There is a big difference. I know this now. In my little shop, I stock industrially processed (gorgeous), pristine fibre, in uniform rovings (or top). Immaculate. Really immaculate. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen an VM in the rovings.
To illustrate, let’s take two breeds. Let’s take Shetland (because I love it, almost as much as I love Icelandic).
So, we take our big company name Shetland and our local producer mill Shetland. When I look at the two side by side (and I will post a pic) there’s a huge difference; a country mouse, city mouse difference, if you will. The big company one is gorgeous and uniform (like I said). It’s immaculate and a pleasure to spin. I don’t find, however, that it feels as natural as the other stuff.
On the left is my local producer local mill Shetland. It’s got some VM and a bit rougher. It’s also not a uniform roving. In fact, when I’m pulling it out of the bag to repack it, I realize there are a couple of pieces, it’s not one huge rope. It’s going to be a bit more work to get it to the same quality of yarn, I know that but in my hand it has a life and a connection both to the sheep and shepherd (and the folks at the mill). The fibre is vibrant and when I smell it there is a hint of the mill – and sheep. It hasn’t been soaked in chemicals to dissolve all of the VM, it’s not processed beyond feeling natural and I know that the likelihood is that the sheep were left to live a really sheep life, not warehoused to preserve the fleece.
I don’t mean to vilify the big companies. They serve a big need and one of those needs is to get fibre out there and widely. I love that they do that. They also do provide a market for producers which includes producers of lesser known breeds. They let us try out breeds we wouldn’t otherwise encouter. I love that about them. And the fibre is truly pristine. Sometimes when I really want an effortless spin, I grab some fibre from a big company and just enjoy it for what it is. And sometimes, when I want to feel connected to the history of spinning and sheep, I grab my less-than-perfect Canadian and go for it
Guess which one I spin more?
On the other hand, I have Cna