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.

And So It Grows

Yes, my spinning fiber stash just keeps getting bigger, in spite of my efforts to keep it under control by spinning, spinning, and spinning. I’m not ready to give up any of my fiber clubs quite yet, so I will just have to find room for all the fiber. Of course, every time I complete a spinning project, my fiber stash gets a little smaller, but my yarn stash gets bigger. And so it goes grows.

New fiber from February and March:

Into The Whirled 24 1/2th Century Falkland top

Into The Whirled Madame Vestra BFL

Spunky Eclectic Aspens Farmer’s Sheepwool (BFL)

Spunky Eclectic Black Pillar Polwarth/Mohair/Silk

Current spinning projects:

I’ve started spinning one bump of this lovely superwash Merino from Into The Whirled in the colorway Godric’s Hollow.

I split the bump in half vertically and I am spinning each half end to end onto one bobbin. I plan to chain ply the singles to make a self-striping yarn. I split the bump so that the color repeats (stripes) would be small.

These two braids are the December 2015 installment of the Sweet Georgia Yarns Fibre Club. The colorway is called Wistmas.

Wistmas is on a base of BFL, and I decided to do a fractal spin. This bobbin contains the singles spun from the braid that I split into 12 strips vertically. I spun the other braid end to end without splitting.

The plying is almost done. Because I spun two bumps, approximately 200 grams, of fiber, I filled one bobbin and had to start on a second bobbin. This is a straight-up 2-ply yarn, and the second bobbin is about 2/3s done. I love the sheen of BFL.

 

And So It Grows

My fiber stash, that is. It just keeps growing because there’s just so much gorgeous fiber out there. Here’s my latest acquisition, from The First Draft.

Here's what I saw when I opened the box. OMG!

Here’s what I saw when I opened the box. OMG!

Gorgeous colors, right? And everything was packaged so nicely in cello bags.

Here’s a group shot.

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Notice the fancy tags?

Now I’ll introduce you to each one individually.

This autumnal color way is called Maple and is Corriedale Cross, a fiber I have never spun before.

Grapefruit is a good name for this colorway, don’t you think? It’s 40% Merino, 40% SW Merino, and 20% silk, so it should make some pretty yummy yarn.

Technicolor Violets is aptly named, with purple and acid green on Polwarth.

Last but not least, here’s another braid of Polwarth dyed in black and shades of gray in a color way called Into the Dark.

Not only is each braid identified with a beautiful tag that is tied on with a ribbon, each braid is also embellished with a handcrafted beaded stitch marker that complements the color way.

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The stitch marker for Into the Dark has pearl beads.

And Lindey, the brains and talent behind The First Draft, also included a button, and tags that I can use to label the yarn I spin from this gorgeous fiber.

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There’s a place for all the relevant information, and each tag is decorated with a drawing of a different type of spindle. That makes me want to get out my Golding ring spindle and start spindling again.

There’s no doubt I will be a repeat customer.

Fall In The Springtime

Apropos to nothing, I drive my husband, who is a retired editor, just a little bit crazy with the capitalization I use in the titles for my blog posts. I capitalize the first letter every single word, even the articles and prepositions. I know they are not supposed to be capitalized, but I like the way the titles look when the first letter of every word is capitalized, so I do it even though it breaks the rules. It’s my blog, and I can do what I want. 🙂

Now on to the serious business of knitting and spinning. It seems like it has been ages since I blogged about knitting. The only knitting I have OTN is a very boring “vanilla” sock in gray that I cannot even finish until I find the rest of the yarn. I know it’s somewhere in my house, but I’ll be damned if I can remember where I put it. I’ve looked in all the likely spots, but no joy. I also seem to have misplaced my knitting mojo. If you happen to see it, please tell it to phone home. I miss it.

On the other hand, there is no question as to the location of my spinning mojo. It’s right here where it belongs. And since there is no knitting to talk about, let’s get started on the spinning.

Last fall I bought a 3-installment, double-shot fiber club from Sweet Georgia Yarns. The owner, Felicia Lo, is an absolutely brilliant dyer who uses very saturated colors that produce fiber/yarn that seems to glow with its own internal light.

The first installment of my club, which for some reason I spun last, is a 50/50 blend of Merino wool and silk that spun up with a beautiful sheen. The colorway is called Fall Bouquet.

The silk content and the rich colors make this fiber practically glow.

I decided to spin each braid end to end, then ply the two singles together for a subtle barber-pole effect.

I packed a lot of yarn onto the first bobbin.

When plying this yarn, I did a little experimentation. I love spinning in double drive. In double drive, the drive band is doubled in a figure 8 and one loop goes over the flyer pulley while the other loop goes over the bobbin pulley. When you treadle, the drive wheel turns both the bobbin and the flyer, but at slightly different speeds. This results in a gentle but steady take-up onto the bobbin. This works really well for me when spinning, but I haven’t yet gotten a feel for plying in double drive. I need a stronger take-up, especially when I chain-ply my singles. For this reason, I normally ply in Scotch tension, which is also called flyer lead.

