Archive for the “tour de fleece 2010” Category

Every year, Pirate-Husband and I go to Pennsic War, the biggest annual event in the SCA's calendar. We will join over 10,000 people for two weeks of food, fun, fighting, classes on every imaginable subject (link to pdf), shopping - and my favourite, sitting in the shade knitting socks and drinking beer.

This year, we're actually making two separate trips up to the campsite. We're leaving for War tonight, will set up our tent tomorrow, and unfortunately have to come home on Sunday so that we can work for three more days before our vacation actually begins. But then, we're off for a long relaxing trip into the Middle Ages!

I haven't even decided what knitting I'm bringing yet. On one hand, I could crank out baby knits for my friends who are expecting. On the other, I could finish my Time Traveler socks, which is sort of fitting for a time-traveling vacation. Maybe I'll bring both and alternate? Maybe I'll begin a new project?

Not only are we excited about going on vacation, but we're excited about a new addition to our family. No, we're not going to have a baby - at least, not a human baby. We're adopting two little kittens! Here is a video I got of them playing at their foster-mom's house the other day. She is going to keep them for us until we get back.

We are going to adopt the first two kittens in the video, the small black one and the first gray-and-white one. They will be about three months old when we bring them home. We have potential names picked out for them already, but I want to make sure the kittens and their names go together. Once we're sure of their names, I'll let you all know!

Please forgive me if there's less knitting and spinning in the next few months than usual. I'm going to have to confine my yarn to quarters to keep it from investigative paws and claws.

But, in spinning news, I won a prize in the Tour de Fleece in the Natural Yarns category for the Jacob roving! Granted, it was a prize picked by random number generator, but still - I won a prize! I never win anything and so this came as a massive surprise. I had a choice of prizes, so I picked a BFL/silk blend from Susan's Spinning Bunny, in the "Sherbert and Ernie" colourway. Of all the available options, this seemed most unlike what I'd buy for myself, so I chose it under the theory that if I never expand my colour preferences then I'll never know what I might like.

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Three weeks of spinning nearly every day for the Tour de Fleece has been great, for so many reasons. First, because doing something every day (or nearly every day) is bound to make you better at it, and I feel like my spinning skills have subtly increased. No great big leaps of skill or whooshing breakthroughs, but I'm definitely better than when I started.

Second, because I do love a good challenge. And I love having a challenge that, if I don't quite meet it, it's all right. I'd set a goal to spin every day that my ankles were up to it, and I met that. Well, with the exception of the rest days, and the weekend I spent in New York. I'm okay with that. I'd also set a goal to spin and ply a pound of yarn... which I didn't meet. But you know what? That's still a heck of a lot of spinning, and quite a bit more yarn than I had when I began this adventure. It's been freeing to take on a challenge with the foreknowledge that a) I might not make it but b) that's totally okay. I'm not down on myself for not getting there, I'm feeling great because I got as far as I did! If I do this crazy thing again next year, I'll set a one-pound goal again, and with (kenahora*) healthy ankles, I should be able to make it.

Thirdly, because I really do like spinning.

Fourthly, because Pirate-Husband has been nothing but supportive of me and my yarnish hobby, especially during the Tour. Some evenings I felt guilty saying "No, I don't want to watch a movie with you, I want to go upstairs and spin." But he's been awesome about it, cheering me on and admiring the yarn that is slowly but surely taking over all the available shelf-space in my room.

So, a wrapup: What did I accomplish in the past three weeks? I spun and plied six ounces of natural Jacob roving that will become a hat, spun four ounces of Rambouillet combed top that's meant to be chain-plied and then to become socks, and spun three of four remaining ounces of wool/mohair/angelina roving, which is coming out to be a worsted/chunky-weight soft sparkly deliciousness, and which Pirate-Husband thinks I should knit into a scarf for Grandma. The fourth ounce of that roving is hanging from the wheel; I may get to it tonight and then I can ply it later in the week. I spun the first four ounces of it last fall, and it came out to be 138 yards. If the second skein is the same, then I should have enough for a medium-sized scarf.

