Gearing Up For The Tour De Fleece 2017

I’ve been a very bad blogger, but I am hoping to rectify this starting today. We have finally completed all the downstairs renovations that we started back in February of 2015, and we have gotten a lot of unpacking done. We have artwork hung on our recently replastered walls, new bookcases sitting on new hardwood floors, and the corner cupboard is back in the breakfast nook where it is most at home.

Without the stress and disruptions of workers in the house, and with everything in my knitting/spinning/reading/computer room being relatively organized and accessible, I hope to return to regular blogging about my knitting and spinning, and other stuff, too, starting with the upcoming Tour de Fleece which begins on July 1.

This year I am on three teams, Team Peloton, Team Schacht, and Team Into The Whirled. I plan to do all my spinning and plying on my Schacht wheels–sorry, Ashford Traveller, you are odd wheel out–and I plan to spin only ITW fibers. I currently have 15 bumps of ITW in my stash with two more expected before the TdF begins, so I really need to make a dent in it. Of course, while I am busy spinning ITW, my Sweet Georgia and Spunky Eclectic fiber stashes will continue to grow. At least I have slowed down the accumulation of Sweet Georgia fiber by purchasing just a single fiber club instead of a double shot.

This is my stash of ITW fiber. I won’t be able to spin all of this during the TdF, but I will be able to make a dent in it.

Anyway, I hope to get myself back into regular posting by blogging my TdF progress. I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to write a novel every time I blog, I just have to sit down and type. I’m off to a good start, eh?

Technology!

Technology is amazing. 3-D printing is a relatively new technology, but it is already being used in the world of spinning to create some high quality bobbins for us spinners. The company that makes these 3-D printed bobbins is called Akerworks and is located in Tennessee in the US; Akerworks make custom bobbins for a wide range of spinning wheels. (They also make spindles, but I have not tried one yet, so I cannot make any judgment. They also produce a lazy kate; I got one for Christmas, and it is fabulous. But I’ll save the kate for another day.)

The bobbins are not cheap, but they are affordable and come at a price that is comparable to (and often a little less than but sometimes a little more than) the OEM bobbins. But unlike the OEM bobbins, the Akerworks bobbins come apart so that they can be stored flat, are totally customizable with 20 colors and  6 whorl patterns from which to choose, and are virtually silent when in use.

After each model bobbin is designed and developed, it is then tested by spinners. The bobbin isn’t offered for sale until it receives passing marks from the test spinners. I was lucky enough to be chosen back in October to test spin the newest Akerworks bobbin, a double drive bobbin for the Ashford sliding hook flyer. After using it to spin in double drive and ply in Scotch tension, the bobbin got an A+ from me. It is totally silent as it spins on the shaft of the flyer, and it is very smooth. I highly recommend this bobbin to anyone who has an Ashford sliding hook flyer.

Here’s my review, in pictures and captions. Enjoy!

The bobbin arrived in a small padded mailing envelope. The bobbin comes in a mesh pouch with a separate compartment for the core. The flat-pack design means the bobbins take up much less space when stored or packed for traveling.

Two whorls and the core. They fit together easily and stay together until you decide to take the bobbin apart. Akerworks has a video on their web site/YouTube demonstrating how to assemble and take apart the bobbin, but to be honest, it is totally intuitive. I didn’t discover the video until I had put together and take apart the bobbin several times.

Here’s what the bobbin looks like once it is assembled. Mine is the Lotus pattern in Berry Blue. The core is carbon fiber.

The Akerworks bobbin is just a hair longer than the Ashford Sliding Hook Flyer bobbin, and the core has a slightly smaller diameter, so you can get more yarn on the Akerworks bobbin than on the Ashford bobbin.

This is the end with the big pulley. Normally I would use the large end for spinning in Scotch tension, but I’ve never been able to get that to work on my Traveller with the Ashford bobbins. I just put the brake band over the small end, and I use a cotton brake band instead of the nylon band the Ashford comes with. I did the same thing with the Akerworks bobbin, and it worked well.

