Tour de Fleece 2011 wrap up

I’m calling this a win even though I deviated from my goals. My original Tour de Fleece goals were:

  • Spin every day
  • Finish the blue fibre
  • Sample some new fibre
  • Prep and spin 3oz grey Polwarth locks

Spin every day

Almost achieved. I skipped a Tuesday, but I spun on both official rest days. I could rearrange my mornings and spin a little first thing before work in front of my light box.

Finish the blue fibre

Achieved! 450yds of light fingering weight or heavy laceweight yarn spun, plied, washed and ready to be knitted. This was the best yardage I’ve ever managed.

Sample some new fibre

Not done, New Zealand polwarth was new to me, but I’ve spun polwarth before.

Prep and spin 3oz grey Polwarth locks

Didn’t even try to meet this goal, I got distracted with the thought of two usable skeins of yarn. I don’t think I’m much of a fibre preparing person, I prefer to work with roving or top.

I did achieve two personal bests though, the longest skein I’ve ever spun (450yds light fingering weight 2-ply), immediately superseded by the longest and thinnest skein I’ve ever spun (638yds laceweight 2-ply). I think I need to try spinning some sport weight yarn, just to make sure I still can. I also spun almost all of two 4oz chunks of fibre (I had a half bobbin of the blue when I started the Tour), which makes a little extra room in the fibre box.

Tour de Fleece 2011.

From left to right this is the blue merino/bamboo/silk light fingering weight, the Sunburnt Country polwarth laceweight, the Falklands leftovers, the laceweight mini skein, and the blue leftovers.

I ended the Tour with all five bobbins empty and no leftover singles. It’s time for a stash diving expedition to find what to spin next. Cream Cormo is a possibility, dark brown CVM would be a new fibre to try, or maybe pink/grey/blue merino. I’ll see what speaks loudest to me.

Tour de Fleece 2011 (part five)

The final days of the 2011 Tour de Fleece! Pictures when the skeins are all dry.

Thursday 21st July

Working from home, so I spun for a half hour at lunchtime. Finished the second bobbin after work! Reset the wheel for plying, put the bobbins in the Majacraft bobbin box, will work on it tomorrow. Wound the leftovers from one blue bobbin to Andean ply into a small skein.

Friday 22nd July

Started plying, showed Bella how it’s done. Like the thickness of the emerging yarn, but I have a long way to go before it’s finished.

Saturday 23rd July

Did some more plying, I think this will be quite a lot of yarn. Hard to tell which bobbin has more singles on, they are never exactly the same.

Sunday 24th July

The final day! Finished plying everything, leaving five clean bobbins. The final tally is:

  • Merino bamboo silk, 2-ply, 450yds
  • Falklands wool leftovers, 2-ply, 102yds
  • Merino bamboo silk leftovers, 2-ply, 36yds
  • NZ Polwarth, 2-ply, 638yds
  • NZ Polwarth leftovers 2-ply, 127yds

Today’s three skeins are all drying in the bathroom. I have spun real laceweight yarn! This is the best spinning I’ve managed yet. Need to slow down while plying a bit, and probably put less plying twist in the yarn, but I’m really pleased with the results.

Tour de Fleece 2011 (part four)

This Tour de Fleece is the most spinning I’ve done in months, and I want to keep up the momentum. One thing I learned from National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is that a deadline has magical motivating power. I will aim to spin three more skeins in 2011, using fibre from the stash and taking November off to write a novel. I definitely want to spin up my 75/25 merino/possum fibre as one of the skeins.

(NB: These daily updates are posted on my Tour de Fleece 2011 page first.)

Saturday 17th July

Spun a little before knitting group, I’m wondering how the yarn will look when it’s plied, and also what to spin next. I much prefer shaded solids to variegateds, so it might be a braid of green/grey BFL from my friend Amy, who has an Etsy store called Fibercycle that returns September 1st.

Sunday 17th July

Spun after karate practice in the basement, got one sixth of the way through the second bobbin. This half of the fibre seems to have more orange pink sections than the other half. Hoping to finish the bobbin this week and ply it before the end of the tour next Sunday. Did some more spinning after escaping the evil afternoon heat, one quarter complete and counting.

Monday 18th July

The second official rest day, but I’ll spin today and rest tomorrow. Made it over the halfway point with the second bobbin after an exhausting (but good) karate lesson. Hoping this yarn turns out to be another light fingering weight yarn.