And now what? Now I go back to knitting. Vacation begins in just over a week and I have to decide which projects to bring with me! The baby knits? The gift-socks? My own socks? A whole new project? So many options!

* Kenahora isn't quite Yiddish and it isn't quite Hebrew, and it isn't quite one word, either! It's actually three words slurred together: kein, the Yiddish word for no or negating, ayin, which is Hebrew for eye, and hara, Hebrew for Evil. It's what you say when you want to ward off the evil eye - in other words, when you don't want to jinx yourself. So, kenahora, I will have healthy ankles next July and I will be able to spin and ply a full pound of fibre.

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Although I didn't begin the Tour de Fleece with a specific goal, one gradually coalesced in my mind as I sat down at the wheel each night: to spin and ply one pound of fibre. If I could do that, I promised myself, then I could buy a new four-ounce braid. For every sixteen ounces out, four in. At that rate I will spin down my stash nicely. (And if I don't make the goal by the end of the Tour, then I still won't let myself buy anything new until I've spun and plied at least a pound!)

Wednesday was a Tour "Rest Day" but Thursday was the "Challenge Day". I challenged myself to finish the Rambouillet that I've been working on for two weeks already. It took more than two hours of spinning to get through what was left, but now it's all finished and resting on the bobbin, waiting for my first real attempt at chain-plying. I've been watching tutorial videos and I hope I can coordinate my hands well enough to come up with a nicely plied sock-weight (possibly heavy sock-weight, in places) striping yarn. The oranges and golds of this yarn will go wonderfully with dark jeans. Once this is plied, I'll be more than halfway to my one-pound goal, but with only three spinning days left in the Tour, I'd better hurry it up. Six more ounces to spin and ply - can I do it? Will my ankles hold up to the workout? The physiotherapy is definitely helping; I have my fourth appointment this afternoon. Hopefully they'll say I'm all cured before too long!

On my way home yesterday, I saw these three butterflies crowding each other for space on a thistle-blossom. They were so captivating that I stopped the car in the middle of the road to watch them, and then got out to take a picture. Unfortunately I only had my phone instead of a real camera, but I think it's worth sharing anyway. The dark butterfly is a Black Swallowtail, and the two orange butterflies are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails. I am lucky to live in such a gorgeous place; every day I make a point of admiring the view as I drive up the mountain. I never want to become jaded to the beauty of the semi-wilderness.

Next up, I'm going to spin something thick, quick and woolen. It will be a nice break after the thin, slow worsted spinning I've been doing for what seems like forever... and it will give me half a chance of being able to reach the one pound goal by Sunday night.

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After a weekend of spinning whenever I got the chance to sit down, I'm about two-thirds of the way through the Rambouillet. It's not my most even spinning ever, but it's certainly even enough to make sock yarn - that is, if I can get the hang of chain-plying. I've been watching tutorial videos and I think I know what to do, but doing is always different than watching. I'm looking forward to having the long colour progression that'll be kept by chain-plying, rather than doing a standard three-ply yarn. Not only that, but I'm looking forward to having yellow and orange socks. It's a colour that I really can't wear close to my face, because it makes me look ghastly and sick, but that won't be a problem with socks.

Because the Tour de Fleece is a parallel of the Tour de France, I thought it might be nice to watch a little bit of the bicycling. I've never actually seen any of it before... and now I know why; it's actually kind of boring. But it made good background noise for my spinning. While I listened, I thought that perhaps "spin one pound of fibre into yarn" would be a reasonable goal for my first Tour de Fleece, and made a deal with myself: if I spin up one pound of fibre, I will treat myself to a new four ounce braid. I have a double dozen shops in my list of favourites on Etsy, but I'd love suggestions - who are your favourite dyers? What's your favourite fibre? What would you recommend?

Today is one of two Tour de Fleece/France "rest days" so I plan to knit, rather than spin, when I get home this evening.

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I apologize for the quality of today's pictures; Pirate-Husband has the camera and I took these shots with my phone. Better than nothing, but not that great.

