Doris and Härvor

Back in October I helped my friend Claudia with the fleeces in the autumn shearing. I brought the fleeces from the Gestrike sheep Doris and Härvor home, and I bet they hadn’t taken the bus before!

Just a few days earlier I had cuddled these two wooly ladies at a pasture photo shoot for my book. Getting to create yarn with fleeces whose sheep I have met and shared breaths with made me realize what a special opportunity that was, and it gave me an extra tingle in my heart.

A bus stop in the countryside. On a blue and yellow bench stand two paper bags with fleece.
Doris and Härvor take the bus to the city.

You can read more about the two visits to Claudia’s farm in the essay style post A breath of wool.

A secret mission

A few weeks ago I talked with A, a wooly artist who will remain secret for a while longer. She is working on a secret project and I suggested a collaboration: that I would send her handspun yarns from the fleeces of Doris and Härvor and she would incorporate them in her project. She loved the idea and we started to plan our different ends of the process. A and I don’t know each other and have never met, it is just one of those sweet Instagram connections that make my heart sing once again.

Typical and not

Neither of the fleeces is typical of Gestrike wool. The most common staple type in a Gestrike fleece would be a dual coat with long and strong outercoat fibers and soft and airy undercoat fibers. But it could just as easily be another dominant staple type. At the same time, Gestrike wool can be very variegated. The white locks from Doris’ fleece are very fine and crimpy and with a soft sheen, almost like a finull fleece.

Härvor’s locks are more mixed, with both straight and crimpy staples, long and shorter, white and grey. A little rougher than Doris’ fleece, but still soft. Since the wool of Gestrike sheep tends to lighten as the sheep grows, chances are that Härvor was born a lot darker, perhaps with white spots.

The yarns

A gave med creative freedom with the yarns. I decided on two fingering-ish weight 2-ply knitting yarns. I wanted to create them so that A would be able to use them for the same project, should she want to, perhaps in a stranded colourwork. With that as my starting point I aimed for two yarns that had the same qualities, even if they came from fleeces that did not.

I had already picked the locks right after the fleeces had dried after washing, so my hands had already made their acquaintance with the wool. In the next step I teased for each fleece around 50 grams of wool with my combing station. I wanted lots of loft in the yarns and decided on woolen spinning in one of my favourite techniques: English longdraw. So I carded my teased wool into the sweetest rolags and took my seat at the wheel.

Treadles and twist

English longdraw means that you gather twist in front of the rolag, make around an arm’s length draw to let the twist travel up the drawn section, and then add the final twist before you allow the spun yarn to roll up on the bobbin. As I do this I like to keep a consistent treadle count – in this case I treadle six to gather twist, make the draw, treadle ten to add twist, and then roll the yarn onto the bobbin. This gives the technique a beautiful rhythm, and also a consistency. Together with a similar counting in the carding, a yarn spun this way has the potential to become very consistent.

I used the same rhythm for both yarns and they turned out quite similar to each other and landed on a grist of 1700 and 1790 meters per kilo. The Doris skein may have a little more elasticity since her wool has more crimp than Härvor’s. I have cuddled these skeins numerous times, or just admired them. Today I sent them to A, so I will have to just cherish the memory of them. And, of course, I have the rest of the bags of fleece left, and I may spin them the same way as these first two skeins.

A new journey

So, Doris and Härvor are going on a new journey. This time in the shape of yarns and probably in a truck, but still, a journey to a new town and to a new home. I wonder how A will give them a new shape. I hope they all get along and that A can make Doris and Härvor shine! I’ll let you know when the secret isn’t a secret anymore.


Do you want to dive deeper? Here are some resources.

Happy spinning!

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