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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Tour de Fleece: Rest Day 1

It popped up on my calendar today that this is the first of the two Tour “rest days”.  We don’t spin our wheels when the riders don’t, so to speak.  I had not planned to actually take a day off today, but I think I will because I am getting some aches and pains in my right hand.  Considering how much time I have spent at my wheel these past 10 days, I suppose that should not be surprising.

My current project is another indigodragonfly fibre.  This one is a camel/silk blend, creatively named Humpspun, in a colourway named, “I Am A Drinker With A Spinning Problem”.

Humpspun Fibre

Humpspun Fibre

This name might be more a propos than I care to admit. This yarn, when finished, is going to be a great many things.  It’s going to be ultra-soft, and very warm.  It’s also going to be very pretty, with some blue-green silky bits strewn in amongst natural/beige coloured camel fibres.

Know what it’s not going to be?  EVEN.

I have been spinning this fibre for a few nights and my relatively inexperienced hands just cannot get the hang of drafting this.  At.  All.

Single Progress after 3rd day

Single Progress after 3rd day

I am fairly certain this single runs the gamut from laceweight to worsted, depending on where you look.  I am not sure if this is just a “harder” fibre to spin, or if it’s different from the usual merino or BFL blends I am accustomed to.  But in any case, I suspect this is going to take the rest of the Tour to spin because I am spinning way more slowly than with the PandaBaa and I can’t spin as long because my hands hurt.

I am still loving working on it though, now that I have decided to let it be what it wants to be, and I think the yarn is going to be lovely and original when I am done.

Which is to say, “lovely and original” sounded much nicer than saying “it will look like it was spun by an untrained four year old who drafted with her left foot”.

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.

Canada Day Weekend FO: Spinning Edition

Some evenings, spinning is a lovely, relaxing way to wind down after a long day. Since I picked it up again in May, I have been finding knitting time dwindling and spinning time increasing…which is a bit of a problem since really, I am just creating more yarn. But I digress.

Since May, I have spun up three separate braids, and this one is the first that I would consider luxury, ie that is something other than straight merino or BFL. This braid of 80% BFL and 20% silk from Friends in Fibre has been calling to me with its lovely blues and purples for a while now, and I thought it was time to spin up something truly yummy.

Friends In Fiber BFL/Silk in "Blue Moon"

Friends In Fiber BFL/Silk in “Blue Moon”

After watching Felicia Lo’s Craftsy class called “Spinning Dyed Fibres” and discovering that the braid had lovely long runs of colour, I decided on a fractal spin. This is a process whereby you split the braid lengthwise down the middle, and then spin one half as is to get the afore mentioned long stretches of single colour. The other half is then split lengthwise as many times as possible and spun up one after the other. This creates shorter runs of colour, and then the two are plied together. Real results are only visible once the piece is knit up and I haven’t gotten that far yet.

After plying on Saturday, I Tweeted this picture:

First run at plying

First run at plying

One of my followers, an avid spinner, commented that it was pretty and I asked her if perhaps the plying was too loose. I have a tendency to overspin my singles with the knowledge that the plying will take some of it away, but it seems I am a bit overcautious with the plying. “Fluffykira” kindly suggested that I run it back through the wheel – something I wasn’t actually sure I could do – if I felt it wasn’t plied tightly enough.  She assured me it would be fine and that I could just soak it again afterwards and all would be well!  I can’t say how grateful I am to her. After 45 minutes or so, and an episode of Battlestar Galactica…this was the result.

And after a second ply...

After a second ply…

Next time I will know not to be quite so judicious with the amount of twist I am adding.  Because frankly, having to re-do all this a second time was a bit of a pain, even if it was totally worth it in retrospect.

Finished skein

Finished skein

Next up…indigodragonfly PandaBaa in “Cast On Couch”.  This gorgeous red-purple colourway in merino/bamboo will be going on my wheel for Tour de Fleece!  In fact, indigodragonfly has entered a team into the festivities.  Come join us on Ravelry!