Sheep to Sweater

Posted by on Mar 17, 2017 in Spinning | 2 comments

You know that scene in Speed, where Sandra Bullock smells gasoline on Keanu Reeves, so now of course the speeding bomb bus is leaking gas because they didn’t have enough problems, and she says, “What, you felt like you needed another challenge or something?”

That’s me.

I am a beginning spinner. I love it, and I do it a lot, and so I’m definitely improving, but every time I feel like I’ve got a handle on it, I listen to some real spinners, and I don’t understand half the things they’re talking about, much less how one could actually on purpose control those things.

But never let it be said that a lack of ability, understanding or control should stop someone from attempting something very difficult! The very idea!

It’s partly Rhinebeck’s fault. Rhinebeck is very seductive. I go, and everybody there knows stuff and I get caught up in the idea that hey, maybe I know stuff too! Or I could figure it out, because I’m smart and look all these people know this, surely if so many people are doing it, it can’t be that hard! And so when I find myself fingering this gorgeous unwashed wool (what breed it is, I can’t say, because I forgot/don’t pay that much attention to things/don’t actually know stuff) with these bright golden tips, and the lady tells me that those tips disappear if you try to comb it and I think, but that would be a tragedy! And the woman says, “you can just spin from the locks, you know.” What I ought to think here is, “maybe you can,” but instead I think “yes! yes I can!”

And so I buy the unwashed wool. And it sits for half a year while I work up the courage to wash it, since I don’t really know how to do that. But the internet has taught me many, many things, and it can teach me this, too.

I learn that washing wool is fascinating, but really hard on a bathtub.

When it’s finally dry–which takes forever, by the way–it weighs considerably less than it used to. Something to bear in mind for the future. It is also slightly more matted. Sigh. I totally felted it while washing it. I should hang my head in shame and failure.

I try spinning from these locks, but it is laughably impossible. Also, there are a lot of twigs and things in there. My husband is looking a little askance at this latest project. The bathtub was bad enough, but now there are literally twigs and bits of wool all over the house, and it doesn’t look like that will stop happening anytime soon.

I predraft, attempting to keep those golden tips that so seduced me in place.


This throws more twigs and bits of wool about, but makes spinning at least possible, if not, you know, easy. The staple length is fairly long, but the lack of connection between the locks (because of the no combing) means that I have to tug/move quickly/hold on/save that tip/ in quick succession, or sometimes all at the same time. It does not make for a smooth yarn, but that’s ok.


I make three very irregular singles and then ply them together. The plying smooths out those crazy irregularities (mostly) but keeps the natural variegation. It clocks in at a bulky weight, which is cool, because I’ve never ever managed to spin anything heavier than sport weight before! This is very exciting!

There is one tiny problem. This is not the kind of yarn I normally like to knit. I like smooth yarns, yarns that want to be cabled or lacy. I’m not sure what this will end up looking like. I’m kind of afraid that all this yarn really wants to be is something that very much resembles a bear-fur cape. And that’s not quite my jam.

Yep. Definitely some resemblance to a bearskin. And I only have 400 yards of it, which is sort of an awkward amount, even for bulky bearskin yarn.

On the other hand, Maile loves it. And she’s totally the kind of person who could rock a bearskin. So I’m actually going to make her tiny owl knits’ moonbeam duster, and she’ll love it, and it’s a perfect use of this yarn, and this will not be wasted, while still being a valuable lesson to me that just because something might be beautiful in my head, it doesn’t mean that it will suit me when I’m finished with it, and that maybe that’s something I want to pay attention to while I’m shopping.



  1. I, too, spin…and I’m not a great spinner and I know I have lots of things I should maybe think about learning (drive ratio? lolwut?!) but I am fairly consistent at this point. And then I went to Lambtown (which is like a very very very watered down version of Rhinebeck)…and I now own two fleeces (one merino, one alpaca). I have no idea how to clean them but I know enough not to do it in the tub but, at the same time, I have no idea how I’m going to do it if I don’t use the tub. Perhaps in small batches with the orange buckets. I don’t know. We’ll find out 🙂

    • Hey, just give it a shot! It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was–though I did go and buy some cards. No more spinning from the locks for me, nossir.

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