The Tour De Fleece Has Come And Gone

I have to say that the 2016 Tour de Fleece was a rousing success. I spun and plied and posted pictures and binge-watched The Great War and Midsomer Murders and plowed my way through 14 4-ounce bumps of fiber all from stash.

I spun fourteen different types of sheepswool or different blends, some of which I had never spun before. I spun BFL, Cheviot, Corriedale, English Shetland, Falkland, Icelandic, Manx Loaghton, superwash Merino, Polwarth, Romney, Targhee, Wensleydale, superwash Merino/Nylon, Merino/mohair, and Po-Mo-Silk. Eight of the fiber bumps were from Spunky Eclectic, and six were from Into The Whirled. Almost all of the spinning was done on my Schacht Matchless; all of the plying was done on my Schacht Ladybug. Two projects were spun on my Ashford Traveller, one on my Schacht Ladybug.

I had every intention of updating my blog during the TdF, but that just didn’t happen because the reality is that I joined too many Tour de Fleece teams, five in all, and it took me at least an hour every night to photograph my progress, edit the pictures, make collages, and then post the appropriate pictures to the appropriate teams.

But I am updating yinz now, so enjoy.

In the first week of the Tour, I was a lucky duck. I won a Tour de Fleece random drawing on the Spunky Eclectic Ravelry group. The prize was my choice of a braid of BFL. Here’s what I chose.

I was so happy to be the lucky number chosen by the random number generator.

I was so happy to be the lucky number chosen by the random number generator.

And here is a picture of the center-pull ball from which I plied Northern Lights.

Here's the center-pull ball I wound to make a 2-ply yarn from Northern Lights. I kept it on my thumb so that the ball wouldn't collapse on itself and make a hopelessly tangled mess.

Here’s the center-pull ball I wound to make a 2-ply yarn from Northern Lights. I kept it on my thumb so that the ball wouldn’t collapse on itself and make a hopelessly tangled mess.

Plying from a center-pull ball forces you to finish the plying in one sitting unless you are foolish courageous enough to stick a pen in the center-pull ball before removing your thumb and trusting that you will remember to be careful when picking the ball back up that the pen doesn’t fall out. I did this twice (I have the bladder of an almost-65-year-old), and both times the spinning goddesses were smiling on me.

After Six Days

Today is the seventh day of the Tour de Fleece, and after six days, here’s what I have accomplished, as told in pictures. With captions. And links to my Ravelry project pages.🙂

These singles were spun from Spunky Eclectic Romney in the colorway Little Bluebird. They have been resting and are awaiting plying. Romney is a very nice fiber to spin.

More Spunky Eclectic fiber, this time Wendsleydale, which is a long wool and requires careful handling. Too much twist and you end up with twine. Just the right amount of twist and you end up with a lustrous and drapy yarn that works well for lace shawls. This colorway is called Island Dreams.

This is what Island Dreams looks like after the two singles in the picture above were plied together. This is a laceweight 2-ply yarn and it is even lovelier in person than in the picture.

These singles are spun from Icelandic wool from Spunky Eclectic in the colorway Squirrel. I had to take special care spinning up this fiber because it had a long staple and was kind of slippy. Too much twist and it turned to twine; too little twist and it drifted apart. I really needed to hit the Goldilocks Zone with this fiber.

And this is Squirrel after plying. It is really quite lovely, with lots of rich shades of brown and a nice sheen and halo. This is a somewhat rustic yarn, not the softest, but not harsh, either. It will probably soften up a bit when I soak it to set the twist, but it is definitely destined for outerwear.

This is lovely English Shetland wool from Into The Whirled in the colorway Studio West. I spun this as a fractal, which means that the color repeats on one bobbin are long, and on the other bobbin the color repeats are shorter, so when the two singles are plied together, there will be a subtle striping effect.

And here is Studio West after plying. Shetland wool is one of my favorites to spin and to knit with.

Last but not least, I have been working on a bump of Targhee wool in the colorway Talisman from Into The Whirled. I stripped the bump into eight strips to shorten the color repeats, and I’m spinning the strips end to end. I plan to chain-ply the singles to make a self-striping yarn, which is going to take forever because the singles are very thin. The plied yarn will probably be a heavy lace weight to light fingering weight, but I think it will be worth the time and effort because the colors are brilliant. I think this is the nicest Targhee I have ever spun. The prep is outstanding–very few nepps. It practically drafts itself.

The Tour De Fleece Is Here Again!

It started on Saturday with the start of the Tour de France. It’s the Tour de Fleece 2016! This year I plan to spin as many different varieties of sheep wool from my stash as I can in 24 days.

Yes, this is all fiber from my stash, and every single bit is either Spunky Eclectic or Into The Whirled. And, yes, this represents less than half of what is in my fiber stash. No, I’m neither embarrassed nor ashamed. My fiber stash is nowhere near S.A.B.L.E.

