Herdwick pt.1: the fiber

The November breed is Herdwick, also from the Spinning Loft. G immediately warned us it was not like the Ryeland. It has kemp, hair and wool. Herdwicks are from the Lake District (and Beatrix Potter raised them). I am also familiar with Herdy Shepherd on twitter.

The fleece was very variable with some sections incredibly dense with kemp or hair. My bag had fewer of these sections than some bags.Herdwick fleece

Herdwick locksMy bag had at least 52 g originally. (I had already discarded some of it before I weighed it). Some of what I discarded were very short blobs of dark hairs. The staple length is about 4″ but some sections are noticeably shorter. Some sections also have a lot more long, dark hairs, which make it noticeably coarser and darker. I know these coarse white fibers are what makes Herdwick different, but these sections dense with the kemp seem better off disposed of.


This is what our Herdwick looks like carded, from one of the sections less dense with the kemp.

Herdwick carded

Most of my sample I am combing on mini combs. I combed darker and lighter sections together to make it more even overall. You can see not all kemp is removed by my combing.

Herwick combed

This picture shows both what I pulled from the combs, as well as the very short waste that fell on the floor and the blobs of black hairs I mentioned above that I am discarding. I discard some of this comb waste before coming home from the Spinners meeting.

leftover from comb

Here is the combing waste carded. It is very coarse.

Herdwick combed waste carded

Next time: spinning the Herdwick


This year in Spinners Group, we are trying a variety of British breeds. First up in October, we tried Ryeland from the Spinning Loft.

Ryeland, before spinning

G & J very kindly washed the fleece and G packaged it into bags for each of us. I think he said they were 50 g, but my finished skein weighs 45 g according to my kitchen scale. The staple length is about 2 inches.

staple length about 2"

The fiber is very springy and fairly fine. I think it may not be as fine as it was in the past. The story goes that after Queen Elizabeth I was given stockings made of Ryleand fleece, she would only wear that wool afterwards.

ryeland rolags

I hand carded into rolags. It is clear I am out of practice. I spun woolen style, and tried not to be too fine and with a low amount of twist, to try to make the resulting yarn soft and springy. Again, I clearly need more practice; my yarn is quite uneven and is under spun in places. My resulting yardage was 118 yards of 2 ply.

ryeland skein

M also carded, but rolled it 90° off from a typical rolag so that her fibers were more aligned. Hers was a bit finer, with more yardage. V used a drum carded and her skein was very fine and even. Another spinner went thicker and then chain plied. I wish I had thought to get a picture of the various skeins at last meeting.

ryeland skein

The spinning was enjoyable and I would happily spin Ryeland again.

ryeland skein

Crazy big spinning wheel & backstrap weaving

Updated: not a surprise and a risk of using embedded images, the first group of images has been pulled from Getty Images (“This image is no longer available for use.”) This pictures can all be seen on the photographer’s site. I will include links there.

Earlier this week, Getty announced many of its pictures could be embedded on non-commercial sites, so I looked around to see if I could find something fun.  I found this crazy big spinning wheel. Correction: as my friend M pointed out, I should have said a pair of crazy big spinning wheels. The wheels in other pictures don’t look as large in diameter (it looks huge because of the angle of the photo), but the rim is quite wide and the overall length is quite long.

It (and the others below) is titled “Man weaving yarn, Otavalo, Imbabura Province, Ecuador”—clearly he isn’t weaving, but presumably the location is correct. The pictures share the same caption “Weaver Jose Carlos de la Torre spinning and weaving yarn using centuries old techniques of carding, backstrap loom weaving with natural sheep wool, and final combing with natural thorny plant.” A few more photos from this photographer are here.

Another angle – winding what he spun onto the spindle

And another angle

And one with the unidentified woman carding (based on other information, I think it is his wife, but it would be really nice if she was given a name)

Another of the spinning wheel, “Man spinning wool, Imbabura, Ecuador” by Margie Politzer in Lonely Planet images collection, with the caption “Jose Carlos de la Torre and his wife are both in their eighties, and continue to use centuries-old methods to process sheep wool.”

Searching for the man’s name brings up four different pictures (but not the ones above), by a different photographer, giving a different location, a village outside of Otavalo.

“Jose Carlos de la Torre sits carding alpaca wool inside his workshop in Carabuela, Ecuador, Wednesday, November 22, 2006. Carding is the last step in preparing the wool for spinning which cleans, separates, and straightens the wool fibers. The finished batt or rolag of soft, fluffy wool makes spinning easier.”

“Jose Carlos de la Torre pieces together rolag made of wool that has been carded inside his workshop in Carabuela, Ecuador, Wednesday, November 22, 2006. The soft rolag is pieced together in long strands to prepare it for spinning into yarn.”

“Jose Carlos de la Torre weaves a scarf on a backstrap loom inside his workshop in Carabuela, Ecuador, Wednesday, November 22, 2006. The backstrap loom is made up of sticks, rope, and a strap that is worn around the weaver’s waist which is how the loom received its name. The one that Jose uses is made out of leather from the face of a bull.”

