Sunday, June 15, 2014

Review: Abuelita Merino Spinning Fiber + Tutorial

A few months ago at TNNA, I had the pleasure of chatting with the folks from Abuelita Yarns, a yarn company located in Uruguay. They have a lovely range of hand-dyed 100% merino and merino-blend yarns, and I was attracted to their booth by the beautiful braids of merino they had on display. They kindly allowed me to take a few home to spin up and write about on my blog.

Something I discovered by visiting their website is their commitment to use fiber from happy sheep -by this I mean healthy, well-cared for sheep. Abuelita has even obtained a certificate of non-mulesing, a hotly disputed practice which will turn up some pretty grotesque descriptions and photos if you choose to google it. They also pledge to protect the environment in Uruguay through various conservation efforts which you can read about in greater detail here on their website. Sustainability and social responsibility is something that is important to many of us in the fiber community, so I hope that the folks at Abuelita will share more details about their efforts with us in the future!

My two braids of Merino Top from Abuelita Yarns

As the focus shift more and more towards breed-specific fibers in the handspinning world, it seems that lovely merinos get lost in the shuffle; for me personally, it's been quite some time since I worked with this fiber, and it was nice to rediscover the incredibly softness. After working on some long-term spinning projects which were rewarding but a little on the fussy side, it was nice to sit down and just SPIN. I did very little prep on this fiber (it didn't need it), I just predrafted each roving into 4 long strips and went for it. It was a fast, fun spinning experience!

Spinning In Progress!

I've found that even some of the best quality roving can have a lot of nepps, kemp, and vegetable matter; it's just the nature of the beast. However, both braids of Abuelita's merino were incredibly clean, and I hardly had to stop to pick any of these items out while I spun. I'm not sure of the micron count on this fiber, but I can assure you that it is extremely soft. While most roving is sold in 4 oz. braids, the Merino Top from Abuelita is sold by length and net weight (40 yards, 3.5 oz/100g.).

The resulting skeins are beyond soft and squishy, and I can't wait to knit with them! I have approximately 95 yards of the grey 2-ply and 100 yards of the green 2-ply, and I think they will become a colorwork hat in the near future.

Finished skeins of handspun yarn from Abuelita Merino Top.

I also saved my leftover singles and decided to try something I've been reading about called felted singles. This is something that has popped up in more than one publication I've been reading, so I have been dying to give it a try and thought I would share my process and results in this YouTube tutorial:

This technique is actually used more for a woolen-spun yarn since those singles are often quite lofty and in need of more "oomph" to avoid breakage when knitting with them, but it can of course be used of any single-ply yarn. Not only does it add strength, but it decreases the amount of pilling you'll experience later down the road. For a short-staple fiber such as Merino, I could see this being a boon to the finished yarn - with softness often comes pills!

Obviously, if you are spinning with a superwash fiber, this technique wouldn't be effective, and not all breeds of sheep fibers felt in the same manner, so you can really explore the felting qualities of each breed if you are so inclined. Merino fiber is great for felting due to the short fiber staple, but I would love to hear about your experiments with various fibers, too!

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