To really change things up a bit, I retrieved this languishing laceweight spindle project for an afternoon. It's just half an ounce of merino, a fibre sample from Sheepish Creations, that I decided to spin as finely as possible to get the most yardage out of it. Perhaps that wasn't my wisest idea ever, but there's no turning back now. Besides, it's a good chance to use the 14g spindle, which I could not resist getting from the Spanish Peacock at an SCA event a few years ago.

The other reason for me to spindle today was that I had the opportunity to teach my friend Erika to spin! I started her on my Cascade Little Si, a 1.5 ounce spindle, and some green wool top that came with my first wheel. I think we have a new spinning addict in the fold. She caught on quickly - so quickly, in fact, that she didn't even ask what to do when she came to the end of her first chunk of fibre. She just got the next piece, thinned it out, laid it over the end of the first piece, and kept right on going. When I had to head off to bed, I left her with the rest of the green top - probably about an ounce - and a cardboard roll to wind off the singles if the cop got to be too heavy. I'm interested to see what she does with it today, and will probably teach her about plying tonight or tomorrow.

I can't spindle for too long before my shoulder begins aching, so after a while I moved back to the wheel and spun up some more of the Rambouillet. It was lots of fun to spin with company! Tonight we're going out to dinner with friends, but I ought to be able to get at least twenty minutes at the wheel to meet the challenge of the Tour de Fleece.

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The three Jacob colours have been skeined up, though not washed yet. I'm starting to see more of a difference between the dark and medium now that they're off the bobbin. Whew! The white and medium gray came to 92 yards each, and the dark is 104 yards. That will be more than enough to knit a hat with yarn left over to braid onto the ends of the earflaps for an extra-adorable pigtails look. I've been thinking about cutting my hair short when it starts to get cold again, so I won't be able to make any pigtails of my own.

As long as I had the skeiner out, I wound up this three-ply corriedale that I'd finished just before the Tour de Fleece began. It came to a total of 218 yards from six ounces of fiber, and I'm really pleased with the subtlety of the colours. There are two knots in the skein, which I can spit-splice when I come to them, but it was easier to make one big skein than three little ones. It's not washed yet either, which is why it's still so curly at the ends. I expect it to come out of the bath with lots of bounce and squoosh (that's a technical term). Right now I have no idea what to knit with this yarn, unfortunately. Into the stash basket it will go, to await the next brilliant idea!

I've moved on to spinning up some Rambouillet that I purchased in a destash. It's incredibly soft and much finer than I imagined it would be. The plan is to spin it all this fine and then chain-ply it to keep the colour progression. It looks a little bit like a tequila sunrise at the moment, don't you think? Rambouillet on its own seems like it would be too soft and fine for socks, so I might have to come up with another type of project for it. Armwarmers? A hat? A pillow, maybe? Or I could just knit up the socks and then treat them very, very gently. That is, assuming my first effort at chain-plying isn't a horrific failure...

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I did indeed spin the white bobbin as part of my Day 1 efforts, and got a picture of all three together first thing this morning. I'm quite pleased with it, though I do wish there was a little bit more difference between the dark and medium grays to show off the colourwork better. I doubt that it will look more obvious once it's knit up, but I'll try anyway and see what I get. How bad could it really be, right? It'll still be a warm hat that I knit myself of yarn that I spun myself, and that's pretty awesome no matter how subtle the colours are.

The plan was to make a plying ball and not lose a yard of the singles. I used my trusty ball-winder to make a cake of the singles, then attempted to use it again to wind both ends together. That was a terrible mistake on my part, since the yarn unwinds from the outside of the ball faster than the inside, and then twists back on itself and makes tangles. A third hand might have come in useful at this point; I ended up awkwardly using the side of my leg to hold the ball-winder's handle steady while I did some of the untangling.

The double-stranded yarn cake does look neat and tidy, but it was such a pain to produce because of all the stopping and untangling. So I decided to wind the second plying ball around a cardboard roll. It really wasn't as bad as this looks, honest. This picture is from the very end of the process when my cake of singles collapsed in on itself. I was able to untangle it fairly easily, and then plying from the roll was an absolute breeze. It might be the most even plying I've ever managed.

