White 56’s English Top – What is it?

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What is it?  According to World of Wool: ‘56’s English Wool Top is a standard blend of white English breed fleeces, producing a bulky wool top. Approx. 33microns with good length of 90mm. Perfect for hand spinning, hand felting and many other craft uses.’

I just tried spinning with it as it is inexpensive and  as I really don’t know how to spin yet I didn’t want to waste fancy wool.  The wool is quite lofty with a lot of crimp.   I wasn’t successful at trying to spin it even though I drafted out the roving, it kept breaking.  That could be that my machine needs oiling and a bit of servicing and not that I am crap at spinning.  My wheel needs servicing and  I am waiting for the equipment to do that.

Why do I have this?  Because I read a blog post where someone successfully used it in wet felting a rug.  It is also £1.50 per 100g, so is quite cheap, inexpensive, whatever.  So, I shall practice treadling on my wheel until my maintenance equipment arrives.  In the meantime, I decided to felt a square sample to see how it actually felts.

I laid out two layers 10 x 10 squares square, which is approximately 10 inches square.  The staple is about 3 inches long and stiff, almost like roving rather than tops.  You can see how lofty it is.

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After wetting out I turned the edges to make them even again.  I added only a little bit of soap, which it loved.  I sanded on both sides and then rubbed a little bit more when it passed the pinch test.  I then rolled 50x on all four sides.  I could see it was starting to shrink, so I rolled it on itself.  This wool likes to be wet, warm, and a bit soapy.  The wool started to bind really quickly, but it didn’t want to shrink.  I whacked it in the microwave to heat up and that helped.  I fulled it on the bubble wrap and with a bamboo mat.  It took about an hour to felt down one square and another hour to felt down another.  That’s about 20% shrinkage.

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You can see it is fully felted and a bit hairy.  There is only a very slight give to it if I try to stretch it.  I could probably have fulled it a bit more with boiling water, but after 2 hours I was losing the will to live.

IMG_6201Here is a close up of the fibers.

I can see how it would make a great rug, but you would need to do it over a couple of days to give yourself a rest.  I am going to try and dye this sample to see how that works.  If the dye takes, I shall dye the whole batch and make a small rug for myself, at the very least, it will end up as a wall hanging!

10 thoughts on “White 56’s English Top – What is it?

  1. Keep trying with the spinning. I like Corriedale for beginners. It spins easily.
    English 56 would be about the same as domestic 56 I used to get out of the States. It is a nice, sturdy wool that felts well. I would say you need to be more aggressive with the fulling with this wool. I think you will find it shrinks up quickly then. Get rid of the bubble wrap and get a reed mat or use plastic and a washboard. When you get to a rug see if you can find a big enough ribbed boot try or a car floor mat. They both work really well.

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    1. Thanks for the tips Ann. I did use a bamboo mat to role it in and that worked better than the bubble. I am not unhappy with the wool as I will use it for something. It is just one of those wools that requires a lot of tenacity. I am quite pleased with my small sample. As for spinning, I am still waiting for my maintenance supplies for the wheel, so am practicing my treadle. I am not getting good tension and I don’t want to mess up the brake before I have a go at cleaning and lubing everything first. I will need to check my stash to see if I have any Corriedale tops left as I sold most of it to make room for merino as not needle felting these days. I have a shed load of Corriedale roving slivers, but don’t think that would work too well for spinning compared to tops.

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  2. Felt exhausted just reading this post! Kudos for keeping going with it so long.
    We hope your spinning wheel is soon up and running smoothly and we look forward to reading about your spinning.

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    1. Tell me about it! I have set myself a large challenge for this wool. I expect to lose a few pounds after it is eventually finished!

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  3. I bought some of that wool when I wanted to try dyeing fibre, once it was dyed I spun it and then it was used in the Smitten garland (miniature mittens) along with my other early attempts at dyeing and spinning. It takes the dye very well and I got some really vibrant colours.

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    1. I have crochet braided 5 sections and will be using food coloring (once it arrives) to dye it and I shall then be making it into a wall hanging. It could also end up as a rug! haha! 🙂

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  4. I thought I’d link to the pattern for you, as it really is a great project for early attempts at hand spinning. https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/smitten-a-holiday-garland. I started it last June and finished it 2nd December and popped a chocolate in each one. When you are learning to spin you’ll want to try chain plying, fractal spinning, blending, long draw, short draw, etc etc etc. So it’s a fun project to do small bits of practice. 😁. Finding the right amount of tension on brake band was the hardest thing for me to keep playing with. Best of luck once you’ve given it an oil.

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