“Jose Carlos de la Torre uses a brush made up of teasel to smooth an alpaca wool scarf inside his workshop in Carabuela, Ecuador, Wednesday, November 22, 2006.”

There is also a nice photo of the spinning wheel on a couple’s travel blog.

Jousting with Distaffs and Other Women Tilting in the Margins

Yesterday my husband showed me a post that included an image of a woman jousting with a distaff, but the manuscript from which the image came was not identified, so of course I needed to find it. The image comes from Beinecke MS 229, on 329r. It is a French Arthurian romance from 1275-1300.

Beinecke MS 229 329r, a French Arthurian romance from 1275-1300 There is a similar image in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Français 95, 226r. It is also a French Arthurian romance, from 1201-1300.

BnF 95, Arthurian romance, French 1201-1300

Another example from about 200 years later is an engraving by Master ES of a wild man and wild woman. This German print from 1450-1467 is in the British Museum (1842,0806.38).

British Museum 1842,0806.38, engraving, Print made by: Master ES, German, 1450-1467

There is also a monk and a nun jousting (not using a distaff) on Beinecke MS 229 100v. I think there is one other image of jousting with a distaff in this manuscript but I didn’t notice it. [Update: I think the other image is the one above from BnF 95.]

Beinecke MS 229 100v, a French Arthurian romance from 1275-1300

This manuscript has loads of other great images, such as this one, on 253r of a woman spinning. The interface is a bit annoying, but it is great Yale has made it available with high quality scans.

Beinecke MS 229 253r, a French Arthurian romance from 1275-1300 I’m sure there are plenty more images of jousting with a distaff, but these were all I could easily find. If I run across more I’ll add them to this post.


There is another example of jousting with distaffs in Bibliotheque Arsenal, Li queste del S. Graal [La quête du Saint-Graal], MS 5218, 10r, a French manuscript from 1381

Bibliotheque Arsenal MS 8, Li queste del S. Graal, French, 1351, 10rOne more example of a woman jousting (but without a distaff) is in the British Museum, Yates Thompson MS 8, The Breviary of Marguerite de Bar, on f224 (French, between 1302 and 1303). It doesn’t look like this has been digitized yet, but there is a black and white reproduction in The Role of Woman in Middle Ages, edited by Rosmarie Thee Morewedge on page 176.


The Queen Mary Psalter (Royal 2 B VII) has an image on f.197v. This manuscript is from England (London/Westminster or East Anglia?) between 1310 and 1320.

Royal 2 B VII   f. 197v   Women jousting

Princeton University Art Museum’s MS 44-18, f20 has a picture of a knight and a woman tilting. I have not been able to find any reproduction of this image. MS 44-18 is an hours  from Maastricht, 13th-14th centuries.

Update 3:

Thanks to a comment on this post, I learned of another occurrence. The 15th century Chroniques by Jean Froissart, MS Français 2644 in the Bibliothèque nationale, has two monkeys jousting, one with a distaff, on  f85r.

Chroniques sire JEHAN FROISSART, Français 2644, f85r

Decretals of Gregory IX

Yesterday I saw a picture on Twitter which I did not recall seeing previously. It is from the Decretals of Gregory IX, Royal MS 10 E IV, c 1300-c 1340. The tweet said it was a woman carding (which came from text the tweeter read about the image). However, it looks like wool combing to me. I wanted to find the picture and so looked through the British Library site to find the image. British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 138r

It is part of a sequence of a marginal scenes of the type miscellaneous tales and connected scenes, “A housewife sets tasks for her husband or lover; possibly a variant of the Wright’s Chaste Wife (ff. 137r-148r)”. The Wright’s Chaste Wife includes fiber preparation and spinning but of flax, not of wool. There are two wool combining images; the other images in this sequence are of carding and spinning wool. The British Library site says “The manuscript’s decoration was executed in two phases.  Phase 2 includes … more than 600 bas-de-page narrative scenes in colours added in London, probably on the request of John Batayle, a canon of St Bartholomew’s at Smithfield.” The first four images (137r-138v) seem less connected to the Wright’s Chaste Wife because it seems like two women are in the pictures.

British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 138vThese two images precede the above images. These show a great/walking/wool wheel and carding wool.British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 137r British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 137vI  have previously seen several of these images, which come after the two combing pictures. I didn’t notice any drop spindles, which is what would have been used for the combed wool.

British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 139r

British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 139vBritish Library Royal MS 10 E IV 140v British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 141v British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 142r British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 142v British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 143r British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 146r British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 147r British Library Royal MS 10 E IV 147v

The Wright’s Chaste Wife can be read in various places online, including the University of Rochester’s Middle English Text Series and Project Gutenberg (both editions include notes to help clarify the text). Some of the fiber related sections follow, from the Middle English Text Series

Line 214-231, swingling or scutching to prepare the flax for spinning (by the Lord so he can get his dinner)

For I have both hempe and lyne,
And a betyngstocke fulle fyne,
And a swyngylle good and grete;
If thou wylt worke, tell me sone.”
“Dame, bryng yt forthe, yt schalle be done,
Fulle gladly would I ete.”
Sche toke the stocke in her honde,
And into the pytt sche yt schlang
Wyth a grete hete:
Sche brought the lyne and hempe on her backe,
“Syr lord,” sche seyd, “have thou that,
And lerne for to swete.”
Ther sche toke hym a bonde
For to occupy hys honde,
And bade hym fast on to bete.
He leyd yt downe on the stone,
And leyd on strockes welle good wone,
And sparyd nott on to leyne.

