Ashland Bay is a company that not a lot of knitters, spinners and other fiberistas have heard of, because they only sell wholesale, but they should know about it, because their fibers are, put simply, delicious.
I'm planning on working through some Ashland Bay products in the new few weeks and letting you know how they work for me.
I learned to spin almost a year ago and I consider myself an advanced beginner. I sometimes trip over my own feet, but I try to be open to trying different fibers. Your mileage may vary and I would be thrilled to hear any new tips or tricks from the more experienced spinners out there.
I was lucky enough to receive a brand-new Schacht Ladybug wheel just before Christmas. I'm still learning how to use it best. I learned to spin on a used Ashford Kiwi. The Ladybug takes less work to use than the Kiwi, so I'm a recovering leadfoot.
Primarily, I'm a knitter, so I'm looking to produce yarns that will last, but I don't need the extraordinary strength or durability that a weaver might need for a warp yarn. A nice hand and soft feel are also important to me. I mostly spin just for its own sake, then wait until the right knitting project comes along for the yarn I have made.
My first foray into Ashland Bay fibers is with some lovely 100% Merino combed top. Out of the nearly 70 colors they offer, I chose a vibrant red.
At 21.5 microns, this is one of the softest wools I've ever touched. Since the fiber was combed, I wanted to make a smooth, two-ply yarn using a short forward draw.
|These are some singles, ready to ply.|
I tested small amounts of fiber by spinning on each of the fours sets of whorls made for my Ladybug. I plied each sample, washed it in cold water, spun the water out using the spin cycle on my washing machine, snapped the skein to set the twist, and hung them to dry, unweighted.
One note about color. Because the red was so intense, I was sure it would bleed a little in the wash. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it didn't AT ALL. It's a great sign of a high-quality product.
I have read that Merino spins best when it is spun very thin. To be honest, I did get the most consistent yarn when I used the smallest possible pulley on my wheel. However, I enjoyed spinning it just a little thicker, so I ended up spinning the majority of my singles on the 12.5 ratio and plied them on the 10.5 ratio.
The top was very easy to draft out, with absolutely no vegetable matter or other "stuff" in the fiber. In the entire 8 oz. braid, I only found 5 neps, or little bits of folded-up fibers. That's pretty amazing, since Merino has a tendency to form neps easily.
My finished yarn is soft and has a lovely drape. I think it would make an excellent hat (or maybe part of set of Christmas stockings for next year!) It is about 16 wraps per inch, so it would work well on #4 or #5 needles. The yarn’s diameter didn’t change when I washed it.
This fiber rewards the patient spinner with a beautiful final product. Try it out at a moment when the house is empty and you just want to daydream as you spin.