A Day At The Estes Park Wool Market 2019

Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark

Last weekend I packed up the family and plenty of snacks to drive up to the Estes Park Wool Market. It’s a fun local wool festival that I enjoy visiting every year with a neat marketplace, classes, demos, and animals. Then when we’ve had our fill of the festival, we can head over to Rocky Mountain National Park which is always worth a visit. Since we had to skip the festival in 2018 (new baby + no sleep = so tired), I was really looking forward to going this year. Plus, it would be the Mini’s first fiber festival! How could we not go?

Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark

I wasn’t about to let precious knitting time go to waste and brought my Curve of a Boat shawl with me for the drive. The pattern was great for letting me knit and watch the scenery at the same time.

Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark
Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark

We started in the marketplace. Mini didn’t mind being pushed around in the stroller too much, but she definitely wanted to be carried around for a better view of all the yarn and excitement. Thankfully, she let me follow my usual festival shopping routine which looks like this.

  1. Go in with a list. I like to make a list of all the projects I’m shopping for and what materials I need. If the festival is going to be super crowded or huge, I check out the vendor list before hand and write down which ones I want to visit as well.

  2. Next I take a full circuit of the market place to see which ones catch my eye or might have something I want. Unless I see the absolute perfect yarn/fiber, I write down the vendor and their location so I can come back later. Admittedly, this is way easier to do at smaller festivals where backtracking isn’t so much of a hassle.

  3. Once I know which vendors I want to visit, I get down to shopping and trying not to get overwhelmed by all the pretty yarn. Knowing where I want to go helps me get exactly what I want for a project and not settle when the perfect thing might be in the next booth. And when I see a sample project that I like, I take a photo of the info so I can look it up later.

Once I know which vendors I want to visit, I get down to shopping and trying not to get overwhelmed by all the pretty yarn. Knowing where I want to go helps me get exactly what I want for a project and not settle when the perfect thing might be in the next booth. And when I see a sample project that I like, I take a photo of the info so I can look it up later.
Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark

My shopping list was pretty short this year. I only had two things on my list: a large, single skein gradient to knit Wingspan by Kyle Vey and fiber from Hummingbird Moon. I couldn’t find the colors I wanted for Wingspan but I did buy two very fun fiber bumps from Hummingbird Moon. The colors she dyes always spin up magically, and I can’t wait to see how these transform.

After finishing up in the marketplace, we took Mini on a walk to see all the animals. There were sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, and rabbits. I’m pretty sure she liked seeing all these new and interesting animals, but was much more interested in getting lunch.

Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark #navajochurro
Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark #alpaca
Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark #llama
Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark #goats

We left the festival and grabbed burgers before spending the rest of the day wandering around downtown Estes park. I picked up a few souvenirs and just the right amount of chocolate drizzled caramel corn. It was a nice surprise to come across the Estes Park Area Weaver’s Guild during our walk. Their space was filled with huge floor looms and a giant walking wheel. The wheel and been repaired and restored, and my fingers were itching to give it a spin. Maybe it’s finally time to get back to my own spinning wheel.

Learn how to shop at a fiber festival, and follow along with me for the day at Estes Park Wool Market 2019. | withwool.com  #fiberfestival #epwoolmarket #spinning #knitting #estespark #spinningwheel

All in all, it as a good trip and a nice family adventure. We all had fun and I’m sure we’ll be back next year for the festival. We didn’t make it to Rocky Mountain National Park this time, but now we have a reason to go back to Estes Park again soon.

A Handspun Sock Update: 2.5 Years Later

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

In 2016 I spun yarn to make a pair of socks. I used Louet Northern Lights Roving, which is a neither soft nor scratchy 100% wool, to spin a sock yarn with an opposing 3-ply construction. The one ply that is spun in the same direction as the plying twist is thought to add elasticity and durability because of the extra twist. I wanted to test this idea for myself. Would an opposing 3-ply be more durable than the traditional construction? I knit the yarn into a pair of socks for The Bearded One and they’ve become one of his favorites. They have seen constant wear during the chillier months for the past 2.5 years.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

So how are these two and a half year old socks holding up? Really well. There are no holes or thin spots threatening to become holes. The bind off at the cuff shows no sign of fraying or extra wear and tear. The soles may be more felted in spots, but overall the stitches are still distinct and can be stretched apart.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

The only real difference that I can see is how much the yarn has pilled on the inside. So far, this pilling doesn’t seem to affected the sole’s durability. If anything, the “loose” wool is making the socks more cushioned and insulating. The only other sign of wear is that the surface of the socks that rubs against pants and slippers aren’t as smooth as they used to be.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

As for how the socks are washed, I treat them no differently than any of my other handknit socks. They get a 20+ minute soak in warm water with Eucalan. Then I roll them up in a towel and squish out the excess water before hanging them up to dry.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

2 years ago I was curious if an opposing 3-ply sock yarn would be more durable than a traditional construction. I even shared an update showing how the socks were wearing after a few months. Comparing the then and now photos shows that the socks have held up wonderfully. I expect that it’ll be a few more years before I need to make any significant repairs. This is a major difference from thick house socks that I’ve knit from 100% wool commercial yarns. I’ve got a whole pile of them with holes in the toes, soles, and heels that I’ve been meaning to repair for years. It’s refreshing to see a pair of 100% wool socks that are still going strong after years of dedicated wear.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

If your interested in spinning your own wool sock yarn and ditching the nylon, check out the Tuff Socks Naturally project which aims to knit a sustainable sock without nylon or superwash wool. The #tuffsocksnaturally tag on Instagram has some beautiful and interesting examples.

