Tour de Fleece 2014 Draws To A Close

I have officially completed my first Tour de Fleece.

I am pretty happy with how it went, overall.  I didn’t spin as much as I had hoped.  Actually that’s not true.  I spun more than I thought I would at the start, but after finishing a whole braid in my first 8 days, I had thought I’d get more done.

However, it seems that spinning progress got a lot slower in the second half.  Maybe because I spun less, time-wise…maybe because the fibre was different and it just took me longer.  I am still not sure.

In any case, I turned a 115 gram braid of merino bamboo into 300 yards of gorgeous yarn,

Colourway: “Cast On Couch”

and a 62 gram braid of merino cashmere into 230 yards of delightful squooshy-ness,

Colourway: Flamingoes Are Not Munitions Experts"

Colourway: “Flamingos Are Not Munitions Experts”

and I made some headway into a third braid of camel/silk.

Colourway: "I Am A Drinker With A Spinning Problem"

Colourway: “I Am A Drinker With A Spinning Problem”

I spun indigodragonfly only…being their team captain and all.  The only untouched indigodragonfly fibre I have left is some merino/seacell…but I have 300 grams of that so I am keeping that until I figure out what I want that to become.

I will keep on keeping on with the Humpspun…and maybe alternate that bobbin with some other fibre that has been languishing in my stash.  I am looking to learn some woolen techniques and I may have to break into some batts for that.

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Spinning FO: Indigodragonfly PandaBaa

Two years ago, I started Tour de Fleece, armed with nothing more than a few braids of fibre and my Houndesign spindle.  I got about 9 days in, and a few things came up, and that, as they say, was that.

Two years later, with my trusty Lenrdum wheel, I decided to give it another go, and while I was at it, I thought I’d head up the indigodragonfly TdF team.  I had a single braid of PandaBaa (merino/bamboo) and if I managed to finish that one, I figured, I had another couple I could work on.  Truthfully, I was not really expecting that to happen, but a girl can hope.

PandaBaa in "Cast-On Couch"

PandaBaa in “Cast-On Couch”

I had not at all figured on the addiction-inducing properties of this fibre.  So soft, so lustrous and it, as I have said before, drafts like butter.  I had half the braid done in the first weekend, and then spun the other half over the next four days.  Plying always takes longer than I think it will (this is in no way aided by the fact that I have had to ply my last two skeins twice) so I saved it for a peaceful Sunday morning activity.

Finished Single

Finished Single

There’s a saying…”Man Plans.  God Laughs.”  I am guessing he had a mighty chuckle at me yesterday morning.

After the recent success of plying from both ends of a centre-pull ball, that seemed like the most reasonable way to go.  I wound the single off the bobbin and settled in, not knowing the horror that awaited me.

Ready To Ply!

Ready To Ply!

This time, something went horribly awry, and even now I can’t say what exactly.  The strands doubled back on themselves and each other.  They got twisted and tangled, and the strands were almost sticky….keeping them apart proved to be impossible and in one case, no matter how hard I tried, scissors were required.   The air was positively blue from the language that erupted as I’d untangle one bit, only to hit two more.

The only thing we could see that would work would be to have the ball spin so that the strand on the outside never had a chance to wind itself around the middle one.  My darling husband was good enough to hold the ball, slowly turning it to keep the strands apart while I plied.  (As I write this, he is busily trying to invent/MacGyver something to help me with this in future.  If he fails this will NOT be a method I am idiotic enough to try again.  Fool me once….)

90 or so minutes later, the yarn was plied, but I could see, like last time, that it was too loose for me to be happy with.  So after some coffee and pancakes (yes, I was also stupid enough to try this un-caffeinated) I settled in with the plied bobbin and ran it through the wheel again.  I mutter as I do this, but I have to say, for the second time now, the second pass made all the difference in the world.  Actually, since the last skein had already alerted me to the fact that I ply loosely, I suspect that this one would have been tight enough the first time if not for the unanticipated snags I hit, as the closer I got to the end, the more nicely plied the yarn was already.

finished1

In the end…just barely shy of 300 yards.  It looks like fingering weight but might be sport – I haven’t had a chance to do a WPI test on it yet.  But no matter what, I absolutely love it.  So soft and squishy and such lovely colour.  I am seriously contemplating using it to warp my loom and then wefting with just a plain natural colour lace or fingering weight to keep the colours from being obscured.

finished2And now back to the Humpspun I started last week.

