This is the question I got asked yesterday by my online fiber buddy Daniellajoe after I posted the following pic of the start of my fiber breed study.
And really, what language am I speaking?
We go to the yarn supply store, or ravelry, or etsy. We see, we touch, we sniff yarn fumes, we cuddle, we buy, then we create. We don’t think of things like staple length, micron count, bradford count, s-twist, z-twist, drafting techniques or even sheep breeds. We think, yummy color, oooooo so soft, I love. I want. In my shopping cart right now! Or in my bag right now!!! 😀
But there’s so much more out there! So much more than what we know. So much more than bfl, silk, merino, cashmere, nylon, cotton, and the innocuous 100% wool with no detail on what type of fiber it is.
So how about this? How about I share this “new language” with you? How about I document everything I learn? All my mistakes, all my successes, and all of the in-betweens? So even if you don’t spin, by the end of the year, some of the fiber names you’ve heard of will be more familiar and you’ll even get a chance to find out about some new ones. Good? Alrighty then, let’s get started!
Last October, I bought what I was told was a Bond/Corriedale fiber blend from a seller at the Brooklyn Fiber Festival. When I got home, it was actually two lengths of fiber, braided to look like one NOT a blend. When I started investigating the fibers, one of the first things I did was check the staple length (more on what that is later), I found that the lengths were disproportionately different from each other. This meant that there was no way this was a blend of the two fibers. One length is Bond and the other one is Corriedale. While this serves as a buyer beware story, what it also provides is an opportunity to get acquainted with two semi-distinct fibers instead of one.
For the purposes of this study what I’m about to say relates to animal fibers. When I use plant fibers I’ll explain the characteristics then. So … all fibers fall into categories and I don’t mean pretty, prettier or prettiest! LOLOL! What I refer to are categories where although the sheep in each group have their own unique characteristics, the fiber from all the sheep in the same category have the same/similar distinguishing features.
According to Beth Smith, author of “The Spinners Book of Fleece”, the categories can be represented as:
- fine wools
- long wools
- downs and down type breeds
- multi-coated breeds
Luckily for me, the two fibers I got are both in the fine wool category so while the staple lengths might be different, the fiber from each source acts and can be treated similarly (hence the semi-distinct description) . Before I get into the nitty gritty of each fiber, I’m going to give you the definitions of words you’ll hear regularly throughout this breed study:
- staple length: is the naturally defined length of any fiber (unstretched) based on the genetics of the fiber source.
measuring staple length
- Micron count: “measures the diameter of a single fiber of wool using scientific instruments that measure micrometers. The smaller the number, the finer the wool.” quoted from Yarn Works by W.J. Johnson. How does this relate to the yarns you have in your stash? Your yarn with smaller micron counts would be considered fine wools — your lace and fingering fall into this category. Medium micron count (medium wools) are your sport weights, dk and worsted weights. Larger microns counts are your aran and bulky weights.
See … the “language” is not as far removed from your current stash as you thought.
I’ve given you a lot to think about as a start, so I’m going to end here. Next week’s post will delve into details of the actual fibers I’m spinning for April. Hope to see you next week and let me know what you think in the comments section.
And Daniella … thanks so much for the post title! 😀
P.S. I know there are some seasoned spinners out there who visit this blog from time to time; I’d definitely appreciate your input or clarification if you see information given here that’s different from what you know it to be. 😀