måndag 24 januari 2011

Manx Loaghtan. My Fiber Studies 5

I take part in the SpinDoctor Wool Breed Challenge on Ravelry. My blog posts are tagged "SpinDoctor". The Challenge ends June 30th 2011.

The Sheep

This is a weird looking sheep, like something from a fantasy story :) The Manx word "loaghtan" means "mouse brown". The lambs are born black. The sheep has lived on the Isle of Man for more than a thousand years. Both rams and ewes have four to six horns. It's a short tailed Northern European sheep, but the length of the tail varies. The sheep are small and fine boned. The meat is of high quality.

Manx Loaghtan is classified as "at risk" by Rare Breeds Survival Trust (UK).

                           Picture from "British Sheep & Wool" p. 164
The Wool

Some of these primitive sheep shed their fleece in spring, others have to be shorn. The staple length is 6-12 cm. The micron range is fine to medium, around 30, but some sheep have a more hairy fleece. The tips are often bleeched into light brown, almost cream. The wooly type is very good for handspinning a lofty, soft, warm yarn.

My Experience

The small heap of Manx Loaghtan I had was full of vegetable matter, matted almost felted tips and matted cut ends with neps. When I looked at it I remembered why I put it away in the autumn when I was spinning the rest of the wool from my class in Stirling. "I'll do it on a better day" I thought.

One of the very good things I learned in Deborah Robson's class was that you can find good fibers in a heap of an awful looking mess if you know how to do it. So, despite that the day I thought would be a good day to clear up in the mess started with a morning when I kept hurting my head on all sorts of things like lamps, shelves, and an open door, it ended up as a good day.

Long, soft and nice fibers once you get them sorted. Upper row: lock, combed tops, rolags, scoured fiber. Below combing in progress, and the dog comb I first tried 


I first tested combing the tips off with a dog comb and then card what was left. That was not a good idea. Carding the long fibers only teared them to pieces and didn't take out the VM or the neps. I carded two awkward mini rolags. You can see them in the middle of the upper row in the photo above.

I then tried my one row Louet mini combs, and that worked well. I got a few mini tops of lovely fiber, and a lot of waste which I threw away.


Spinning wheel: Louet Victoria
Ratio: 1:6
WPI on my wpi-tool: 24 (average)

I spun the carded rolags with a semi-woolen draw (or against twist, I'm not sure what to call it). I got a lumpy, soft yarn that would be nice in a hat if there was enough of it.

I spun the combed tops in the same way, and in this case I think the draft could be called "against twist". I used a low ratio for low twist with a medium take up to trap as much air as possible in the yarn. The tops were very easy and nice to spin. I plied with the same loose twist and got a yarn that looked very soft before washing.

After washing the yarn was more open and lofty. The ply is a bit uneven, have to work on that in the future. The carded sample was lumpy and uneven, which was to expect.
                                     Carded sample to the left, combed to the right

Yarn: the combed prep
Needles: 3.5 mm
21 stitches, 24 rows

The softness of the yarn takes away some stitch definition in relief patterns in the 2-ply yarn. For a garment like a sweater I would spin 3-ply and not so lofty.

The color of the sample yarn varies, which is natural as I combed small amounts of fiber on mini combs. In a sweater this would make a lovely slightly variegated effect.


A lovely fiber! 

Read more
Wikipedia Manx Loaghtan
Manx Loaghtan Breeders' Group. This site is quite informative.
Rare Breeds Survival Trust
British Sheep & Wool. British Wool Marketing Board, 2010
M. L. Ryder, Sheep & Man. Duckworth, 2007
Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius, The Fleece & Fiber Source Book. Storey Publishing, to be released in May 2011
Nola & Jane Fournier, In Sheep's Clothing. Interweave, 1995