Tomorrow I'll ply the third bobbin, skein the yarn, and give it all a wash and a whack - and then my first Tour de Fleece yarn will be finished! It's already soft and squishy, so I can't wait to see what it's like when it's been abused a little bit, and what it will be like to knit with - but that won't be for a while, yet. Not until the Tour is over, anyway.

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Pirate-Husband and I had some of the usual chores to do this morning, but as soon as we got back from the grocery store I excitedly brought my wheel downstairs to the living room, set up in front of the big windows, and got started on the Tour de Fleece!

I've tagged a few fibres in my stash on Ravelry with "tdf10", but the only real plan I made was to begin with this Jacob roving sampler from Firefly Farm. With this hat (pdf link) in mind, I began spinning a low-twist woolen yarn that's considerably heavier than my usual sock-weight singles. It was difficult to spin thicker yarn at first, but by the end of the second bobbin I'd gotten the hang of it and was even beginning to understand the very basics of the long draw. I will probably spin the white roving up later tonight, but I wanted to take these pictures while there was still natural light. The dark and medium colours are fairly close to one another, so the hat might have subtle patterning rather than vivid, but that will be just fine. Depending on what the yarn feels like when it's knit up, I might line the hat with polar fleece.

Because I had no good way of dividing each colour in half before I started, I plan to wind up the singles into a center-pull ball, then I'll make a plying ball with both ends held together, and then I will run those together through the wheel. Making a plying ball rather than just plying from the center-pull ball might seem tedious, but it will head off the tangles which are almost inevitable otherwise.

This has been a great start to the Tour de Fleece for me, and I'm so exited about the rest of the challenge!

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The Tour de Fleece doesn't start for four more days, but I'm getting excited about it - perhaps overexcited. I've been looking through my fibre stash and deciding on what to spin first, in what weight, with what technique, and wondering just how much of this fluff I'll be able to get through in twenty-three days. I'm making plans, but of course those might totally fly out the window once I get started.

At the very least, I'm planning on starting with this six ounce sampler of Jacob roving from Firefly Farm. When I was in Canada in February, I admired the earflap hats with colourwork that so many people were wearing, and swore that I'd knit one for myself before next Winterlude. This pattern (link to .pdf) looks cute and interesting and would make use of the three colours of wool that I have to work with. It should be easy and quick enough to knit with only two colours per round. I also like the Norwegian Star pattern (Ravelry link), but that only calls for two colours. If the hat comes out too itchy, I could knit a lining out of a softer wool, or perhaps sew in a fleece lining. Lining the hat would make it extra-warm, which is always a bonus for me.

After that, I'm not sure what will come next. Perhaps some of the older fibre in the stash. I'd like to try chain-plying one of my yarns to keep the colour progression. There's one that I will spin up thick and quick, and one that's meant to be socks. I have more to choose from in the stash than I could possibly spin in a month, so I'm not running out to buy more fibre just yet...

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Okay, I did it - I signed up for the Tour de Fleece. I joined three teams: Rookies, because it's my first year; Kool Kromskis, because I'll be doing most if not all of the spinning on Grace the Sonata; and Lantern Rouge... because with this mysterious ankle injury, I might not be able to spin every day. But I'm going to try my whole-hearted best, and if I don't make it, at least I have a good excuse.

I haven't yet decided what fibre I'm going to spin first. There's so much to choose from - and that's the main reason I signed up for this crazy thing, because I'm not letting myself buy any more fibre until I've used up some of what I've got. July's challenge in Spinner Central is chain plying/navajo plying, so I think I'll give that a shot. Other than that, I really have no plans past "spin, spin, spin, and spin some more." I just want to use up some of the beautiful fibre I've got and try some new things in my spinning.

Most of what I produce will probably be sock- or DK-weight yarn, because that's what I most like to knit with. If I finish up the sparkly blue stuff I have, that'll be more of a worsted-weight - at least, if I want the second half to match the first. And the finn/mohair batts were never meant to be a fine yarn, not with how chunky they are. I've been joking for a while that I want to have a "Drunken Spinning Night" during which I have a glass or bottle of wine and spin completely without any perfectionism. Perhaps towards the end of the Tour de Fleece, I'll be more than ready to do something like that.

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