THE YEAR OF THE SHEEP – Part 1
We spinners get all the luck in 2015! Have you heard?
It is the Year of the Sheep according to the Chinese calendar so we here at The Spinning Loft have decided to do something exciting. We are celebrating …. wait for it…..
I know right? Aren’t you excited? It’s a whole new thing for us! I thought we might branch out.
Ok ok ok, fine. The Shih Tzu Overlord has decided my sense of humor is flatly NOT amusing and demands I get on with it. (When is the year of the Shih Tzu, Mummy? Huh? WHEN?)
Throughout this year we will be featuring certain sheep. Challenging breeds, unsung heroes, personal favorites, super versatile fibers, and even, if we like you all very much (and we do), some spinner’s fleeces* – they are all fair game this year.
Why should you love this? Aside from the fact that it’s all about Sheep and so are we? Well, because you will get a 10% discount on any featured breed/fleece product! There’s no need to enter any coupon code, the discount will appear on the featured products automatically.
So who or what is the lucky first victim candidate? Well, it’s one of my favorites for lofty poofy well wearing yarn that is still comfortable for the hands: Cheviot!
I LOVE CHEVIOT.
It makes great socks. It’s lofty. It takes dyes nicely. It has a lovely creamy color when left white. Did I mention it makes great socks?! It shows cables well. It’s a great winter outerwear wool. It’s sturdy. Did I mention the socks? Ok – so maybe it’s not so good for drapey lace shawls, but if you wanted to add a lacework element to some cables it’s a great option. It weaves nicely. It’s spongy and springy – a friend once described it as “bouncy as a bunch of kangaroos.” That’s because of its characteristic helical crimp. Sometimes the texture of this crimp comes through as “crunchy” and can give the impression of coarseness.
Cheviot are sturdy sheep, bred to care for themselves in the harsh conditions of the Cheviot Hills and the HIghlands where they range free on the hillsides and rarely see the inside of a shed, let alone a barn, and their wool reflects that. It’s lofty and thick and warm and sheds water. This is why Cheviot is so good for socks and outerwear or anything that needs some ruggedness. I confess that their history is as much why I like them as their wool – they were mentioned as long ago as the 1370s.
It’s just SO GOOD!
What should I tell you about Cheviot that is not in our Sheep-o-pedia? Well, I’ll tell you.
Cheviot is one of the parents of Perendale (the other is Romney). I find it doesn’t object to be spun thin – and given how much it likes being a traditional 3-ply, I am fond of this trait. It works well for worsted OR woolen spinning as well, which is why it does so well as socks or outerwear. The wool has a spongy-ness to it that promises loft (and it delivers) and thus it also spins nicely into uber floofy thick and thin singles – or even just very lofty bulky yarns. Where the strongly spun and plied singles for socks are sturdy, the fluffy singles are warm and lofty. You can also coax it to felt with a little effort. I would call Cheviot felt-resistant as opposed to some who say “it’s un-feltable” – Cheviot is not a true down breed so it’s less likely to be un-feltable.
And just to be even more fun I have photos of some of my samples for you too. Singles yarn, 2-ply yarn, 3-ply yarn, stockinette samples, lace samples, woven samples – even, yes, sock yarn made from The Loft in Cheviot. These are the best socks EVER.
We even have some Cheviot dyed in our “The Loft” colorway from Spunky Eclectic for anyone who doesn’t want to process it themselves! I love this colorway so much I accidentally dyed my hair to match it over the holidays. (Seriously – I really did do it by accident. Well, the dyeing was on purpose, I just didn’t realize I had created the colorway on my head until a friend said they wanted to knit my hair.)
Also interesting is that North Country Cheviot is actually a different breed of sheep. They may originate with “hill breed” from the highlands of Scotland, the Cheviot, but these sheep are from the lowlands on the English border with Scotland. The difference in environment creates a difference in the fleece. Cheviot is sturdier.
If you are accustomed to or prefer Merino, Bond and BFL, you will find Cheviot coarse feeling. But it’s a really fun spin anyway so don’t give up. Give Cheviot a chance – it’s a wonderful all around fiber from a great sheep!
On more thing…. A brief announcement. We have received updated pricing from our vendors for 2015. Most have had some sort of price increase over our previous stock and we will be updating accordingly. After February 28th, we will be listing the new stock at the new prices. On the other hand, there was no postal increase in January so that’s refreshing.
* A spinner’s fleece won’t be breed specific – but it will be a fleece or fleeces from some of my favorite shepherds who are producing delicious fibers for spinning that I fell in love with and JUSTHADTOHAVEZOMG. They might be strange and unusual crosses or they might be just plain delicious. You’ll have to wait and see!
2 thoughts on “It’s The Year of the Sheep!”
Interestingly I have spun and knitted several pairs of Perendale socks from two different breeders. None of this fleece was tender. Two pairs have developed holes in the lower heel within a few months of wearing them. They are a little less than sport weight, have a slip stitch heel and toe and Navajo plied yarn on the foot area.
I have also spun a pair of Romney house socks that I wear nearly every day. They are a light worsted weight and are 11 months old. I even wear them most days when I go for my daily walk with walking boots on. Yes, there is some wear inside the sock on the lower heel, but they are holding up rather well. They also have the reinforced stitch on the heel and toe and the whole sock is Navajo plied.
I have used Cheviot on the heels and toes in Navajo/cable ply in a pair I finished a few months ago using Shropshire/Corriedale Border Leicester X, but haven’t worn them as much as the others.
This has been a huge disappointment when considering the parents involved here. I really thought it would be a winner.
Romney is much better but the jury is still out on the Cheviot at this stage.
I am also trialing Texel, East Friesian, Dorset Downs and mixes with non-baby alpaca in the search for that perfect sock yarn.
Sorry to say, it is thumbs down for Perendale.
I’ve had great success with Perendale as a sock fiber myself, so while it may be thumbs down for you, it’s not for everyone.
There are lots of ways to spin a sock yarn and the fiber type alone should not limit you. In fact, I would recommend playing with each element of the process to find what works best for your socks. I would recommend trying a a tighter plying structure and a straight 2-3 ply over a navajo ply and see how that goes for your socks. I normally use a down breed, my Dad favors Cheviot, for hiking boot socks, and I spin it tight and ply it it tight – much tighter than I would otherwise – in a 3 ply. When I knit his sock I also use 2 needles down from my “normal” gauge.
May I recommend PLY Magazine’s Spring 2017 Down Issue for some great discussions on sock experiments?