carry the undercoat along with them. Those who know Icelandic wool call this a blend of the tog and the thel fibers. When you knit with this fiber, you have to learn to loosen up, let go, no tension. Pulling unceremoniously on the fiber will cause it to drift apart and separate, so it’s loose going… relax… breathe. When the fibers do drift apart, no worry, just overlap them a few inches and carry on, a wonderful life lesson in and of itself.

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5 Responses to Primitive Breeds..oh how lovely you are.

  1. Jen says:

    Morrie, you’ve been very couragious in your knitting with the unspun wool… I saw it myself, and could see how it just wanted to break into pieces. I think you’ve done a tremendous job of presenting it along side the 2plies, of yours, of J&S and of Jamiesons. You are indeed the Sherlock Holmes of Fiber !!! 🙂

    ps. And I can’t wait to see your ‘over blouse’ when I come over next ! 🙂

  2. Moz says:

    It is a very long and strong fiber. Once you get it into a stitch the garment will be very sturdy yet extremely lightweight. 🙂

  3. Carol Anderson says:

    I was just telling Jen that I bought a drop spindle and roving yesterday and learned to spin. I will show you some of my progress later this week and then I will want to make a 2ply yarn, so I’m concentrating on fine and even. We’ll see how it goes.

    Your spinning is beautiful! Are you having fun?

  4. Melissa says:

    This is very interesting. Thank you for posting this!

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