These are all fibers from Into The Whirled. Starting at the bottom left, we have superwash Merino and Cheviot, and in the back, left to right, we have Falkland, Targhee, and English Shetland.

From Spunky Eclectic, there is Romney, BFL, Corriedale, Wensleydale, Manx Laoghton, and Icelandic.

That’s eleven 4-ounce bumps of wool. It’s unlikely that I can spin all of that in the 12 days of the Tour de France/Fleece, but I plan to spin and ply as much of it as I can.

In the first two days, I’ve gotten a lot of spinning done.

These singles were spun on Day 1 from Spunky Eclectic Wensleydale in Island Dreams, and I will be plying them together to make a lace weight yarn. Doesn’t Wensleydale have a lovely luster? It has a nice halo, too, but you cannot see it very well in this picture.

In addition to the Wensleydale on the left–can you see the lovely halo?–I also spun part of a bump of English Shetland from ITW in a colorway called Studio West spun up. That’s a lot of spinning for Day 1.

On Day 2, I finished spinning the English Shetland from ITW. I did a fractal spin, so when I ply the two singles together, I will get a 2-ply yarn with a subtle striping effect.

On Day 2 I also started spinning a bump of Romney from Spunky Eclectic. The colorway is Little Bluebird. For this yarn, I decided to divide the bump into 8 strips and spin two bobbins of 4 strips each. I will then ply the singles together to make a 2-ply yarn.

That’s the English Shetland on the left, the Romney on the right. So far all of my spinning has been done on my Schacht Matchless in double drive. I will be doing the plying on my Schacht Ladybug in Scotch tension.

The Tour de Fleece 2016 is moving along smoothly here in beautiful Brookline, Pittsburgh. I have enjoyed each fiber so far. I will keep yinz updated, but probably not daily because I’d rather spin than blog. Peace out!

Dancing With Lord Stanley


The Captain kisses the Cup. (Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

As you know, in addition to being an avid knitter and spinner, I am also a sports fan and a self-described hockey nut. I love watching ice hockey, and I’m a big fan of the NHL. So big a fan, in fact, that my husband has started buying me Center Ice for my birthday every year so that I can totally pig out on hockey.

My very favorite hockey team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, and since we now live in Pittsburgh, we are able to actually attend some games instead of just watching on television. The DH and I attended four games this past hockey season and saw the Pens win three time and lose only once, and that was in OT.

It was a rough season for the Penguins. Second year head coach Mike Johnston seemed to be in way over his head, and the boys didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves on the ice. They were inconsistent from one game to the next, losing more games than they should have given the level of talent on the team, and playing the most boring style of hockey imaginable.

Thankfully, after a couple of months, GM Jim Rutherford saw fit to fire Johnston and bring up Mike Sullivan, head coach of the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, to take over the duties as bench boss. He also realized the team needed more speed if they were to turn things around, and he made some brilliant trades to achieve this. Between the acquisitions last summer and before the trade deadline in February and players brought up from WBS, the team was revamped and went from being a slow, plodding, boring team to an offensive and defensive juggernaut driven by skill and speed.

When Sully took over the team, they were out of a playoff spot, but that soon changed. The Penguins moved up to a wildcard spot in the standings, then made a charge in the month of March that pushed them up into a solid second place in their division.

Playoff hockey started in April, and the Penguins had a tough row to hoe. In the first round they faced a strong, physical New York Rangers team; in the second, they went up against the winningest team during the regular season, the Washington Capitals; in the third round, they had to play against last year’s Stanley Cup Finals finalist, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Going into the first round, we were without our starting goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, and our back-up goalie, Matt Murray. The third goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, stepped up to the plate and won the first game of the series, but lost in the second game. Fortunately, Murray was able to return to the line-up, and except for a hiccup when he was pulled in the third period of a game and sat out the next game, he played brilliantly and joined an elite group of goalies who have won 15 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs as rookies.

Going into the final series, the Penguins were up against the Western Conference Champions, the San Jose Sharks. Not many people outside the Pittsburgh fan base were giving the Penguins much of a chance. In the past 10 years, the Western Conference has won most of the finals, and the sports pundits all seemed to think that the bigger, harder-hitting Sharks would overcome the skill and speed of the Penguins. But there’s a reason why the games are played. Reality painted a different picture. The speed and skill of the Penguins neutralized the Sharks’ attack, and the Penguins won the best-of-seven series in six games, holding the Sharks to just two shots in the third period of game five in San Jose. It’s hard to score if you cannot get the puck to the net, eh?

Had it not been for the stellar goaltending of the Sharks’ goalie, Martin Jones, the Penguins may well have swept the series and every game probably would have been a rout.

