Hand-Spinning with Meaningful Fibers

I am very excited about this post because it contributes to my interest in New York’s Fibershed. I am taking a spinning class and am very excited to make my first yarn from Spot Hollow Farm roving, which is in Trumansburg, NY. I think it is especially charming how Shepherdess Marie comments about the sheep’s names on her Facebook page and states that they have “even tempered personalities” and are good mothers on her website.

Hand Spinning with Jacob Sheep roving; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Hand Spinning with Jacob Sheep roving; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes

Individualization of Jacob sheep and personification gives greater meaning to my process. I am not just spinning commercial fibers, I am spinning fibers to make yarns from sheep that have specific names and personality characteristics.  This makes my process more valuable to me and makes hand-spinning worth it (even though it will take a long time to complete a yarn for knitting).

A distinctive physical characteristic of Jacob sheep is their spotted coats and multiple horns. When I first saw photos of them, I thought they looked like little cows, and they reminded me of the cute calfs in Davis CA.

Clinton Jacob Sheep at Spot Hollow Farm
Name: Clinton; Jacob lamb at Spot Hollow Farm

In learning  more about the sheep from the Jacob Sheep Breeders Association, I found out that there are several features to look for in their coats to determine if they have desireable, or less than desireable traits. Ideally they should have three large symmetrical patches on their face, on their eyes/cheeks and nose. They should also have random black/ brown spots throughout their body; 60% white, 40% black/ brown.

Thinking about these fleece-color characteristics makes me feel more drawn towards the fibers Jacob sheep produce. Thinking that the roving probably came from fleeces of multiple sheep makes me value the fibers and my process more.

I’ve been spinning with the Jacob roving about 15 minutes everyday to get accustomed to using my drop-spindle. Each time I spin, it seems to easier. I have less breaks, it is easier to make joins, and I find that I am getting less notable slubs (fat clumps) in my fiber.

I am excited to see my finished yarns and observe how much the fiber consistency changes from the time I started to the time I finish. Since the fiber is a bit coarse, I will probably make a hat and line it with a fabric to make it comfortable.

Created 2-ply yarn from Jacob sheep roving; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes
Created 2-ply yarn from Jacob sheep roving; Photo Courtesy David Arellanes

I finished my first skein recently and was excited to see the outcome! I used about 1 ounce of the roving and made about 40 yards of yarn. I really like the variation of textures. I used the Andean plying technique and also plied with my spindle.

Excited to continue hand-spinning and learning more about Jacob sheep!

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