This is the end with the small pulley. I love the openness of the Akerworks bobbin.

Here’s my Akerworks bobbin set up in double drive on my Traveller using the smallest pulley on the sliding hook flyer whorl. The gold yarn on the bobbin is the leader. The purple and green are the yarn I was spinning.

The bobbin looks quite lovely on the spinning wheel. I think the blue goes very nicely with the cherry finished of the NZ silver beech of the Travvy.

An added bonus of the Akerworks bobbin is that when the bobbin is spinning, you can actually see through it. No more excuses for forgetting to move the sliding hook. Seriously, this makes it much easier to get a nice, even bobbin.

Because this bobbin is so big, I was able to spin a 4-ounce bump onto it with tons of room to spare. I could have easily fit 2 more ounces on this bobbin.

I used the Akerworks bobbin in Scotch tension to ply the singles I had spun. The yarn is a 2-ply spun from both ends of a center-pull ball. The bobbin is nearly full, but there is still room for more yarn on it. These bobbins have a good capacity; they will hold a little bit more than the Ashford Sliding Hook Flyer bobbins, which are nice big bobbins in their own right.

If you have been thinking of purchasing Akerworks bobbins for your spinning wheel, do it!

Holy Crap!

I am so ashamed. I have so neglected my blog. A lot has been going on in the fibersphere, and I have totally failed to document it. No excuses. I now have a smartphone

I traded in my old flip phone for an iPhone SE. I don't know what took me so long.

I traded in my old flip phone for an iPhone SE. I don’t know what took me so long.

from which I can write and post to this blog, yet I haven’t posted anything for a couple of months.

Since you last heard from me, I sold my Lendrum folding wheel and bought a Flatiron, the brand new design from Schacht. This is my very first Saxony-style spinning wheel, and I absolutely love it.

It comes in a flat box that is a size and weight that qualifies for USPS priority mail, which means it is inexpensive to ship.

An entire spinning wheel fits in this box.

An entire spinning wheel fits in this box.

The flat-pack feature means that the spinning wheel requires a lot of assembly. Fortunately, Schacht includes everything you need to assemble the spinning wheel except for a philips-head screw driver.

Some of the parts and tools that come with the Flatiron

Some of the parts and tools that come with the Flatiron

With the help of the step-by-step manual that comes with the wheel and an assembly video on YouTube, I was able to put the wheel together all by myself, well, except for screwing one of the bolts into a barrel nut. I needed the DH’s assistance on that because my fingers just weren’t long enough to hold the barrel nut in place while screwing in the bolt.

Almost finished. It really helps to do the assembly on a table.

Almost finished. It really helps to do the assembly on a table.

I’m not what one would call mechanically inclined, but I didn’t run into any major difficulties putting this spinning wheel together. It took me a little longer than average; Schacht estimates assembly will take four hours, and it took me closer to five hours, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as assembling my Ashford Traveller was.

Assembly completed

Assembly completed

One of the most innovative features of the Schacht Flatiron is that it can be assembled with the flyer on either the left or the right. Since I spin with my left hand forward, I put the flyer on the left. Many Saxony wheels are left-flyer only, but some companies will custom-make wheels with the flyer on the right.

Of course, the most important part of this story is that the Flatiron came in a box. If you have a cat, you know why that is important.

Siobhan says, Thanks for the box!

Siobhan says, Thanks for the box!

Here are my spinning wheels standing in a row. Three of them are Schachts. The odd wheel out is my quirky but lovely Ashford Traveller.

L to R: Ashford Traveller, Schacht Ladybug, Schacht Matchless, and Schacht Flatiron

L to R: Ashford Traveller, Schacht Ladybug, Schacht Matchless, and Schacht Flatiron

The Flatiron is a wonderful wheel. I love spinning on it. It’s fast and quiet, and the treadling is very light. And I am happy to report that I can treadle with just one foot. YAY!

As for my now-departed Lendrum, she has found a new home where she will be loved and used.

I have a lot of spinning and knitting to share, and I hope to get caught up in the next few weeks. We’ll see.

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!

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!