In Scotch tension, the drive band is just one loop that goes around the drive wheel and the flyer pulley, and there is a separate brake band goes on the bobbin. When you have tension on the yarn, the bobbin and flyer spin at the same rate, and this puts twist into the fiber. When you let up on the tension, the flyer spins faster than the bobbin because you are slowing the bobbin with the brake band. The result is that the flyer wraps the yarn around the bobbin.

As much as I love my Ashford Traveller, I’m not very fond of its Scotch tension set up. I really need to play around with it and try to find a set-up that works better for me. I had been doing my plying on the Lendrum, which is a single-drive wheel (Scotch tension only), or on my Ladybug, which is a multi-drive wheel that works really great in Scotch tension. But I really wanted to ply these singles on my Ashford because of the larger bobbins, so I tried something new. I plied this yarn using Irish tension.

Irish tension, which is also called bobbin lead, gives the spinner a very strong take-up, that is, the yarn is pulled onto the bobbin pretty hard. In Irish tension, the drive band goes over the drive wheel and the bobbin, so that when you treadle, the drive wheel turns the bobbin directly. The brake band goes over the flyer pulley. When you hold the yarn under tension, the bobbin and flyer turn together at the same rate, but when you let up on the tension, the flyer slows or even stops, and the yarn winds onto the bobbin.  You usually don’t need much, if any, tension on the brake band when using Irish tension. Just the friction of the band material itself often provides all the braking you need.

I found the Irish tension set-up on my Travvy was much more to my liking than the Scotch tension, so for the time being, until the spirit moves me to fiddle around with the Scotch tension set-up, I will be using Irish tension on my Travvy for plying.

But for spinning, double drive is still my spinning heaven, and my Traveller is a sweet dream in double drive.  I used the sliding hook flyer, which has larger bobbins than the Ashford standard flyer. Four ounces of fiber fit on a SHF bobbin with room to spare, so I spun each braid onto its own bobbin.

But when I plied the singles, I couldn’t fit all eight ounces of 2-ply onto a single bobbin, so when I wound the yarn off the bobbins onto my niddy noddy, I actually spit-spliced the yarn to join it and ended up with a single skein. A big single skein. 220 grams, 837 yards of a heavy fingering to sport weight yarn.

The yarn is soft and shiny because–Merino, silk!

If you are wondering whether the other two installments of my Sweet Georgia Fibre Club turned out as well as this one, you won’t have to wait long for the answer.

 

Crossing The Finish Line

The 2014 Tour de Fleece ended last Saturday. I realize I’m a little late posting my finish line, but what can I say? I’m a world class procrastinator. 🙂

My TdF 2014 was quite the success. I reached all my goals and ended up with a lot of really nice hand-spun yarn and some new, still developing skills.

My TdF 2014 results

The yarn in the foreground is a chain-plied Merino from Greenwood Fiberworks in the color way “Holly Berry.” I wanted to improve both my skill at drafting merino and my skill at chain-plying. Both skills need lots more work, but with each project, I see improvement. The final tally for the Holly Berry Merino yarn is approximately 430 yards/127g of self-striping, sport weight yarn.

Merino chain-plied to make a self-striping yarn

I love the soft, cushy yarn, but I’m still not in love with spinning Merino wool top. It’s a bit of a challenge to draft, especially compared to BFL, Corriedale, Polwarth, and Falkland. I find Merino roving much more enjoyable to spin than Merino top–I love spinning Loop Bullseye Bumps–but I’m not giving up on Merino top. I have more in my stash and will keep working toward more consistent drafting.

The big white skein directly above the Holly Berry is a plying experiment that turned out much better than I had anticipated. Here’s the back story. Remember when I was knitting Hazel Carter’s Spider Queen Shawl? I had bought a kit from Blackberry Ridge that included both the pattern and enough B-R Thistledown yarn to knit the shawl. I swatched with the Thistledown and was very unhappy with the results.

The Thistledown yarn was too thick-and-thin to use for Spider Queen.

 

The yarn is a cobweb weight singles that unfortunately is overly thick and thin. I ended up knitting Spider Queen in J & S cobweb, which is also a bit thick and thin, but not to the same degree as Thistledown. Anyway, I ended up with a lot of Thistledown in my stash that I knew I would never use for knitting a lace shawl.

What to do with all this Thistledown? Sure, I could sell or trade it on Ravelry, but, I wondered, what would happen if I plied the singles together? I had never tried plying mill-spun singles together, and I was curious to learn how they would behave. The singles had a Z-twist, which means they had been spun clockwise, so I plied the singles together with an S-twist, counterclockwise.

Thistledown made into a 2-ply yarn on my Ladybug

Each skein of Thistledown was approximately 700 yards, and I ended up with just a little over 600 yards/4.5 oz of 2-ply fingering weight yarn. I thought I would lose more yardage than that.

Doesn’t the 2-ply look fabulous on the bobbins? So imagine my horror when I first took the yarn off the niddy noddy and saw this!

Curly yarn!

The yarn curled up like crazy, and I was afraid it had been way over-plied. This wouldn’t be the end of the world because I could always run the yarn back through my spinning wheel going clockwise to take some of the twist out, but I decided to finish the yarn before deciding whether it needed some tweaking. The yarn was still pretty curly when I took it out of the soak, but I thwacked it on the bathtub and it relaxed and balanced itself perfectly.

