Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Spinning the Breeds - Karakul

Karakul is the third primitive breed we looked at  in the class.
Above  is about an ounce of washed Karakul locks.  Below you see the variety of fibers found in this mass which is characteristic of primitive breeds.

 Considering the diversity of the fibers, I decided to sort through the mass of locks to see how this variety was distributed.
The pile of fiber on the left side of the photo is the majority of the fiber.  The lock on the ruler is representative of that mass.  The longer fibers are at center top and the short, straight, dark fibers are at the top left.

Thought you might like to see a close up of that sweet little lock:
There was nothing about this bundle of Karakul fiber that said "Comb me!"   I looked at what was there for awhile and ran my hands through it.  The locks are strong.  The wool is lofty and not terribly coarse to touch.  It sprung back into shape when squeezed in my fist.   My first thought was that if I had a full fleece of this, I would send it out to be made into roving.  With that  I decided to pull out the drum carder and run the whole batch of fiber through it.

Above is the batt after the first pass through the drum carder.  Below is the batt after the second pass.
And finally, the batt after the third pass through the drum carder:
I didn't think it was going to get any better than that, so decided to split the batt in half and head over to the spinning wheel.

The yarn was spun with the large pulley on the medium whorl of my Schacht Matchless wheel.  I used a supported long draw to spin a woolen singles:
Here are the singles on the bobbin.  The singles had about 4 tpi and about 11 wpi.

Because of the short, dark fibers in this yarn, I kept thinking of making this into a 4 ply cabled yarn, as a means of locking those fibers into the yarn.  So I plied the above two bobbins on the smaller pulley of the same whorl with a lot of plying twist:
So here's the two ply.  You can see that there's a good amount of ply twist.  I wound this yarn into a center pull ball and switched the drive band back to the larger pulley to re-ply this yarn with a z-twist to create a 4 ply cable yarn:

Here is the finished yarn.  The skein is balanced.  The yarn has a lot of fuzz to it, is a bit prickly against the skin, and isn't terribly elastic.  If you click for big you can see the chain like structure of the yarn.  This yarn would make a warm vest, a cozy pair of boot liners, or it would be a great rug weft in weaving. 

In all honesty, this cabled construction is probably not the best choice for this wool.  I don't think the cabled construction would allow for much more fulling/felting  A balanced three ply would probably be a bit more elastic and useful for a wider variety of knitting applications. Perhaps balanced three ply would make great felted slippers.

The little bit of balanced two ply yarn that I sampled had just a bit too much "bead" to the two ply bumps for it to be good knitting yarn.  And the large amount of short fibers in the yarn made it not very good for weaving, especially for warp.

So, that's my experience with Karakul.  I'd be interested to know about  the experience of others with this breed.

The next breed will be Scottish Blackface, but not before next week.


  1. Yes, I put my karakul (after solar dyeing them) into roving - I crocheted the "Great Bear" hangings of them - singles yarn. I think August 05? 06? If I weren't on dial-up I'd go check my blog archives.

    Black Pines Sheep (the next town over) has some gorgeous karakul. I saw a gray fleece at the Weld Cty Fair that made me drool. If I were a weaver I could see lots of natural colored hangings in my future.

  2. I love the texture of that cabled yarn! Karakul felts like crazy. If you felted a fabric made with the cabled structure into a fairly firm textile, you'd end up with something that would be really, really hard to wear out. TOUGH would be the name of the game.

    I have gotten a lot of joy out of using moderately twisted singles as wefts for rug weaving. Beautiful . . . and still wears well.

  3. Oh my, that sweet little lock is making me want to reach into the screen and pick it up!

    Great photos!

    Beautiful yarn ;-)

    Can't wait to see what you write about the Scottish Blackface!

    Some of the first fleece I ever worked with was SBF...but I have not seen it anywhere since then...

  4. Thanks for these great posts on your exploration of different fibers! It's amazing the difference in prep and spinning techniques, as well as how many plys. I'm so prone to spinning worsted from combed fiber but the lofty softness of the carded woolen is lovely.

  5. Karakul was the first fiber I ever spun. It wasn't the best for a beginner, given the staple length. Something like Corriedale would have been better, but it left me with an appreciation for the different breeds of sheep.


tie in the loose ends...