Chain Plying for Newbies

Last night I bit the bullet, so to speak, and decided to try my hand at chain plying.  I had a single that I had spun from this superwash merino and I was intent on trying to preserve the colours.

Needlework's Pleasure Handpainted Extra Soft Merino Wool Roving

Needlework’s Pleasure Handpainted Extra Soft Merino Wool Roving

The single sat for a few weeks while I balked at the idea of trying a new technique, and a few nice spinners on Twitter recommended this video to help me along.

Last night I pulled out some bits of singles that my friend, Val gave me and made an interesting discovery.  Chain plying is not for the faint of heart yarn.  A few of her singles were good and sturdy and plied beautifully, but several others were softer and finer snapped at every single attempt to ply them.  As luck would have it, my single was either sturdier, thicker or both because while it snapped twice in two very very thin spots, overall, it plied well.

I also noticed something else that, as a newbie, is likely not unusual but for experienced spinners is not an issue.  As I plied off the bobbin with the finished single, my yarn got increasingly less “nice”.  It got thicker, and slubbier and had more underspun spots, the closer I got to the start of my spinning.  Since this was the first thing I had spun in over a year, this is not really surprising.  In fact, it’s sort of motivating as I could see, in the span of an hour of plying, just how far I had come in the week or so that it took me to spin that single.

Since I could not sleep this morning, in the quiet of my 6 AM apartment, this:

The single

The single

became this:

The finished skein!

The finished skein!

Overall, I am pretty happy with it.

Certainly I am happy with my progress towards spinning that looks like real yarn 😀

My Return to Spinning

Aside

One of my fibre goals for this year was to spin more.  Spinning always seems to take a back seat to knitting for me, and even more so recently because I had deadline projects where spinning always has less of a sense of urgency.

When I finally did manage to pick up spinning again recently after a several month long hiatus, I got quite discouraged as I was finding I was encountering some difficulties that I hadn’t previously.  I had started using some Schoppel Wolle pencil roving that was a gift from my mother in law for Christmas, thinking this would help me get back into the swing of things after such a long break…I mean, predrafted fibre…what could possibly go wrong?  Instead my yarn was dissolving in my hands any time I pulled on it at all, but it didn’t seem woefully underspun.

Time to call in the expert!  Leslie Ordal, my first-spinning-class-teacher-turned-friend, offered to come take a look, and Shireen thought this would be a great chance to come learn how to spin on a wheel.  So the three of us convened at my place on Saturday, with Shireen and me ready to absorb the knowledge imparted by the pro.  This was the inaugural use of my new WooLee Winder (more on this miraculous device at another time!), so I put on an empty bobbin and spun up some new fibre, using some bits and bobs samples I had lying about.  I showed Leslie what I had been doing and she decreed that overall, I was doing fine and that while I should probably be putting a little more twist into it, she could not see what was causing the issue.  And this new yarn wasn’t falling apart.  So I showed her the bobbin with the pencil roving and she immediately knew what had been going wrong.  The fibre had tweed-y slubs in it, so when I was spinning, most of the yarn was spun with enough twist, but the slubby parts, because they were thicker, not so much.  Those were the parts that were falling apart.

Once I switched to something with a more consistent texture, I got this:

Random Halloween-themed fibre spin

Random Halloween-themed fibre spin

Not bad at all, considering I hadn’t spun in ages.

Once I got the hang of it, I broke out a braid of superwash merino and decided to try that.  So far I have turned this:

pink_mediumInto this:

Handpainted Merino

Handpainted Merino

I spent about an hour last night spinning away in front of the Penguins/Rangers game and I am planning to set aside some time each day to try and move my spinning forward.