“What Language Are You Speaking”


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.  😀


Happy New Year … Again …

I said “Happy New Year” then fell off the radar.   Work’s been taking up too much of my time but I’m remedying that.  I figure with today being Chinese New Year, it was a good day to  start again and catch  you up on what I’ve been working on and some of my plans for 2016.

The most important creative goal for me this year is to work without pressure or deadlines.  Last year saw a lot of things being made with intense deadlines,  many of the items not posted on the blog or IG because it was pretty much “deadline, make, sent, repeat”.   While I do have some commitments this year, the pressure is not so intense; when I tell you that I’ve even stepped away from the Harry Potter Ravelry games, know that I’m serious about just enjoying making — just because.   I’m even going to add #thejoyofmaking hashtag to my projects on IG from today to celebrate my way of slow making this year.

Since I started crafting, most years I’ve had a yearlong project; in 2016 my project is going to be a fiber breed study.  Initially I was going to do it for three months but all the reading I’ve done encouraged a longer time-frame.  Of course, my obese fiber stash had 11 different types of fiber to choose from so I’m going to spin one braid per month and leave it either as a single or finish it with different plying techniques.  My basket is ready,  11 sweet fibers to spin and learn from, for the entire year.

Breed Study 2016

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a crochet blanket for my friend’s son.  I’m slogging through it now, but I’m determined not to put it on timeout.  I must finish it by the end of next weekend so I’ll be working on it hard this week.  I know … I said no deadlines but I’ve been working on this for much too long and I’m ready to finish it so I’m going to push myself … just a little harder.

J's Blanket

On a dare from my friend Elisa, I’ve also made  Youtube videos showing how I make rolags for spinning.  The videos are totally rough (absolutely no editing) but I had fun making them during the “snowmaggedon” blizzard we North Easterners had two weekends ago.   I’d post them but I’m going to condense the two videos into one and clean up the presentation.   As soon as I’m done, I’ll post the link here, but in the meantime, these are the rolags I made for that demonstration.    😀

I called the set “Blizzard”.  Appropriate don’t you think?


Then in preparation for my breed study, especially since I hadn’t spun for a few months due to my thumb injury, I got back in the saddle with what I thought was some random KnitPicks fiber, just to get a feel of the motions of spinning; it was like riding a bike.  I still have about 1.5 ozs of this practice fiber to finish but so far it’s been beautiful!

Back In The Saddle

Although it’s not part of the breed study, this fiber is definitely going to be a F.O. for 2016; it surpassed what I thought it was going to look like so I have to finish it.

I know you all have already come out the gate in January with your craft plans for the year so I’ll definitely be making my rounds to your blogs this week to see what you’ve all been up to so far for 2016.  Hope you all have been doing well and I can’t wait to start interacting with you in this space again!