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!

Another Finished Object Friday

I still have no knitting to report. I’ve added a few rows to each of the socks I have OTN, but nothing substantial. However, the spinning keeps, um, spinning along.

I started with this lovely Corriedale top from Into The Whirled in a colorway called Mud Bogs & Moonshine…

and ended with 8 ounces and just under 1000 yards of this lovely fingering weight 2-ply.

I spun one bump end to end on one bobbin. The second bump was split vertically (lengthwise) 12 times and spun the strips end to end keeping the colors in the same sequence. Then I plied the two singles together to make this gorgeous fractal 2-ply. I’m thinking scarf, but I haven’t decided for sure yet. The spinning was done in double drive on my Matchless at a ratio of 15.5:1; the plying was done in flyer lead (Scotch tension) at a ratio of 12.5:1. My Ravelry project page is here.

And there’s more! I also completed this braid of Shetland wool from the Spunky Eclectic Club Remix.

The colorway is State Park. it reminds me of a meadow in Spring, with all the flowers in bloom.

I made a 3-ply DK weight yarn, about 240 yards and 4 ounces.

I stripped the braid vertically into thirds as evenly as I could, then spun the strips end to end on separate bobbins. I was hoping that the colors would line up in at least some places, and they did! I love how the colors blended. This yarn will probably become either a hat or some fingerless mitts.

This was the very first project I spun on my Matchless. I used double drive and a ratio of 15.5:1. The plying was done on my Ladybug in flyer lead using a ratio of 12.5:1.

My current spinning project has been a pretty slow go because I am spinning up 8 ounces of BFL from Spunky Eclectic to make a lace weight 2-ply yarn.

This is the nicest BFL I have ever spun.

The ratio I’m using is 19.5:1, and spinning such thin yarn really takes a lot of time. But I am enjoying it a lot, and I don’t feel guilty about binge-watching Boardwalk Empire because I’m spinning while I watch.

This is the first bump/bobbin, which I finished several days ago. The second bobbin is now nearly finished.

I hope yinz have a great weekend. It’s supposed to get hot again here, but we are ready. Our A/C, which went on the fritz a couple of weeks ago, has been replaced, so hot and humid doesn’t scare me any more. 🙂

 

A Matchless Named Emily

Way back in 2012, when I decided that I really wanted to give spinning a try, I bought a drop spindle and some wool fiber and, with the help of some videos on YouTube, I taught myself to spin. And I liked it LOVED it.

After spindling for a few months, I knew that I wanted to try spinning on a spinning wheel. I did a lot of reading on the Internet, and finally narrowed my choices to two spinning wheels, the Schacht Ladybug and the Lendrum folding wheel. What I really wanted was a Schacht Matchless. Of all the wheels I read about, it was the one that seemed to be a consensus All-American. Nary a discouraging word was written about the Matchless.

But the price! The Matchless, crafted from maple and black walnut, is a spendy spinning wheel. I didn’t know whether I would even like spinning on a wheel, so I didn’t want to invest that much money right off the bat into something that I might not like. When you are first learning to play the piano, you don’t run out and by a Steinway baby grand, do you? NO! You start with a Casio keyboard, or maybe a Yamaha Clavinova, or perhaps Grandma’s old Wurlitzer spinet. Who know how long you will pursue piano playing, or whether you will even like it? So, when I decided to buy a spinning wheel, I didn’t want to start out with a Steinway baby grand. I thought it was prudent to go with the Yamaha Clavinova.

The Schacht Ladybug was the wheel I chose for my first spinning wheel. It wasn’t an easy choice because the Lendrum folding wheel is a really nice, well-priced spinning wheel, and almost everyone who has ever had one loves it. But the Ladybug is also well-loved, and it is far more versatile than the Lendrum, which is single drive, that is, a flyer-lead wheel, also known as Scotch tension. The Ladybug can be used in three different drives, flyer-lead, bobbin-lead (aka Irish tension), and double drive. That was the clincher; I wanted a wheel that I could grow with. And I thought that if I really liked spinning on a spinning wheel, I could eventually get a Matchless.

Well, my Ladybug and I clicked right from the get-go. She’s a beautiful spinning wheel, and since I first got her (a birthday present from my DH), I’ve learned a lot about spinning and developed my skills far beyond what I originally dreamed I could do. But spinning wheels are a funny thing. Once you have one, you crave another, and another… Most wheel spinners have more than one wheel. Part of it is–different tools for different jobs. Part of it is–oh, pretty! So eight months after the Ladybug came to live with me, I bought a Lendrum folding wheel.