Tuesday 19th July

Spun after work but before karate, 2/3 through the bobbin now. I have two kitchen towels I use as lap-cloths, one white (for dark fibres), the other dyed black (for light fibres). In theory they keep the fibre off my clothes. I drape one over the spinning wheel when I leave to hide the fibre from inquisitive cats.

NZ Polwarth.

Wednesday 20th July

Spun when I got home, after karate practice. Made it past the ¾ mark on the bobbin, hoping to finish it tomorrow or Friday, then ply at the weekend. I’m about ready for this yarn to be done.

Tour de Fleece 2011 (part three)

Knitting goes by the wayside during the Tour de Fleece, restricted to lunchtimes at work and some time at the karate studio between and before classes. The knitted projects currently being neglected are an Aria Delicato lace scarf, and a hemp wash cloth using doubled laceweight yarn.

I’m trucking along with my New Zealand Polwarth this week, I got this in January 2009 as a custom order, the colourway is "Sunburnt Country" and I was expecting it to be a lot more orange and less pink from the pictures.

(NB: These daily updates are posted on my Tour de Fleece 2011 page first.)

Monday 11th July

Official rest day for both Tour de France and Tour de Fleece, but my goal was to spin every day, even if only for 15 minutes. Working on the red/pink Polwarth from Southern Cross Fibres, I’m liking the colours more as I see them up close, I’m aiming this to be a little thicker than I spun the blue fibre, but not much. Blue and red skeins are almost dry.

Tuesday 12th July

Taking this as my rest day from yesterday, exhausted after an hour of karate class and an hour of sparring.

Wednesday 13th July

Accidentally destroyed my blog and spent two hours of spinning time doing low level repairs in the database to restore it. And yes, it is now thoroughly backed up and repaired. Spun some polwarth, but not near as much as I’d hoped to get done. Finished the first quarter of the first bobbin, started on the next fuzz lump.

Thursday 14th July

Spun for 10 minutes before work, liking the colours more as I see them spun up. Did some more after karate practice at home, while watching old episodes of Doctor Who, have just over a quarter left to go on this bobbin. The fibre spins better from one direction than the other.

Two skeins and a bobbin.

Friday 15th July

Spun between work and the karate group class at 4:30pm, and again after dinner. Finished the first bobbin and started the second.

Tour de Fleece 2011 (part two)

My spinning is done on the futon sofa in the craft room, with my laptop on the nightstand playing a familiar movie or TV episode. I have natural light from a big bay window until the sun goes down and plenty of space for Quantum the cat to curl up next to me. There’s a block of time available between when I get home from work but before when Hubby gets home from work, and first thing on the weekends because I’m an early bird. I get up at 5:20am on weekdays, and usually before 7am on weekends. Much later than that and Quantum comes to investigate why I haven’t fed her yet.

(NB: These daily updates are posted on my Tour de Fleece 2011 page first.)

Wednesday 6th July

Spun two fuzz lumps before Hubby got back from work, another two afterwards, so I’m over halfway through this bobbin in only two days. Three more fuzz lumps and I can ply! Sorted through the fibre stash and listed it ALL, with three candidates for what to spin next. Hoping to get two full 4oz skeins of yarn by the end of the Tour, one blue and one…?

Thursday 7th July

Spun a half fuzz lump after work before Hubby got home to pick up the car and race to my karate lesson. Going to spin the 4oz red/pink Polwarth from Southern Cross Fibre next, fibre from Sydney Australia. Might Navajo ply it, I get more yarn that way.

Finished the fuzz lump and started the next after dinner while watching stuff on the laptop with Hubby. One and a bit lumps to go on this bobbin, I should be plying at the weekend.

Friday 8th July

Busy busy day, mail run and karate practice after work. Thinking about designating Wednesday evenings for spinning to continue working through the fibre stash. Working on the last fuzz lump of this fibre.

Saturday 9th July

Finished the second bobbin at 8:30am, a shade over 2oz on this one and really thin singles. I’m hoping they don’t break while I’m plying. Put a fresh bobbin in, uncrossed the brake band, and plied the leftover red Falklands wool as practice, there was more there than I thought, though the singles broke three times. Started plying the blue and got about halfway through it.

Plied merino, plied Falklands.

Sunday 10th July

Finished plying the blue fibre, some left on one bobbin but the plying bobbin was very full. Put it on the niddy, got 450yds of shiny yarn! I’ve never spun a skein that long before. Also got 102yds of the red Falklands 2-ply. Washed both and put them up to dry, then started on the Polwarth.

