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?

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!

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.

Tour de Fleece Days 4 and 5

Yes, I know. I’m late posting this update. Here’s the thing. Day 4 started out with our Internet being out. Then, shortly after it finally came back on, we lost power, thanks to a very nasty line of thunderstorms that went through and left thousands without electricity. And day 5 was grocery shopping. Need I day more?

Anyway, here’s what I did day 4 and day 5.

The singles I spun on days 1 and 2 were plied into a beautiful silk 2-ply yarn.

The tussah silk singles I spun on days 1 and 2 and plied on day 3 into a beautiful silk 2-ply yarn were wound onto the niddy noddy on day 4.

I spun up the silk hankies into a lovely singles.

I spun up the silk hankies into a lovely singles on day 4.

Silk caps are like silk hankies except they are shaped differently.

Silk caps are like silk hankies except they are shaped differently.

I got about half the silk hankies spun.

I got about half the silk hankies spun on day 5.

The only difference here is that the bobbin is a bit more full of this lovely Greenwood Fiberworks merino.

The only difference here is that the bobbin is a bit more full of this lovely Greenwood Fiberworks merino.

Today is day 6, and I will be finishing the silk caps and spinning more of the merino. I very much enjoyed spinning the silk hankies, but I’m not so fond of the caps because they are much more difficult to separate than the hankies. Live and learn. 🙂

There is a good tutorial on spinning silk hankies here.

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. 🙂