I recently borrowed the Fibershed Wool & Fine Fiber Book that presents a variety of fibers available in Northern California. There are several types of wool that highlight the unique sheep breeds in the region, such as California Red, Santa Cruz, Navajo-Churro, Merino, and Ouessant sheep to name a few. There are also suri and huacaya alpacas, angora goats, and German angora rabbits.
The fiber and knit samples give an idea of the diverse natural colors and textural possibilities. The yarns are mill-spun or hand-spun. Even though the book is very region specific, the mill infrastructure spans the U.S. including mills in Oregon, Arizona, Wyoming, Vermont, and Maine.
For my part, I spun an 25% angora and 75% merino blended yarn in Summer 2015. I was excited to see it knitted as a textile swatch! The roving was processed in Morro Fleece Works in Morro Bay CA, and is from the Nebo-Rock Ranch in Covelo CA. The merino micron count from 2014 was 18.4, which is fine. (It’s a great bonus the book has micron count info, fibers, and textile to touch!)
After I completed spinning yarns for the book, I dyed some of the extra yarns with natural colorants. The hand-knit swatches have a very soft hand that made them very enjoyable to work with.
I also did a 3-ply hand-spun blend with 1-ply of huacaya alpaca fibers, and 2-plies of shetland wool from New York. I created this 3-ply yarn because I wanted to see the difference in the hand with 3-plies instead of 2, and I also wanted to see if the dye uptake would differ when alpaca and wool were combined as 1 yarn. There was some color variation with the concord grape and onion skins.
Experimenting with California fibers and natural dyeing also led me to make a cowl scarf with New York Icelandic-Shetland yarns dyed with Eucalyptus leaves from California. The yarns were originally club yarns that I hand-knitted, and then semi-felted to make the scarf more compact for insulation. This was my first creation that I hand-spun, and naturally dyed myself. It took a lot effort and time, but the final result is very rewarding and I am glad I learned a new skill!