Hay in my new yarn,

Hi all:

I was buying eggs from a local farmer recently and learned that she kept sheep and had yarn for sale. I bought 4 skeins of shetland wool from her, 200 yards each black/brown and brown. They are lovely and soft and the spinning is very interesting and textured.

My question is this,…as I was winding my first ball I pulled about a bale of hay out of the hank! OK, not a bale but it was A LOT of hay that was woven directly into the fiber. Some of it caught on my hands when I was winding so that was easy to pull out (big pieces) but the rest I kind of gave up on because it was really wound in the yarn tightly. Is this normal for handspun wool? It was kinda expensive and I’m not thrilled that there is so much in there. I really like supporting local businesses though so if this is the norm for a handspun shetland then I will live with it. If not, I will look elsewhere next time when I need yarn.

Thanks for your input!


I can’t answer your question as to whether it’s normal, but in my opinion, it certainly should not be. I reeeeeeally don’t want hay in my yarn. That sounds like careless spinning to me. Several years ago I bought some rather expensive recycled sari silk on ebay. It was full of twigs and other debris. Annoyed me enough that I’ve never bought any sari yarn since, no matter how pretty it looks in the photograph.

Yeah, I can’t decide how to feel about it. I have never knit with Shetland wool before so I don’t know how hard it is go get all the debris out. I have shorn a sheep and carded and spun a LONG time ago (in middle school) and that’s all I know about my yarn. I don’t want to be annoyed because I’m ignorant, you know what I mean? I also don’t ever see Shetland wool for sale and I wonder if that’s just because I have never looked, or because it’s hard to get the hay out!!! hahahaha!

Just looked up some stuff about the breed, think there are different grades of fleece
not really any mention of the state of the fleece though.
There has been information on tv here in Ireland recently that as most farmers don’t get much money for fleece they don’t bother taking care of it like they did years ago. They breed for meat and throw away the fleece so if they do give you some for spinning it’s usually not washed, the sheep have been roaming in muddy fields with thorns etc and the fleece is not cared for properly after it has been shorn. Most farmers here say it costs more to shear the sheep than they get for selling it, so the only reason they do it is for animal welfare. Some farmers here are selling them to a factory that makes home insulation products as wool is naturally flame retardant and doesn’t burn, but singes.

I don’t know if that’s the case. I definitely think that she cares for her sheep and takes very good care of them. She sells “show sheep” so I wonder if she just doesn’t know that it’s not ok to have hay in your yarn? She doesn’t shear or spin the yarn so I wonder if it’s just ignorance. She sells lots of yarn at the farmer’s market so people must like it. It’s VERY soft but the hay is annoying. She did say, “Oh, look, there’s hay in there.” so maybe it’s not the norm.

I was just wondering if this was common from a spinning standpoint and I’m guessing it’s not. I’ll look at her stuff again when farmer’s market starts up again to see if maybe I just got a bad batch. At $15 a 100 yard skein I would hope she is making some money!

If it helps, the Debbie Bliss Donegal Chunky Tweed yarn (made in Kilcar, Ireland) that I am working with right now has more hay in it than I’m used to seeing in most yarns! I’m fairly regularly picking it out as I knit…

I have found hay in Noro yarns.:shrug: They’re certainly not hand spun.

I bought some yarn from a local farm and I felt like I had enough hay to fill a mattress by the time I was finished. :teehee:
However, a friend of mine has alpacas, and she gave me some yarn that was spun at a local ‘mill’ and yarn that she spun from roving that was processed at the same place, and there were very, very few pieces of stuff to pick out.
I went to the place where she had it done when she picked it up, and they have several stages in the preparation process. It’s a small-time operation (I can’t remember the name) but they had a lot of equipment; much more than I expected. Maybe that’s the difference?

Garbage in, garbage out.

I spin yarn. Some of it from processed wool made into roving or top. I do not expect to see VM (vegetable matter) in it, unless I’m getting a heck of a good price on it.

Even then, I’ll pick out the VM as I spin.

