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

What I Did On My Fall Vacation

I suppose I should say “vacations” since there were actually two of them. The first one was my annual trip to Rhinebeck, NY, to meet with friends and to attend the New York State Sheep & Wool Festival. The second one was a trip to Houston, TX, with friends, to attend the International Quilt Festival for the fourth time.

I’m afraid I didn’t take any pictures on the first trip. I can’t explain that omission, other than to say that I was having too much fun. I took the train from Toronto on the Wednesday before the festival weekend, and enjoyed the following two days catching up with everyone, and making a few visits to area shops and restaurants. Saturday and Sunday were spent at the Festival. Monday was the long train ride home. We rented a house in the Rhinebeck area for the second time and it worked out very well once again. It allowed for a lot more comfortable visiting than staying in a hotel does, plus group meals and assorted other food preparation. It was a wonderful trip, made all the better by being able to meet with friends that I otherwise only see on Ravelry.

I didn’t buy much at the fairgrounds, just a few skeins of sock yarn intended for making shawls and fingerless mittens.

Rhinebeck-purchases_0001

The yarns are (from left to right): Holiday Yarns Flocksock sock yarn in Pinot; Cephalopod Yarns Skinny Bugga! sock yarn in Other Mother, and Golden Tortoise Beetle; and undyed Hudson Valley Sheep & Wool Co. sock yarn.

My second fall trip began only eight days after getting home from the first one. After a big rush of catching up with laundry and errands, not to mention sleep, and some tense hours worrying about Tropical Storm Sandy, I was on a plane to Houston.

We arrived on Tuesday (Oct. 30) and got settled into the hotel. I took 3 classes on this visit to the Quilt Festival, and attended 3 lectures. In between I shopped and looked at quilts – such amazing quilts!

Here are some of the results of the classes I took:

classes_Quilt-Festival-2012

From left: “Applipiecing” Curves, taught by Caryl Bryer Fallert; “Under the Sea” fabric manipulation and embroidery (not yet finished), taught by Judith Baker Montano; and “Heavy Metal Play Day” (embossing metal for art quilts), taught by Judy Coates Perez.

I also attended a lecture on “The Elements of Art Quilting” by Lyric Kinard, and one on Modern Quilting by Heather Grant. Both were great – interesting and enlightening. The Modern Quilting lecture was eye-opening for me – I realized that this is a style of quilt that interests me a lot, and that I’d like to explore in the future. (Check out the Modern Quilt Guild blog to see what I’m talking about.)

I think I overdid it with classes and lectures this year – by the time I got to the last one I was a bit brain-fogged and saturated, and was glad the class wasn’t too demanding. In the future, I think I should allow for more free time, and fewer early mornings!

I didn’t buy a lot at on this trip, either, but here is a picture of what I did buy:

Purchases_Quilt-Festival-20

On the left are some pieces of Thai silk, in the middle are some half-yards of fabric from Marcia Derse, and on the right are some fat quarters of Cherrywood fabric in a yummy array of colours. In front are a couple of strands of beads, and a skein of embroidery floss from ArtFabrik, which are dyed by Laura Wasilowski. I seem to be in an orange and purple phase of stash enhancement. I wonder if that means anything?

I also want to mention that I sewed a new bag for myself to use at Quilt Festival. I wanted something small that would hold essentials. I’d seen a leather bag at Roots that I liked, so I decided to copy it in fabric. I’ll probably write a blog post about the making of this bag, but I thought I’d show it off here.

Small-bag-finished_0004

It has a long strap to sling the bag across my body, and both outside and inside pockets to hold everything. It worked out perfectly.

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and reflect on all that I’ve seen and done in the past few weeks. And to sleep late, rest up, and recover from this jet-set lifestyle. And maybe rake some leaves or something.

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.