Tour de Fleece 2011 (part one)

I think this will be a wheel-only spinning tour, my Majacraft Rose is finally getting some love. I’m going to have a plying day soon but for now it’s all singles all the time. I’m working on roving that’s a blend of merino, silk, and bamboo that Laura brought back from Maryland Sheep and Wool for me, dyed light blue and shot through with white like a summer sky. I’m fitting spinning around my regular schedule plus extra karate practice for my upcoming green belt test.

Saturday 2nd July

Spun a little first thing, pre-drafted to get back into the swing of things. Using the blue merino/silk/bamboo Laura gave me. Hoping it will come out as a good 2-ply fingering weight yarn. I have a half bobbin spun already.

Sunday 3rd July

Four fuzz lumps to go on this bobbin, then I start the second bobbin. I’m hoping for a decent length of fingering weight or light fingering weight yarn. One fuzz lump is a section of undrafted roving around one and a half feet long. Spinning to the sound of rain and thunder, only one and a half fuzz lumps left when I stopped for the day.

Monday 4th July

Finished the first bobbin of blue fibre, 2.20z according to my not-very-accurate kitchen scale. Also found two bobbins with the leftovers from my red Falklands 3-ply. Those will become a 2-ply yarn when the blue is done and they look about even in the amount of singles on each.

Tour de Fleece 2011.

Tuesday 5th July

Started the next bobbin of blue singles after work but before karate, spun 1/8 of the second half of the fibre.

(Daily updates posted on my Tour de Fleece 2011 page)

Tour de Fleece 2011

The 2011 Tour de France is coming up, which means the Tour de Fleece is also soon! I didn’t do this in 2010, but I think it will be good to attempt this year. I have some gorgeous blue fibre on the wheel, and it would be nice to spin up some of the stash. Spinning time will likely occupy the space between coming home from work and when Hubby gets home, which means it will be all wheel spinning on my Majacraft Rose.

I’m setting these goals for myself:

  1. Spin every day
  2. Finish the blue fibre
  3. Sample some new fibre
  4. Prep and spin 3oz grey Polwarth locks

1. Spin every day

Even if it’s just a little bit, 15 minutes a day adds up. If I cut down the mindless internet surfing time, I will have much more spinning time, though preparing for my green belt karate test will take some of that away again.

2. Finish the blue fibre

This has been on the wheel way too long, it’s a gorgeous light blue shot through with white, with merino, silk, and bamboo. I’m hoping for a 2-ply fingering weight.

3. Sample some new fibre

I have some interesting stuff in the stash, like Babydoll Southdown, or angora, or Shetland. These might be small sample skeins just to get a feel for the fibre.

4. Prep and spin 3oz grey Polwarth locks

I’ll be aiming for 2-ply sportweight yarn that could end up as a hat, or a small scarf if I blend it with the white Polwarth locks. Got the Polwarth from A Verb For Keeping Warm a while back, flick-carded enough to make a small coaster from the white, and haven’t touched the grey. It is almost sticky with lanolin and smells fabulous, clean and not overly sheepy.

Keep up with my 2011 Tour de Fleece progress as it happens, I’ll update that page with my daily progress.

Cool Etsy shops

I’m confident these Etsy shops will never end up on Regretsy. I’ve either bought from these, or love their stores.

Idle Hands Designs

Maker of the sutured heart necklace, which I have been wearing most days since I got one earlier this year. Mine is oxidised and scuffed, it looks like a heart that’s been through the wars and is still soldiering on.

Jessi Taylor

I have two necklaces from here, a raspberry mosaic tile, and a piece of lemon quartz. Both are lovely, small but not fragile, made with oxidised silver.

Jewels Vine

This New Zealand artist makes the most amazing robot jewelry, the owl is my favourite. The lockets are awesome steampunk creations, tiny but well-formed.

Siren Jewels

I love the style of the pendants in this store. They are all unique, all made by the shop owner, and use unusual stones like larimar and gaspeite.

Molecular Muse

The serotonin molecule, made in silver as a pendant. Or caffeine, or theobromin, or several other molecules. This shop makes my inner science geek happy.

Silver Beyond Ordinary

Chunky hand-carved silver pendants, cast in silver. I have a Fleur de Lis pendant from here and love it.

Solstice Yarns

This is the only place I’ve seen yarn made from Falkland wool, or a yarn made with Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) and silk. Strong colours and a lot of solids and shaded solids.

