CHOOSING A FLEECE
Breed - yes Colour - yes Then what? We suggest that you then close your eyes and feel the fleece. Is it soft, medium or coarse? Are the fibres cotted - felted - a sign that the fleece was wet when it was stored. Having decided the quality of the fibre open your eyes. Now check the fleece for seeds, hay, straw, brambles and other unwanted stuff. If the fleece is full of vegetable matter it will take ages and ages to remove - the bit you miss is sure to end up on an elbow or neck! Now check for daggings. Most farmers do not remove the soiled bits from a fleece. This is OK as put in a bucket, left to soak, the liquor makes wonderful tomato fertiliser! However, is there is too much soiled fleece the amount of useable fibre is much reduced.
We watch with horror the video shorts on You Tube purporting to show how hand carding is done. From the look of it they seem to make it hard work.
We think it should be no more difficult than brushing your hair.
Our simple rules are as follows:-
1 Don’t try to card too much fibre at a time.
2 Spread staples widthwise along the edge of one carder so that 2 thirds of it hang in mid-air.
3 Now use the other carder to brush out the dangling fibres.
4 When they are sufficiently carded transfer the carded fibre onto a carder leaving the un-carded fibre dangling.
5 Now brush out the dangling fibres.
6 Job done! Gently roll the fibres into a sausage (rolag).
There is absolutely no need to drag two carders across each other to card wool!
The better you card fibre the easier it is to spin the fibre!
THE IMPORTANCE OF A TENSION SQUARE
OK, you’ve spun your yarn, got the pattern the question now is will your yarn match that used in the pattern?
Our advice is to knit a tension square. Your pattern may say that you use a particular sized knitting needle. Your yarn might require using a larger or smaller size. Only by knitting a tension square will you know.
Depending on the thickness of your yarn a tension square should be as follows:-
14 stitches by 14 rows for bulky yarn.
38 stitches by 38 rows for 3 ply equivalent.
It also depends on whether you are a tight or loose stitch knitter. You may need to knit further tension squares, changing your needle size, to get the required result.
A wrap-around yarn gauge is a great tool to help determine needle size.
A tight stitch knitter will need a larger needle size.
A loose stitch knitter will need a smaller needle size.
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