Tour de Fleece – Gérardmer / Mulhouse

first single on the cop

After my first day spinning, I was sure I’d need to buy more fiber to get me through the event. HA! Sure enough work intervened and my Tour de Fleece progress has been slow. I spin while waiting for the  toast to toast, the dryer to ‘ding’, or for the computer to boot up. I can’t tell how much gets spun during these “sprints” so I was completely surprised when the last bit of fluff passed through my drafting hand and onto the cop this morning. Huzzah!

Having the extra incentive to spin and get more practice is already paying off. Although it’s not particularly neat, I’m definitely getting better at winding the cop. I did not have the singles slipping off this time, much to my poor spindle’s relief. 🙂 Also – I did not have to “park and draft” as much as my last spinning project, and every movement felt more fluid.

 

single resting on tennis ballThere it is: my “Gérardmer / Mulhouse”  is resting now on a tennis ball. Time to break out the second batt!

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Tour de Fleece 2014

Blarney Yarn roving

Tour de Fleece is the spinner’s version of Tour de France. It takes place during the Tour de France, and you try to spin as much yarn as possible during the Tour de France. But, you’re not allowed to spin on the “rest days”, i.e those days that the actual cyclists take off during the race.

Always a fan of kooky communal activities  – drunken caroling, memorial service karaoke, brewing beer, Spam-carving, etc. – I was pumped to finally get to join in on Tour de Fleece, and bought some special braids to spin. But now I’ve been coveting these braids of roving for weeks, and I don’t want to turn these sophisticated colors (sky blue, rust and rosey pink) into a muddy yarn.

In keeping with the timing of the actual tour, Tour de Fleece 2014 started yesterday and I  made no progress whatsoever.  I basically rolled up to the starting line, clipped in and already sweating in my spandex, and when the gun went off? I started looking at the road map and double checking the air pressure. Lame!

After watching a few episodes of Felicia Lo’s “Spinning Dyed Fibers”, I learned that spinning a thicker yarn makes each color more distinct  in the finished skein. So, even though the colors in the braid are somewhat contrary, I think by spinning it into sport weight singles, and then plying them together, I’ll be able to keep the colors from turning into mud.

What’s the fluff? I have two 2 oz. braids of Blue Faced Leicester wool and Tussah Silk from Blarney Yarns. The colorway is “Feldspar Canyon” and (now that I’m back in the “race”) it is spinning up so easily. Hooray!

Ranch to Skein

Ranch of the Oaks

In may I was lucky enough to visit  Ranch of the Oaks  with my friend Sara and her parents. It was such a treat! We met alpacas, sheep, guinea hens, a pack of doofy dogs,  and got a tour of the fiber mill. Turns out Ranch of the Oaks gets a lot of raw fiber from Eugene, OR!  The owners Mette and Tom were so warm, and made alpaca ranching look like a piece of cake.

photo 5 (1)

photo 3 (2)

photo 2 (2)

Ranch of the Oaks

Ranch of the Oaks

Ranch of the Oaks

After meeting all the ‘pacas and feeding them carrots, it was really neat to get a bag of fiber with the name of the fleece ‘donor’ on each bag. I was so excited to spin the fiber, but didn’t have my spindle with me, so Tom gave me a DIY spindle made out of two CDs and a dowel. (Worked great!)

Ranch of the Oaks

I found the alpaca fiber just a bit harder to spin than wool. I think that’s because I’m a beginner, and because in a fit of frugality I got a bag of fiber odds and ends. It’s all soft and lovely but some  is sliver, some pencil roving, and some silky grey tufts of fiber that slip apart  if they don’t get enough twist. It was a bit tricky to get a drafting rhythm going with all the different fiber densities.

I divided the bag of fiber in half: one half grey and black fluff, one half all black fluff. When I plied it together, I got a nifty barber pole effect.

Ranch of the Oaks Alpaca Fiber

And there is 260 yards of handspun alpaca! Wahoo!

Now, what to knit with it?