The Lendrum is a beautiful spinning wheel, well-designed and well-built, but being a single drive wheel, it has its limitations. I was fine spinning on the Lendrum until I bought wheel number three, a double drive Ashford Traveller. I fell in love with spinning in double drive, although I still prefer flyer-lead (Scotch tension) or bobbin-lead (Irish tension) for plying. This meant that my Lendrum was relegated to being a plying wheel. But my Ladybug works really well in Scotch tension, and its bobbins hold more yarn than the Lendrum, so the Lendrum has become obsolete. (I won’t discuss the so-called plying head for the Lendrum, which has larger bobbins than the regular head, because I hate, hate, hate it.) I haven’t sold my Lendrum yet, but I plan to later this year. I hate to have it sitting around unused when there is a spinner out there who would use it as it deserves to be used.

So, here I am, with two multi-drive spinning wheels that I love and wouldn’t dream of parting with. But I still dream of owning a Matchless. I have saved, and saved, and for months now had more than enough for my Matchless. But I kept putting off ordering one first because of the cross-state move, then because of the renovations to the “new” house (which is an old house that needs a lot of work). But last Monday, I decided to wait no more. I placed an order on-line with The Woolery in Frankfurt, KY, which is where I have purchased all of my spinning wheels, and on Thursday morning, I had my Matchless. Life is good.

Tour de Fleece 2014 Day 3

The third day of the TdF is nearly over. Today I made my first-ever 100% silk 2-ply yarn. I plied the two chunks of tussah silk sliver I spun on days 1 and 2 together to make this beautiful yarn.

Pretty 2-ply silk on the Ladybug

I think next I will try my hand at spinning silk hankies.

I’m also making good progress on my Greenwood Fiberworks merino top that I’m spinning on my Ashford Traveller.

The bobbin is starting to fill up.

I think I’m starting to develop a good rhythm with this fiber, which is improving my consistency. Or maybe not. Regardless, I am enjoying spinning it, and it is going to make a lovely yarn that will knit up into something spectacular. 🙂

Tour de Fleece 2014 Day 1

Last year was my very first Tour de Fleece. I went a little overboard and spun up an incredible amount of fiber. This year I decided to take it easy and keep it a bit more low key and laid back.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not challenging myself. I’m on two teams this year, Team Schacht and Team Ashford. For Team Schacht, I am using my beautiful Schacht Ladybug to spin silk. I’ve spun lots of silk blends since I started spinning two years ago, but I have never tried spinning pure silk. So, I bought a Treenway Silks fiber kit from The Woolery, and some Ashland Bay undyed silk hankies,

A box full of silk fiber and a bag of silk hankies

and today I dug in.

I started with the undyed tussah silk sliver, which is a preparation that is very similar to combed top. The fibers are all lined up and the drafting is easy. I spun it all today with my Ladybug set up in Scotch tension using the medium pulley with the drive band in the smaller groove, which is a ratio of 9:1.

A bobbin of tussah silk singles

The singles is a lace weight that when plied back on itself makes a heavy fingering weight yarn. I have a length of dyed tussah silk that I will spin in the same way, then I will ply the two together to make a 2-ply silk yarn.

For Team Ashford, I’m spinning on my Traveller in double drive using the sliding hook flyer and the middle groove on the pulley that comes with the flyer. The ratio is 8:1, which is normally too slow for me, but my goal is to spin a singles that will make a worsted weight yarn when chain-plied. I just naturally tend to spin very thin singles, so I have to work at getting them a little thicker, so the slower ratio really helps.

The fiber is a braid of merino wool from Greenwood Fiber Works in Holly Berry that I have had in my stash for quite a while.

Greenwood Fiber Works merino in Holly Berry

Merino can be a little tricky to draft because it tends to be pretty sticky, and I haven’t spun a lot of merino, so it’s not autopilot spinning for me. I am trying to keep the singles as consistent as I can because I will be chain-plying it. Chain plying isn’t as forgiving as doing a 3-ply.

Here’s my day 1 progress:

Merino singles on the Ashford sliding hook flyer

 

Fractal And Friends

I’ve written often on these pages about Ravelry and the wonderful community of knitters, crocheters, and spinners that has developed there. I belong to a number of spinning groups, and I have found that the members are knowledgeable, generous with their time, and eager to share their experience and advise those of us who are newer to spinning.

One of my spinning groups is Schacht Spinners, which is devoted to folks who spin or want to spin on Schacht wheels. One of the forum moderators started a “monthly” challenge (which sometimes runs more than one month) to encourage us to try different spinning techniques. It’s all very informal; you can participate or not, and you can go at your own pace. No pressure, just an opportunity to learn something new with the support of other spinners.

The current challenge is to do a fractal spin. I’ve done fractal spins before, but I’ve never done one with a gradient yarn. So, with my Schacht Ladybug set up in double drive using the highest ratio on the fast pulley––

A pretty braid of BFL and silk is just begging to be spun into yarn.

