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