Juno Fiber Arts

Fantastic BFL sock yarn from England, plus other weights. I have a skein of the BFL sock from here and love it.

Apple Rose Fibers

This store has Cormo top which was featured in Spin Off magazine a while back. They also have California Red roving, which looks lovely.

For Strange Women

Lip balms, solid perfumes, and perfume oils made from plant extractions in Kansas City MO. The descriptions of the scents are intriguing, and I like her attitude of reducing plastics. Love the two lip balms I got, the Rosewood flavour in a cardboard tube and the Absinthe in a plastic tube.

Have It Sweet

Well worth the wait to get your batch custom-made, and you get a projected date too. I got some caramels last year and they were fabulous!

Nicholas and Felice

I have one of the aluminium shawl pins from here, the tulip/lyre style, it’s graceful and light.

Panoptic Empyrean

This is my friend Jen’s shop. I’ve seen her work, and I like it, especially her sketches of birds (which are not in the shop).

Monroe County Sheep & Craft Festival

Saturday we went to the Monroe County Sheep & Craft Festival in Waterloo IL. Google maps failed us and sent us out of town on the wrong side of town, but a nice person at the gas station put us on the right route. We met friends and had the lamb lunch, which was amazing. Grilled sausages, lamb burgers, lamb chops, salads, coleslaw, tons of tasty food.

Every half hour, a sheep was taken out of the barn to be sheared. I watched a large black-faced white-fleeced sheep get clipped, and the sheep was not happy. It kept yelling its disapproval of the process while leaning on its behind against the shearer. The fleece was quite thick, several inches long and very dense. Once it was clipped off, it was dumped in a big bag, and the naked sheep was led back into the barn. Shearing took only a few minutes, and as a spinner, I saw where second cuts come from, the places where the clippers didn’t get close enough the first time, or the sheep wriggled.

And then there were the rabbits. One vendor had brought a prize-winning Rex rabbit, some Mini Rex rabbits, a mammoth Flemish Giant rabbit, and some duck and chicken chicks. The Rex rabbits were amazingly soft and they just sat and let people pet them. I nearly came home with this beautiful red Mini Rex, which reminded me of Hazel from the Watership Down film:

Red mini rex rabbit female.

The Flemish Giant rabbit weighed in at about 20 pounds, and it’s only a year old. It’s a meat breed so the coat wasn’t as soft as the Rex rabbits, and it seemed like a placid animal. It just lay in its cage, watching the world pass by, getting bigger and bigger.

I did bring some fibre home with me. An ounce of grey French Angora, some Border Leicester/Mohair blend, and some alpaca batts from Connie at Breezy Ridge Alpacas. One set is suri alpaca, Cormo wool, and tencel, the other is suri alpaca, merino, and bamboo. I went with Connie and two of her alpacas to MOPACA in 2009, and her fibre is very clean.

Spinning FO: Falklands 3 ply yarn

My cat tried to eat this wool as I was spinning it, which proves it’s a merino cross-breed. She’s never tried to eat any other fibre but merino. She didn’t get any but I’ll be watching when I spin up the rest of my Falklands stash.

Falklands wool, 3 ply.

Fiber: Dyed Falklands wool top from Dunnose Head Farm via Crafty Notions

Construction: 3 ply

Amount: 225 yards, 3 oz

Tool: Majacraft Rose spinning wheel

It’s lovely wool to spin, no vegetable matter, no tangles, no felted bits, no neps. This is my first true three ply yarn. I spun it as thin as I could, using the third gear of the whorl on the wheel. Making a three ply yarn felt like it took so much longer than a two ply, and you get less yarn per ounce, but I love the look of Navajo ply handspun and had to try a true three ply. I love the look of THIS handspun and I’m going to have to do three ply again.

The plying was an easy job, all three bobbins lined up in the Majacraft box at my feet, wheel set on the fourth gear of the whorl (one gear faster than it was spun on) and trying not to treadle too fast. I only had one ply break once, which is a record for me, something’s geting better. Plied, skeined, tied, washed, and whacked on Wednesday night, dried on Thursday, picture on Friday.

I think this skein is the best I’ve made yet. The consistency is getting better and the plying is mostly even with only a few over-plied spots.

I wanted to spin genuine Falklands wool because I was miffed at Argentina’s claims of ownership over the Falkland Islands, and the utter lack of support from America for Britain’s sovereignty. Dunnose Head Farm is on West Falkland, that link takes you to the satellite map. Sadly there are no visible sheep.