My 2-ply Thistledown decided to behave after a bath and a good thwacking.

I really couldn’t be happier with the results I got. Of course, the real test will come in knitting up a swatch and blocking it to see how the yarn behaves in the wild. 🙂

The two beautiful Ashford bobbins at the top of the first picture are filled with singles spun from a Loop Bullseye Bump in the Sizzle color way. I spun the roving end to end onto two bobbins. After the TdF, I plied the singles together and the finished yarn is on the drying rack as I type. But since the plying wasn’t part of my TdF, no pictures of the finished yarn will appear in this post.

The remaining yarn is all my silk spinning. The beautiful skein of golden yarn is spun from Tussah silk sliver made into a 2-ply yarn. The small skein is a 2-ply made from Bombyx silk hankies, and the larger hank is 2-ply made from Bombyx silk caps. I enjoyed spinning the hankies; the caps, not so much. But both yarns are really nice.

The brown bobbin at the top of the first picture holds the singles I spun from some Bombyx silk sliver.

Sixteen grams of Bombyx silk sliver ready to be spun

The Tussah silk sliver was heavenly to spin, but the Bombyx silk sliver was beyond heavenly.

I haven’t decided what to the with the Bombyx singles yet.

Bombyx silk sliver singles on the bobbin

I am leaning toward plying them with a singles spun from wool of some sort sometime in the future, or maybe with some Thistledown. I still have a lot of it. A. Lot. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the Tour de Fleece as much as I did.

What’s On My Wheels

On this WIP Wednesday, I don’t have a lot of knitting progress to show. Which is not to say that progress hasn’t been made on the knitting front. On Friday you will get to see a Finished Object that was completed last Sunday.  I know, I know. But you will just have to wait.

I haven’t been doing a lot of knitting, but I have been doing some. I’ve knitted a few more repeats on the second My Broken Heart sock, and Cassidy’s first sleeve is nearing completion. But there just isn’t enough progress to warrant taking pictures.

The spinning front is a different story. I have four spinning projects in progress, three of which are my Wednesday WIP. The fourth one will be a blog entry unto itself sometime down the road, but I won’t talk about it today.

So let’s start with the project that is furthest along. About a year ago, I bought this braid of gradient fiber from Spinneretta’s Studio. It is Polwarth in a colorway called Monochrome.

A pretty braid of Polwarth

A pretty braid of Polwarth

A gradient colorway is one in which the fiber/yarn goes from one color to another to another gradually. The colors can all be shades of the same hue or they can be very different colors. But the colors never repeat. Gradient colorways provide a spinner with a wonderful opportunity to be creative. There are many different ways one can spin up a gradient. The most obvious one is spinning up the roving without splitting it. Just pull of a length of fiber and spin the colors in the order they appear in the braid. The yarn can either be finished as a singles yarn or chain-plied to created a gradient 3-ply yarn that shows off the lovely color changes.

I chose to spin the braid into one bobbin of singles, then chain-ply the singles. My chain-plying has improved by leaps and bounds in the past month (thank you, Tour de Fleece!), so the time seemed right to finally spin up this braid of fiber.

The yarn is currently on the niddy noddy.

Just look at that color progression!

Just look at that color progression!

I hope you can make out the colors in the yarn. They range from the palest of café au lait to the darkest espresso. I very pleased with how well this yarn turned out (and I know it will become even better when I set the twist), and I’m feeling ready to tackle the other gradient colorways  I have in my fiber stash.  Some of them will be spun and plied in the same manner as the Monochrome, but I think I might try splitting a braid in half lengthwise and spinning each length onto a separate bobbin starting on opposite ends to reverse the color progression. It will be interesting to see the results. And I might give fractal spinning a try with a gradient. Oh, what fun!

And speaking of fun, how could anyone not have fun working with these gorgeous colors?

These colors make me very happy!

This is yet another fiber braid from BohoKnitterChic, and it is currently being spun up on my Ladybug using the smallest pulley on the high-speed “whorl.”

I'm spinning on the wee "whorl."

I’m spinning on the wee “whorl.”

I divided the braid in half lengthwise, then divided each length in half, also lengthwise, which means I have four bumps of fiber to spin up that are approximately the same weight with the colors in the same order. My current plan is to make a 4-ply yarn, but I’m seriously considering chain-plying instead because I love how the colors are striping when I spin them up. When I get all four bobbins spun up, I’ll ply a few yards and knit it up to see how it looks. If I love it, the yarn will become a 4-ply. If I don’t, I’ll chain-ply the singles instead.

I have no doubts about what my third spinning project will become. The superwash Merino wool and Nylon blend I bought from Mustard Seed Yarn Lab was born to be sock yarn.

No one could resist such pretty fiber!

Every time I spin Merino, I am amazed yet again at how very soft it is. So soft. So very soft. And this yarn is spinning up in the most lovely shades of green imaginable.

Mermaid on the Lendrum fast flyer

Mermaid on the Lendrum fast flyer

It will make lovely socks, I have no doubt.