Around and Around It Goes

The Tour de Fleece is on again, so I’ve put down my sewing needle and picked up my spindles. The Tour de Fleece is a spinning event, now hosted on Ravelry, in which spinners spin while the Tour de France is taking place. I don’t do much spinning through the year, so this event is a welcome prompt to get back to it. I’ve learned so much over the years of participating.

Natural Oatmeal yarn

This year I started off with a partially spun sample of natural Blue-Faced Leicester top that I got from Acme Fibres a couple of years ago. I started spinning it last fall, after the TdF ended. I only had about 33 grams of this fibre, so I decided to aim for a lace weight two ply yarn to make the most of it.

sample of BFL

This was the first time I’ve spun BFL. It’s so soft, and spins so easily. This is the 3/4 point of the spinning. The first half is wrapped around a paper quill, and the second half is in progress. I wrapped a piece of paper around the shaft of the spindle so that when the spinning was finished I could simply slide it off. This is a trick I learned from a fellow spinner last year as a way to avoid having to wind the singles into balls before plying. Another tip I picked up was to wrap a sample of the spun single around a bit of card stock to use as a reference while spinning. You can see it in the bottom right corner of the photo. It’s a very good way to make consistent yarn.

three-quarters finished

Next step was plying. I used a larger, heavier spindle for that (a 54 gram Picasso from Bosworth). I ran out of one single before the other, as you can see here. That was likely because I didn’t weigh the fibre after dividing it in half, and even more likely because my spinning still isn’t very consistent in thickness. To finish off the rest of that single, I made an Andean plying bracelet around my hand with it, and then joined the ends of the two singles together and spun on.

plying the BFL

Here is the finished yarn, wrapped around my small niddy-noddy. It’s approximately 95 metres of yarn.

yarn on niddy noddy

I finished spinning this on July 15, gave it a bath, and hung it to dry with some weight hanging on it to pull it straight. With nearly two weeks left in the TdF, I dug into my smallish stash of fibre and pulled out this pretty purple and pink BFL that I bought from Holiday Yarns when I was in Rhinebeck in 2010. I’ve been spinning it with a 43 gram Dervish spindle from Hound Design (also purchased from Acme Fibres). It’s looking pretty so far, and I’ve been having trouble putting it down.

purple pink BFL

Tour de Fleece 2011: The Slacker Version

I did the Tour de Fleece last year for the first time, and spun pretty much every day. In the process I managed to give myself a delightful case of tendonitis in my right elbow that lasted well into the winter (much credit for that goes to endless rounds of snow shovelling). I hadn’t touched my spindles since then. I was going to ignore the Tour this year, but then I gave in to peer pressure from my fellow spinners in the Completely Pointless and Arbitrary Group group on Ravelry and joined Team Bacon Cakewaffle once again.

My primary goals this time around are to get back into spinning, and not injure myself. Also, to eat bacon. So far I have succeeded on all points. I’m not spinning every day, but try to pick up a spindle and do a bit here and there when I can.

This photo shows my progress after my first day of spinning, which was technically Day 3 of the Tour. On the left is some hand-dyed blue Polwarth from Sheep and Spindle , on a small Bosworth spindle. On the right is a purple 50/50 Superwash Merino and Tencel blend from Fiber Optic Yarns that I bought last year at the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. The colour is called Ruby Slippers BATIK. It’s on a Jesh spindle.

Blue Polwarth and Purple Merino/tencel blend

Today is Day 16 of the Tour. Since the above photo was taken, I’ve done a little spinning here and there – at home, at the local Timmie’s, and even at my quilt group meeting (they are very tolerant of my lack of quilting in their presence). Here is how far I’ve gotten:

Blue Polwarth, TDF day 16

I have 115 grams of this fibre. I think I’ve used up about a quarter of it. So far it’s been a dream to spin. I am planning a 2-ply that I suspect will end up as a lace weight, or a light fingering weight. I hope it ends up being enough for a small shawl.

The Tour de Fleece – The Finish Line

The Tour de Fleece ended on Sunday (July 25), and while I didn’t get as much done during the tour as I had hoped, I did manage to finish plying this yarn.

This is 100g of Louet Coopworth roving, spun and plied on spindles into about 131.8 m of yarn that is about a DK weight (11 wpi). I have another 100g in a dark grey/brown that I hope to spin to the same thickness, which should give me plenty of yarn to knit up a nice, warm hat for winter.

Here is a close-up shot.

I’m pretty happy with the consistency, although I did have a bit of trouble with this roving. It doesn’t draft smoothly – the fibre really sticks together. But still, it was great practice.

I had a great time participating in the Tour de Fleece. I learned a lot, and was greatly encouraged by seeing what other people are able to do with their spindles (and wheels). I feel so inspired to try different fibres and techniques, and to see where I can go using such a simple tool. And although it’s unlikely that they will see this, I want to extend a thank-you to the people who organized and ran the Tour de Fleece this year and made it so much fun. And to the other people who participated and shared their beautiful work.