Breed Study-Oxford Down, Part 2

So this is the second part of my breed study. In my first post ( ), I introduced the project that the Oxford Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers was conducting, and as part of this, I am spinning and getting to know the qualities of the rare sheep breed- Oxford Down. This is a fantastic breed to learn to spin with, as it is very forgiving with your tension and drafting, so a really good way to boost your experience and confidence at your wheel. Plus it is lovely to know that by buying the wool from this endangered rare breed, you are helping to keep their numbers going and helping raise awareness of their fantastic fleece!

The fluff

As this was only a 50g batch it has spun up really quickly, and really easily. It was already nicely cleaned and good quality, so all I had to do was card it and get spinning, which was a dream.

Before carding

I woollen spun this using my wheel onto two bobbins, then plyed it together. I took it off the bobbin I had plyed it onto with a swift and have twisted it into a hank.

This was a treat to spin, especially as I am relatively new to spinning (this would be my second attempt at a skein of woollen spun yarn), so would recommend this to anyone looking to get started. My first batch of fluff was a bit of a mystery, as my Mum gave it to me to get started on and have a go. This was a wool and silk mix of some concoction and contained silk nubs. If you are trying to get as thin and even a spin as possible, nubs are not your friend. But I didn’t really know this at the time, so was painstakingly trying to combine them into an even bit of thread…and not getting very far. This isn’t using them to their full potential as they are wonderful to create bobbles of fluff for more of an art yarn effect, which is really how they would perform best. So to go from this to the Oxford Down wool was a real shock, as the latter was wonderfully easy to draft and create an even strand of wool with.

Mum’s carders

In terms of knitting up an item to use, I would consider it for outer garments or useful objects, as it could feel quite coarse for some. I know that I am more lenient with rustic yarns next to skin, as 1) I love them, so doggedly put up with any scratching, and 2) don’t seem to be as bothered as others anyway by the feel of a rustic piece of knitwear. I do believe the look of a finished piece, especially if they hold a cable or textured stitch well, often outstrips any sense of skin delicacy for me, particularly as this can just serve as an excuse to purchase yet another ethically-sourced merino vest for under a jumper, or some fine knit fingered gloves to go under some chunky finger-less wrist warmers.

Spun hank of Oxford Down fleece

So this is the finished skein, which I am really happy with! Just need to think of a good swatch pattern to show it off (maybe including cables?) This will go into the Guild’s archive of breed studies with a detailed description of how it was spun. I could always do some cables and knitting bobbles on my swatch to show it off a bit…but thinking on it, may have gone off these and anything uneven in my yarn for now…

Fealdan Shawl

#4 Dorothea

So I bought the Manos Del Uruguay fino mini skein kit a while ago and have been attempting to start this project at various points, but it hasn’t really happened until now. But boy is it a go-er…

The pattern is made up of lots of short row shaping to create mini triangles that build up into a shawl. I can get a triangle or more worked up over lunch, so progress is really swift, and as this is entirely garter stitch, it works up a dream.

The mini skein kit comes with a free pattern for the Fealdan Shawl by Kate Groop, and you combine your kit colours with a normal size skein of an additional colour. I already had some New Zealand yarn which was a similar weight and texture, so have combined it with this. Plus the chocolatey tones really set off these pops of colour. This dark brown wool is also tonal and a mix of NW Merino and Possum, so is as soft and warm as the Manos yarn (which also contains 30% silk)- overall a really scrumptious combination 🙂

Plus, I could wax lyrical about how much I love this company- a women’s co-operative in Uraguay that keeps traditional skills, sustainability and integrity for women at it’s heart. This is a great knit and yarn producer to get into!

Getting the Craft Studio up and running…

This has been a fairly slow process (as has the rest of our renovation to be honest!), and is only starting to look like where we want it to be. This is an upstairs room in our house that was previously a bedroom- so yes, we now have nowhere for friends to come and stay with us :/ – but is somewhere that I think is really important to who we are and what we want to be doing in the day-to-day.

So this had been stripped back to bare floorboards and walls painted white back when we moved in. This was the pre-carpeted downstairs and no proper wood chopping system in place days, so we made this our own bedroom just to be close to the chimney from our Rayburn in the kitchen below!


Breed Study- Oxford Down, Part One

Breed Study- Oxford Down.

Exploring the spinning and knitting qualities of this rare breed.

This Breed Study focuses on the Oxford Down sheep breed, which currently sits on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s 2019-2020 watch list. Published in summer 2019, this list encapsulates the most vulnerable and at risk breeds and estimates only 1,500- 3,000 adult breeding females left producing pure-bred lambs in the UK.

As part of the Breed Study series, I am processing a sample of Oxford Down fleece from raw to knitted article to see what this fantastic breed fleece can be turned into on my needles!

I will upload photos and descriptions of the process as I go, and am looking forward to taking this mini project from start to finish in a relatively short time (I only have 50 grams). This is part of something we are doing at the Oxford Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, where I am a member, so I am feeling the pressure to actually finish something for once…and despite being probably the least experienced of the group, I have a nagging feeling my fairly strong competitive streak is starting to come to the fore, which may not end up all that well for me…

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