Finally, after placing ‘spin Coopworth’ on my To-Do list for the past month, I was able to sit down and fully enjoy this spin. It was part of the Breed Study that I am currently hosting in the Ravelry group and I really wanted to savour this fibre when I had a chance. It was a roving prep, meaning the fibres are misaligned, rather than parallel as we see in combed top. It can create an airy, lofty yarn if spun using a woollen draft, rather than dense and ropey which can sometimes happen if a worsted draft is paired with a woollen prep (here, roving). When I had sampled the Coopworth back in August in Episode 32, I had immediately wanted to spin long backwards draw so that is what I did initially. I like to trust my initial instincts about a fibre before manipulating it beyond that because usually our intuition as spinners is correct.
Before delving into the spinning too much further, I wanted to give some background to Coopworth sheep, which originated at Lincoln University in New Zealand1. Scientists crossed Romney ewes with Border Leicester rams, creating sheep that bred and lambed well (ie. The ewes were good mothers and the lambs were strong)1. These sheep are used for wool and meat, weighing up to 55kg as adults1.
Coopworth (left to right) :: short forward, allowing the twist to enter the drafting zone & supported long backwards draw.
The Coopworth spun long draw (photo above) is lovely and light. It is not particularly even, which I think is more to do with my spinning than the prep. I noticed a ‘spongy’ feel to the fibre as I was spinning it, wondering if this was a breed characteristic. I decided to look it up and this is what I found:
… the fiber always has lengthy staples, luster, good crimp, moderate feltability, and overall better suitability for outerwear and utility textiles than next-to-the-skin garments.
Robson & Ekarius, 2011, p. 245
The authors go on to say that Coopworth is generally combed due to it’s longer staple length, which leads me to think this was a slightly shorter staple as it spun up beautifully from the roving. As well, Coopworth really fluffs up! This was apparant when I washed it – the skeins both lost yardage in the washing process and became incredibly airy and light after washing, even more so than the initial spun yarn. I’m not sure many would tolerate this yarn against their skin but I would love to see it as a versatile outer sweater and maybe in colourwork, as I can envision this natural white dyeing up beautifully. I spun this on a ratio of 13:1 and plied it the same. Although I could have used a higher ratio, I am happy that I did not as the resulting yarn is light and medium-twist with a twist angle of about 45 degrees. Anything more and due to the micron count (Coopworth is generally classified as 30-39 microns), it would have been ropey and wirey.
Above, supported long draw. Below, a semi-woollen draft involving allowing twist into the drafting zone.
As a second experiment, I spun the last half of the Coopworth fibre using a completely different draft. I consider this draft to be semi-woollen: A short forward draft, allowing twist to enter the drafting zone. It follows these steps: Pinch, pull forward, let go. Reach back into the fibre supply, pinch, pull forward, let go. Repeat. This draft created a slightly denser yarn. It is a slightly thicker yarn, as well, although to the eye not looking closely, they are very similar. I was very curious about the grist of each yarn for comparison, since the second felt denser. It lacked the air and loft of the first. I spun on the same ratio and finished the yarns the same way – by soaking, thwacking and hanging to dry.
The twist angle is similar to the long draw yarn and the TPI (twists per inch) is the same as well. This yarn, however, felt slightly toothy and I definitely wouldn’t want this next to my skin. It would make an incredible pair of mittens or socks! My gut says this will be an incredibly durable yarn due to it’s density and slight coarseness. I wonder what a 3-ply yarn spun this way would feel like – I think it would be round and equally dense, if not more so. This particular draft meant my fingers were pulling forward more fibres per draft compared to the long draw so it seems appropriate that it would be a denser yarn, as well as being slightly toothier – the fibres are spun together more tightly and there are literally more of them in the yarn.
The grist of the short forward draft with twist in the drafting zone was 805 yards per pound (YPP). It was roughly 12WPI, or a sport weight yarn. In contrast, the woollen spun yarn was 1001 YPP and although similar in that it will probably knit as a sport weight yarn, its wraps were closer to 13-14 per inch. The interesting thing about grist, I’ve found, is that as the lightness and airiness of a yarn increases, the YPP increases as well; therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine the gauge of the yarn unless one has the actual sample in front of them or can knit with it! Next, I plan to knit both of these yarns up and contrast their differences. Since they are 2-ply yarns, I’m interested to see how they both act in a simple lace panel. I’ll keep you posted!
I’m in the middle of sampling the Baby Llama and hope to get to the Norwegian next. Stay tuned!
Coopworth sheep (2016). Wikipedia. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coopworth_sheep
Robson, D. & Ekarius, C. (2011). The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. Storey Publishing: North Adams, MA.