A pretty braid of BFL and silk is just begging to be spun into yarn.

I thought this beautiful braid from Friends in Fibers in the Cranberry Bog Gradient colorway would be perfect for a gradient fractal spin.

I wanted to try to make a self-striping, lace weight, 2-ply yarn in which the color changes got farther and farther apart. I want to knit a triangular shawl in which the width of the stripes remains about the same from beginning to end. I want the color repeats to be shorter at the beginning of the shawl and get longer as the number of stitches increases.

I would never have thought to try this if I hadn’t joined this group and this challenge. But one of the participants posted a link to this blog post, which led to this blog post, which led me to say, I want to do this!

The first half is nearing completion.

The first bobbin of singles is nearly finished. I can hardly wait to start the second bobbin. I will be spinning the remaining strips end to end, keeping the colors in the same order (green to dark pink), starting with the thinnest strip and ending with the thickest. And I will be keeping my fingers crossed that the yarn turns out the way I envision it. But if it doesn’t, not to worry. It will be beautiful regardless. When you start with lovely fiber that has been beautifully dyed, it is almost impossible to mess it up. 🙂

Cloud Dust

I’ve been having a lot of fun trying out the various features of my new Ashford Traveller spinning wheel. It is a double drive wheel which can also be used in single drive, both flyer lead, aka Scotch tension, and bobbin lead, aka Irish tension. If you are interested in the differences between double drive, bobbin lead, and flyer lead, click here and page down to the heading “Types of Flyers – Single drive versus double drive wheels” for a pretty good explanation. Or watch this video.

Anyway, when I first got the Travvy, I did some spinning in double drive, and it turned out very well. I was surprised by how easy it is to treadle a spinning wheel in double drive. I thought it might be just the Travvy, but then I set up my Ladybug in double drive and, lo and behold! the treadling was amazingly light. And the light, steady uptake really suits the thin and highly twisted singles I prefer when I spin.

I’m definitely a double drive convert, but that doesn’t mean I have abandoned Scotch tension. I love spinning in Scotch tension. I love the control I have over the take-up by just making minute adjustments to the brake band. And when I am plying yarn, I sometimes want a stronger take up than I can get with double drive. And I have to say that while spinning in double drive on my Ashford Traveller is a dream when I am using the regular flyer, when I tried the fast flyer in double drive, it was very fiddly. I’d be spinning along just find, then suddenly there would be absolutely no take up, then there would be, then there wouldn’t be. I had to keep readjusting the tensioning knob and I just couldn’t find the sweet spot where the take up was constant. No doubt it is due to operator error. My drive band was obviously slipping too much at times, and not enough at other times, and I need to experiment with different drive band materials to find what works best with the fast flyer.

But in the meantime, I decided to try the fast flyer in Scotch tension. I’ll say right off the bat that I am not in love with the Scotch tension set up on the Ashford. The brake band is nylon fishing line and the tensioning is done with two springs. The fishing line is a bit stiff and doesn’t wrap around the wooden tensioning knob as easily or evenly as string would, so it takes a lot of fiddling to get everything the way I like it.

I tried using some crochet cotton in place of the fishing line, but even thin, smooth mercerized cotton created too much drag on the bobbin pulley. So I put the fishing line back on.

There’s always a bit of a learning curve with a new wheel, and with experience, I am beginning to get the feel of the Scotch tension on this new wheel. I had this lovely fiber

Superwash BFL/Nylon in Cloud Dust from Spinneretta’s Studio

which I will admit was an impulse purchase. But I thought it would make a lovely 3-ply sock yarn since it is superwash wool blended with Nylon. I undid the braid and divided it lengthwise into equal 3 strips. I just eyeballed it when I was doing the dividing, then I weighed each strip on my kitchen scale. They were surprising close in weight, but I did have to take a small amount off one of the strips and divide it among the other two to get 3 bumps of equal weight. I then spun each bump onto a separate bobbin on the Traveller using the smaller pulley on fast flyer and Scotch tension. I wanted the singles to be fine enough that plying 3 of them together would result in a finger weight yarn, and I wanted to put a lot of twist into both the singles and the plied yarn so that it would wear well.

I plied the 3 bobbins of singles together with the same set up as I used for spinning the singles except I used the larger pulley,

Cloud Dust 3-ply on the bobbin

and I ended up with this lovely skein of sock yarn. The Ashford fast flyer works perfectly in Scotch tension, and with a little trial and error, I’m certain I’ll get it to work well in double drive.

A skein of handspun sock yarn

Now to choose a pattern. I might just go with my stand-by favorite, shadow rib.