First Handspun Yarn!

first handspun 001
It is a delightfully dreary day! Days like these I keep the coffee brewing all day, have my knitting close at hand, and imagine I’m only a few miles from the other Gingerknitter. (Hi Ruthie! Happy late birthday!)

Since picking up the spindle a few weeks ago I’ve become obsessed. There’s almost no right or wrong way to spin yarn, as even mistakes can make an unique textural effect in the finished yarn. So even you first attempts are pretty neat.

Even more exciting – for the frugal among us –  you can make most of the tools you need from crap in your house! My “Lazy Kate” was made out of a used gift bag, an aluminum knitting needle that lost its mate, and weighed down with my dead laptop battery. I made the niddy noddy in 20 minutes out of PVC pipe and it works perfectly. And, I’m spinning my next project on a spindle made out of a dowel and two old CDs! This has to be one of the best hobbies on the planet.

Backing up a bit, here’s how I spun my first skein of yarn:

First, I spun what looked to be half of the roving clockwise on my top whorl drop spindle, slipped the cop (yarn stored on the spindle) onto my do-it-yourself Lazy Kate, and then wound it onto a tennis ball to rest.

spinning and AC bucket 001

After spinning the second half of the roving, I repeated the process so I had two tennis balls wrapped with singles.

Then I plied the two singles together using the same spindle, spinning now counterclockwise. That’s pretty much it: spin your plies one way, ply them together by spinning in the opposite direction. At one point while plying, I thought I wouldn’t be able to fit all the yarn onto the spindle. I really wanted to spin a continuous strand without cutting or joining. So, instead of winding the yarn on the spindle in a cone shape, I wound it in a football shape.

spinning and AC bucket 008

Once the yarn was spun, I wrapped it on my PVC niddy noddy to count the yardage, and tie up the skein before setting the twist. (As you can tell by the dwindling light, I was determined to have yarn THAT DAY.)

PVC niddy noddy

To set twist I swished  the skein in scalding hot water, drained the water,  soaked the skein in cold water, and then gently squeezed most of the water out. While the skein was still wet (this was about 11pm) I went outside to “thwack” the yarn. This is the part where you slam the new yarn against a flat surface to shock the fibers and set the twist. It’s kind of loud, and probably not something one should do after 10pm.  🙂

With the Santa Ana winds, the yarn dried almost immediately. I spun up the leftover ply (turns out I didn’t divide the roving in half) so in total, I made 95 yards of yarn out of four ounces of Blue Face Leicester wool!

first handspun 017

As soon as I set the skeins down, I was ready to spin more yarn! One of my friends from my knitting group was generous enough to give me some practice roving from her fiber stash, so I’ve been trying out new fiber and I’ll let you know how that turns out. The only problem now is a slight territory dispute . . .

first handspun 037

Down the Rabbit Hole . . .

spinning and stash audit part 1 003

Hello readers, it’s been a while! Almost an entire a year, but it doesn’t feel that much has changed since that time. I’m still crafting daily, though it’s mostly knitting projects for broadcast on Culture of CraftingHowever, in a moment of weakness (read on) I bought a drop spindle and four ounces of delicious Blue Faced Leicester fiber. I am hooked.

I love to knit and crochet, but spinning was – in my mind – a step over the edge. I know it seems a very vague line to draw, but I’ve met spinners and they are nutty. One such spinner was spinning cobweb lace yarn, that she was planning on weaving into a delightfully intricate bookmark. Once you can make your own yarn, what’s to stop you from raising your own sheep?!

In my right mind, I may never have bought a spindle and fiber batt. But circumstances being what they were,  I couldn’t really avoid it. My friend Nikki and I went to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire and I was in heaven. There were friendly, funny people in full costume everywhere, hamming it up and swapping historical footnotes. Nikki’s friend works for the fair as a Pike Man  so we got to meet some of the more permanent fair characters. Here I am in a helmet, holding a broadsword, and getting a demo on pre-Enlightenment warfare. Yes, that historian is drinking a beer.

Renaissance Pleasure Faire

Spirits were high, beer was flowing and I was ready to don a wimple and go back to simpler times when we reached the Royale Hare’s booth. The ladies were very knowledgeable, the wool was so fluffy and inviting, and I crossed over.