Line 374-396, more swingling, by the steward

Butt thou wylt helpe to dyght this lyne,
Much hungyr yt schalle be thyne
Though thou make much mone.”
Up he rose, and went therto,
“Better ys me thus to doo
Whyle yt must nedys be do.”
The stuard began fast to knocke,
The wyfe threw hym a syngelyng stocke,
Hys mete therwyth to wyn;
Sche brought a swyngylle at the last,
“Good syres,” sche seyd, “swyngylle on fast;
For nothing that ye blynne.”
Sche gave hym a stocke to sytt uppon,
And seyd, “Syres, this werke must nedys be done,
Alle that that ys here yn.”
The stuard toke up a stycke to saye,
“Sey, seye, swyngylle better yf ye may,
Hytt wylle be the better to spynne.”

Lines 504-521, spinning stricks of line flax, by proctor

The good wyfe rawte hym a rocke,
For therto hadde sche nede.
Sche seyd, “Whan I was mayde att home,
Other werke dowde I do none
My lyf therwyth to lede.”
Sche gave hym in hande a rocke hynde,
And bade hem fast for to wynde
Or ellys to lett be hys dede.
“Yes, dame,” he seyd, “so have I hele,
I schalle yt worke both feyre and welle
As ye have taute me.”
He wavyd up a strycke of lyne,
And he span wele and fyne
Byfore the swyngelle tre.
The lord seyd, “Thou spynnest to grete,
Therfore thou schalt have no mete,
That thou schalt well see.”
Thus they satt and wrought fast
Tylle the weke dayes were past.

Lines 522-531, when the husband returns home, the three men sent to tempt his wife are processing linen for her:

Then the wryght, home came he,
And as he cam by hus hows syde
He herd noyse that was not ryde
Of persons two or thre;
One of hem knockyd lyne,
Anothyr swyngelyd good and fyne
Byfore the swyngylle tre,
The thyrde did rele and spynne,
Mete and drynke therwyth to wynne,
Gret nede therof hadde he.

Completed 2013 challenge


I completed this year’s spinner’s challenge, which for me consisted of purple llama, spun firmly, and made into a beaded doily.

I used the Myra pattern. I need to update it because I made a minor modification. On the rounds where there is a knit 2 together that uses one stitch from one pattern unit with another pattern unit, I moved the last stitch of the preceding round from the right to the left needle and then knit it with the next stitch. I shifted the loop halfway around the doily (since I was using the magic loop), by one stitch so that it would work out correctly.

After I test ran the pattern I determined I hadn’t spun quite enough. I now have a few yards remaining. This was my first time adding beads as I knit.  I used no. 6 beads that I had on hand. I had one bead left (hence why the middle alternates between 2 and 3 beads on a petal). I used a small loop of flexible jewelry wire, folded in half to put the bead on a loop. (Knit a stitch, slip stitch off, put wire loop through stitch,  poke ends through the bead, slide bead on, remove wire loop, put stitch back on the right needle.)

Remaining yarn & bead, wire used to thread bead on yarn This is also the first time I decided where to put beads in a pattern. The 2–3 beads on the large petal did not wind up where I expected them; I had thought they would be shifted to the right, centered in the point and running closer to one side of the petal. Actually, I think the problem is I should have added them a couple of rows later (on rows 22, 26 and 30).

chart for Myra doily with beads

I blocked it to 12″.

doilyYou can see the lace pattern better in this picture.


Purple llama

For the spinner’s challenge this year, I need to make a purple, firmly spun, llama doily with beads. L helped with the first step last October by acquiring some lovely llama at a local fiber event which I was unable to attend. She brought back 6 oz of hand carded white llama roving. In early November, M and I played with her Gaywool dyes. I also threw in one random skein in a very light purple. The color looks interesting close up, but it isn’t that exciting as you move away.

Wendy yarn before overdyeingI believe we used Cyclamen, Myrtle, Azalea, Raspberry and Myrtle, in probably not even proportions. I can’t read what might be my notes.

purple dyepot

While still wet, in basement lighting.

freshly dyed, still wet llama

After dry, not in basement light. This looks much more compacted. I think I must have re-rinsed at home and spun out gently in our front loading washer.

llama roving dyed purple

The Wendy wool after overdyeing. I still have no idea what I will do with one random skein of this.

Wendy yarn after overdyeing

Around Christmas, again with M’s help, we carded the dyed roving to make the color more uniform.

llama recarded

I finally spun some in April. I needed to spin it firmly for the challenge, which meant the yarn is firmer than I would prefer. I didn’t want to spin too much. I also didn’t want to make a very big doily (since a llama doily is not terribly useful). However, after figuring out the pattern I am going to use, I didn’t spin enough. I had best spin a bit more soon.

llama spun