Back in November, I found what looked like some lovely braids of hand-dyed Polwarth spinning wool on sale on Etsy. They had a great variety of colors, and my prior experiences with polwarth have been very promising. It’s like spinning a cloud, soft and luscious.
Polwarth was fast becoming one of my favorite spinning fibers, right up there with Cormo, super-fine Merino and Alpaca.
Still, I was ordering online from an as-yet unknown to me fiber and yarn shop all the way across the country.
I crossed my fingers, ordered two braids and waited with bated breath (well … take that with a grain of salt considering it would be 10-14 days for delivery) to see if they lived up to my expectations.
I was exuberant when the package from the Neighborhood Fiber Company finally arrived. Upon opening the bag, I sighed happily over the lovely colors in the hand-dyed braids of polwarth.
Sadly, as soon as I picked one up to give it a good squish, I noted the stiffness of the braid – not at all what I was expecting.
Although the colors were pretty much spot on, the roving of once wonderful, fine Polwarth sheep’s wool had been braided so tightly (perhaps for storage?) that it had compacted almost to the point of felting. It was actually a challenge to pull it free from the braid. The freed roving lay stiff as a board.
I was SO disappointed.
As an example of what I’d been expecting to receive; this next photo was a recently purchased Polwarth roving from another source. This roving was so soft it all but oozed off my lap. You can almost see the squishy lushness, right? This roving was heavenly to spin.
Yes, I could and did recover the poorly prepared wool, steaming it section by section to relax the fiber to where I could gently loosen and relax it. I slowly worked it back into a long, fairly flexible roving, still somewhat compacted but usable.
However, this was not the heavenly soft, relaxing and enjoyable spinning experience I was expecting and not worth even the “sale” price, in my opinion. It was more like work.
Since the company advertised “hand-dyed and hand-braided” rovings, it could have been as simple as an over-enthusiastic employee braiding the fiber too tightly, and/or a fluke tight storage issue… maybe. I had no previous purchases from this company to compare to. Still, not a good first impression.
After spinning up the 4 oz., bright, light-color braid in blue, aqua and tan, I concluded that the yarn came out nice enough in spite of the poor handling it had been exposed to. It was, after all, polwarth wool.
It’s just that the yarn, although it is of course important and will be put to good use, was not MY main reason for buying this fiber. My reason was to spend a glorious couple of days handling wonderfully soft, airily light, hand-dyed fiber of one of my favorite fine wool breeds. It was the spinning of the fiber I looked forward to. The yarn was secondary.
So, after giving it some thought, I set aside the brown-hued braid, adding it to my blending fiber stash (running it through the drum carder will revive it). It will eventually get used, but it hadn’t been what I was hoping for.
I decided to contact the Neighborhood Fiber Company. They had a good reputation and had received good reviews, which is why I’d made the purchase in the first place.
After checking their Facebook page, which was quite active, I decided – as a first-time customer – to give them the benefit of the doubt. I contacted them privately, via email, rather than posting my complaint on the open forum.
I sent a short email, explaining that I was a first-time customer but an experienced spinner – and that I was disappointed with the quality of their product.
I told them I didn’t think the original Polwarth wool was at fault, but that it seemed to have been braided so tightly (for whatever purpose) after dyeing that the fiber was compacted to the point of being nearly unusable – and no fun.
I let them know I’d chosen to contact them privately in hopes they were open to suggestions and might consider braiding their lovely fiber more loosely so as to offer their clientele the more enjoyable spinning experience a well-prepared polwarth roving should provide.
Some time in mid-December, I received a polite email response from the Neighborhood Fiber Company, thanking me for taking the time to reach out to them, and letting me know that my comments would be forwarded to the fiber prep department.
Then there was yesterday’s visit to the UPS Store. I know, I know … you were wondering when I’d get to the point. 😉
The unexpected box I opened when we returned home from the UPS Store last evening contained quite a happy surprise.
It held not just one, but two beautiful, loosely braided and gently boxed bags of Polwarth wool roving in one of their most popular colorways.
Kudos to the Neighborhood Fiber Company in Baltimore, Maryland. Your ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ star customer service reviews are obviously well deserved. You may just have made a doubter into a regular customer.