As I write this, my spindle is completely full of a pretty grey lace/bulky weight single ply. I think the next step is to take the ‘cop’ off and keep spinning until I’ve got enough to ply them together. . . . ? We’ll see where this goes.

Wishful thinking . . .

Snowflake sweater

This week the house was visited by a persistent swarm of Argentinian ants, shortly thereafter summer arrived.  I’ve already got a sunburn and a heat rash, and now there are sporadic wild fires reported on the radio along with all of the usual traffic surprises like stalled cars, stray dogs, errant mattresses, tires and avocados.

Meanwhile I’m working on the yoke of a top-down wool sweater. The pattern is  “Snowflake” by my new favorite design duo,  Tin Can Knits.

Granny Squares

granny squares

I don’t usually crochet because 1) I can’t make anything wearable out of crochet and 2) it uses up 20% more yarn than knitting. But I have a vision of a crocheted afghan, inspired by sunflowers. Or a laptop case. Or maybe a set of coasters. I should probably calculate how much yarn I’ll need, but why let reality interfere with a perfectly delightful idea?

For this project I wanted something simple and  floral. I found a great photo tutorial for these sunburst granny squares on Wise Craft. After playing around with different stitch combinations, I settled on a granny square made of half-double crochet (top) rather than double crochet (bottom). Using half doubles you wind up with a petite yet dense granny square.

However, my squares are a little sloppy on account of how I’m joining each round and changing colors. It’s not that big of a deal, but more research needs to be done before I can add my granny squares to the vast and colorful sea of granny squares on  Pinterest.

Just keep knitting, just keep knitting . . .

Carson by Romi Hill

It’s been way too long since my last post. So much has happened in that time, but I don’t think it’s worth recapitulating. Now only the most distilled experiences of last year will be related to you as fun and pertinent anecdotes.

I took a break from knitting a couple weeks ago, but I am back at it. I love my job, but it is very stressful. After we returned from  the TNNA winter trade show and Stitches West, I was on yarn/fiber/knitting overwhelm. I had to put all of my crafting supplies out of sight, because just looking at yarn reminded me of all the work ahead.

But it was just a brief knitting hiatus, and I am back at it. Right now I’m knitting “Carson” by Romi Hill in two broody colors of Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Sock. (The clicking action on my orange counter is so satisfying, but I have to fight the urge to click it unnecessarily because it only goes in one direction. )

I survived Yarn Crawl LA 2013, but I don’t want sum up this event, or my experience as an event planner in general, before securing all the loose ends. However, I will say this: at one point all I “needed” was a festive noisemaker of some kind to complete my to-do list. I stood transfixed in Daiso, unable to choose between jingle bells or some whistling-hammer-thingy. It felt to me like everything was riding on this detail.  I can’t tell if this illustrates one of the seven habits of highly effective event planners, or why I should not be put in charge of planning stuff.

Liebster Blog Award?! THANK YOU FOR READING!

Although I love to plan and put together posts for my blog, I watch my stats. I get pumped (doesn’t everybody?) to see little spikes in readership after the posts go up. So when I saw that morganhausen nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award I was ecstatic!

The Liebster Blog Award (as far as I understand it) is kind of a free-moving, pay-it-forward, chain-letter thing. Google says it came from Germany, but that doesn’t really matter. When you’re nominated, you post a picture of some flowers,  insert the Liebster Blog badge, and nominate two to five other blogs that have less than 200 subscribers.

Of all the blogs I read regularly, there are only two that fit that requirement:

Daybook: A keeping of days – a mellow craft blog with lots of links to interesting articles, recipes and, of course, beautiful photos.  The blogger, Jodi, finds a bit of refuge from her health issues in her crochet and weaving projects.

c  r  a  f  t  i  v  o  r  e – I was initially drawn in by her beautiful stranded wedding shawl. But then I found so much more to love (like the “mala” scarf pattern based on the auspicious number 108).  She is a very talented lady!

Thank you all for reading Gingerknitters! Your input and kind words fuel my left-brain, and keep me motivated to improve this little blog.