Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fair Isle for Handspinners Class



Elizabeth Johnston of Shetland and Martha Owen of North Carolina, recently visited the NW to teach traditional techniques for Fair Isle knitting.  Elizabeth started the class by informing us that it was not a dye class or a spinning class or a knitting class, but rather a color class...and off we went! 

Natural colors of Shetland fleece (gray and light moorit) just removed from a dye bath containing cochineal and onion.  Other dye pots contained onion skins for yellow and green and logwood for blue and purple.  Several colors of fleece were dyed to get a large selection of colors.


The Shetland sheep in Shetland are shorn in the summer after the rise or natural break that occurs in the process of the shedding of their fleeces. If you look closely at this photo you can see where the old lock ends and the new fleece begins toward the cut end of the lock.

Two dyed locks of Shetland fleece just out of the dye pot.


Holding the lock firmly in your hand, the end with the break needs to be pulled off at the rise area or break in the fleece before it is ready to work with.


Dyed locks that have had the ends pulled off at the break or rise location.

Once the tender ends are removed from the fleece it is carded into rolags, either by hand or with a drum carder.  This is the time that the dyed fleece can be mixed with other colors or light or dark natural colored fleece.  The color possibilities at this point are endless.

Elizabeth Johnston demonstrates the use of the drum carder for color blending as well as for creating a lofty, woolen style yarn.

Creating a lofty, woolen yarn for Fair Isle knitting requires the perfect rolag as well as the perfect spinning method.  Here teacher Martha Owen demonstrates her 'long draw' spinning technique. Once the single yarn is spun, it is then under-plied for an unbalanced two plied yarn...just what 'they' tell you never to do. The finished yarn is strong, light and airy...done in the style of the traditional Shetland production spinners.   

Student Denise Mor with her dyed fleece and carded rolags ready for spinning.

Denise's spun yarn ready to be knit into a traditional Fair Isle pattern.

One of 'Fair Isle for Handspinners' students knitting in progress.

A finished project on top of the raw Shetland locks that the class started with.

I'm looking forward to working with the wonderful stash of dyed and undyed fleece that I came home with after this class. 

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