The Penguins faced and overcame a lot of adversity to make it to pinnacle of sport, and for us fans, it was amazing to watch this team go from being directionless to being single-mindedly focused on playing the best hockey they could play. The young players who were called up from WBS to become starters or to fill in temporarily for injured players fit in smoothly, and the newcomers quickly developed chemistry with veteran Penguins and with each other. Coach Sullivan was able to put four strong lines out on the ice knowing each line would play well in all three zones, and all three defensive pairings were reliable. Add the solid netminding of Fleury and Murray and you have the perfect recipe for winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.


A moment to remember. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Let’s do this again next year!


On the 17th of September, 1940, 19-year-old Thomas A. Snodgrass of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, traveled to nearby Pittsburgh and enlisted in the U S Army Air Corps as a private.

Following his training, he arrived at Nichols Field near Manila in the Philippine Islands on July 9, 1941, where he served as Chief Metallist with an Army Air Forces ground crew.

That is where Pfc Snodgrass was when the Japanese attacked the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just hours after bombing Pearl Harbor. On August 13, 1942, his family was notified that their son was missing in action. On January 30, 1943, they learned he was being held by the Japanese as a prisoner of war. He had survived the Bataan Death March and was doing his best to survive the extremely harsh conditions of PW Camp #1 Cabanatuan, PI. His family received occasional cards from Pfc Snodgrass up until they received word from the U S government that their son had died on October 24, 1944, when the Japanese prison-ship on which he was being transported had been sunk in the South China Sea. He was 23 years old.

The prison-ship that took Pfc Snodgrass to his death was the Arisan Maru, a Japanese freighter that was a so-called hell ship used to transport POWs from camps on the Philippine Islands to camps in Japan. 1783 U S prisoners of war were crammed into the hold of the Arisan Maru, which had no markings on it to indicate it was transporting POWs.

As the Arisan Maru was sailing along with a convoy of Japanese destroyers, it was torpedoed by the USS Shark, a submarine that was subsequently lost with all hands. After the Arisan Maru was hit, the Japanese crew locked the hatches to the hold, cut the rope ladders, and abandoned ship leaving the prisoners to their fate. The POWs managed to get the hatches open, and most if not all of them escaped from the hold. But then the ship broke apart and sank, leaving the men stranded in the water. Many tried to swim to the Japanese destroyers, which had picked up the Japanese crew, but the destroyers were moving away from the wreckage, and the Japanese crew on board the destroyers were beating off any POWs who got close.

Only 8 of the POWs survived, and of those, only 5 escaped the Japanese and made it to China.

The sinking of the Arisan Maru is the worst maritime disasters in U S history. To give you an idea of the scope of loss of life, more people died when the Arisan Maru went down than in the sinking of the Titanic.

On this Memorial Day, please pause to remember people like my mother’s cousin, Tommy Snodgrass, and the suffering he endured and the sacrifice he made in military service to his country. Let’s remember people like my father’s brother John, who died when the B-17 he was piloting was shot down over France. There is nothing glorious in war, just death and destruction. Remembering those who lost their lives in war and honoring their sacrifice is perhaps the best way to remember that war is a horrible thing to be avoided at almost any cost.

My mother kept the bulletin from her cousin's memorial service all her life. I found it among her things after her death.

My mother kept the bulletin from her cousin’s memorial service all her life. I found it among her things after her death.

Version 2

A young man’s life ended far too soon.

I Decided!

So, here’s what I decided to do with Caribou and Take Me Out to the Ball Park.

I took one bobbin of Caribou and wound it on my ball winder to make a center-pull ball, then I plied from both ends of the ball to make a 2-ply.

Bobbin #1 of bump #1 is now a 2-ply spun from a center-pull ball. The entire brown section is hidden under the gray. We will have to wait until I wind the yarn on my niddy noddy to see just how spectacular (or not) the finished yarn will be.

This probably wasn’t the best colorway to use for this method because the colors are not repeating, and each color is very long. I think it would work better with a colorway that has short color repeats and lots of different colors. But it is a technique I really wanted to try, and I ended up with a beautiful marled 2-ply, although the picture doesn’t show just how much color variation there is in this yarn since most of it is hidden.

I am going to chain-ply the other bobbin of singles. I don’t know how I will end up spinning and plying the other bump of Caribou, but I am pretty sure I will do something completely different from what I did with the first bump.

Take Me Out to the Ball Park ended up as a 2-ply, just as I originally intended. I’m so happy that I stuck to my original plan.

Here’s the skein straight off the niddy noddy. It will look a little more organized once I have set the twist.

Here’s the obligatory close-up shot.

A skein of handspun just hanging out on the front porch with a geranium.

I included this picture because–GERANIUMS!