Some fiber I get raw, and again, if I’m buying from a fiber flock, I expect the sheep to be covered and have minimum VM in the fiber. I pick it out by hand before I spin it.

I charge .15 yard for a 2-ply worsted weight yarn, so the price wasn’t too much, IMHO. I do discount my yarns if they have VM in them.

This was the exact information I was looking for! Thanks a bunch! I don’t mind picking it out and I see that I’m not the only one. I suppose to keep the price competitive she doesn’t pick out every little thing but I will remember this in the future.

Thanks to all for your insights!

It sounds to me like the lady who spun the yarn hasn’t prepped the wool before spinning it. I spin fleeces I buy, and in my neck of the woods there is no such thing as a “coated fleece”, so I wash the fleeces that I buy, and I then either card or comb the wool before spinning. If washing a fleece doesn’t get out all of the Vegetable Matter (VM) in the fleece, then carding and combing definitely does the job.

It sounds to me like the lady you bought the fleece from may have just spun directly from the fleece, a process known as “spinning in the grease”. In this situation, the fleece - usually from a covered sheep and therefore quite free of VM - is washed in cold/tepid water to preserve the lanolin content of the wool and then simply spun without combing or carding. If her sheep were uncovered, that would explain why your yarn still has VM in it. That’s not to condone the VM content of her final yarn, but maybe in the future (if you still want to buy handspun yarns) just ask if the spinner combed or carded the wool before spinning, as you are sure to get a very clean yarn from that process.

I have seen pictures of her sheep and they are not covered so I suppose that explains it. I thought all wool was carded before spinning. It’s nice to learn something new about that. We knitters knit all day with these beautiful yarns and I, for one, never even think about how they got to the yarn store! I think sheep, spin, buy!!! Thanks for all your insights!

Not all wool is carded. If you card the wool and then spin it, you end up with what’s called a “woolen” yarn which is soft and bouncy and pills relatively easily.

If you use wool combs to comb the wool prior to spinning, you end up with what’s called a “worsted” yarn, in which the fibres are all parallel, and which is quite sturdy.

Personally I have never spun in the grease - I’d be to scared to try! lol

I’m pretty positive from all your descriptions, that this yarn was “spun in the grease” because it doesn’t look like it was ever carded. It was spun VERY unevenly and there is something about it that doesn’t seem combed to me. It’s a really beautiful color and VERY soft. I like that the lanolin is maintained.

My next question, since I’m getting such great info, is,…will this felt? I’m pretty sure it will but I’m just asking to be sure. I’m not going to felt with it but I’m just curious.

Sounds like you’ve got an interesting yarn there, and the lanolin must be making your hands feel like they are in heaven! Lanolin is wonderful stuff.

Re Felting, it will really only occur if you shock the yarn/finished object during washing by changing the temperature of the water suddenly and/or agitating the yarn/object in the water.

If you take care not to radically change the temperature of the water between the first soak and the final rinse, and also take care not to agitate the object in the water or to wring it out (rather, press the excess water out between your hands, or by placing it between the folds of a towel and treading on the towel to press out the excess water from the knitted object inside), you’ll avoid felting.

Salsa, Spinning in the grease is wonderful! The trick is to process the raw fleece to remove the dirt without removing the lanolin.

I will only spin in the grease when it is hot enough so the lanolin is fluid, otherwise, the fibers just stick to each other when drafting.

One way to reduce the chance of felting, like Salsa said, is not to shock the wool. When you go from the soapy wash water to the clear rinse water, try to keep the temp about the same. Additionally, keep the wool (or object) full of water (i.e. don’t press out the excess water) between washing and rinsing…

I have never seen a covered sheep in my entire life! And we do have a lot of sheep in New Zealand.!! I would be pretty brassed off if I purchased spun yarn and had to pick out the hay paddock from it. In fact I would be brassed off if my raw fleece was not from a ‘clean’ paddock and had too many bits in it.

I prefer washed fleece to spin so always soak then wash and dry before carding and spinning.