I still can’t say if an opposing 3-ply yarn is more durable than a traditional 3-ply because I haven’t spun a traditional sock yarn yet. I’m definitely considering giving each construction a try so I can make a pair of handspun socks (or two) for myself.

Wooly Links: April 2018

Wooly Links is a round up of the best knitting, spinning, and crochet links I find on the web. The collection goes out bi-weekly in the With Wool Express. You can sign up to get the newsletter full of Wooly Links and other good stuff below.


You can do so much great stuff with crochet - like make the Willendorf Venus with this pattern.

Now I want to make a blanket into a wall hanging too. There’s no knitting police to say you can’t after all.

Bristol Ivy shares her thought process for how she designed the lovely Shape of the Bay shawl.

A handy list of some of US fiber festivals from May through August.

April 21st was the inaugural Local Yarn Store Day which aims show appreciation for small shops and celebrate the fiber art community. You can learn more about the big day here.

And to help celebrate Local Yarn Store Day, Laura Nelkin partnered with Melbourne Woolens and designed the Adventura Shawl which will only be available in stores with Ravelry in-store sales. The shawl is a choose-your-own-adventure pattern that could be lacy, mesh, or colorful.

Beth Smith highlights the costs of producing fleeces in small flocks for handspinning.

I am rather smitten with the cabled Hawley sweater by Julie Hoover. The details are so clean and neat.

Felicia Lo Wong of Sweet Georgia Yarns shares her experience hosting a booth at the huge handcraft convention of h+h Cologne. So many interesting tidbits and things to think about.

Not just for spinners! A thorough example of how the number of plies in a yarn affects the look and texture of knitting.

It isn’t always fun to have to pick up stitches, but doing it well is really satisfying. This tutorial on the in-depth details of picking up stitches in different situations is clear and helpful.

A neat tutorial for how to work helical stripes and skip the jog when switching colors.

I am rather smitten with the bold geometric lines of the Correa shawl by Ambah O’Brien.

Duplicate stitch doesn’t get enough love, and Franklin Habit shows how great it can be.

A great video with answers and tips about stranding knitting from Paper Tiger. Even the opening is fun.

Are step-by-step photo tutorials how you want to learn new techniques? Here’s a detailed tutorial with extra GIFs about how to work the tubular cast on.

I stumbled across this in depth guide to drum carders and there is so much good info for the reading.

How to spin yarn with beads

And now for something completely different... is about the other interesting stuff I find online. Sometimes it's photography, art, science, crafty goodness, or a good story.

A touching thank you to all the supporters of the Woolery Weave-Off which is  donating hand woven kitchen towels to women and children moving out of shelters.

Kristen Meyer arranges a variety of objects - leaves, broken crackers, bark, moss, etc - into exact geometric shapes. So satisfying.

New Nasca lines were recently found in southern Peru.

Carrie Chan creates incredibly precise watercolor patterns and designs. Just looking at them is satisfying.

How to Make Bulkier Yarn with Chain-Plying

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

Way back when, at least on the internet time-scale, I wrote a tutorial about how to chain-ply commercial yarn to manipulate color which you can read here. The variegated yarn I used flashed and pooled no matter how I knit with it, and chain-plying it created a beautiful marled yarn. Then I used that yarn for an easy (and free) hat pattern. Now I’m chain-plying another commercial yarn because I wanted to make it bulkier. So consider this part 2.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

I’ve had the Opal Sock Yarn Bunny by Susan B. Anderson pattern in my Ravelry queue for months. It’s so cute, but I have had the hardest time picking out the right yarn. I wanted something durable and hard-wearing because I like to imagine that this would become THE favorite toy; however, I also wanted the colors to be something whimsical and fun. Turns out durable and whimsical is a hard combination to find.  I eventually found a ball of sock yarn hiding in the deep stash. Seriously, I bought this ball of Zitron Trekking XXL 9 years ago on vacation. I almost turned it into a pair of socks, but didn’t want to knit socks on size 0 needles.

I don’t want to knit this totally adorable bunny on size 0 needles either. Plus, I’d like the bunny to be a little bigger than the 6.5” height stated in the pattern. Chain-plying to the rescue. The first and most important step to chain-plying any commercial yarn is to figure out how the yarn is plied. Commercial yarn is generally plied to the left, AKA with S twist, so you’ll need to chain-ply to the right, AKA with Z twist. If you’re plying a single ply yarn, you’ll probably be plying to the left. You can find the full tutorial for how to chain-ply commercial yarn here.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

And a helpful tip: If you’re working on a wheel, and have the option, use a jumbo bobbin. The plied yarn will take up more space than you expect. I plied 459 yards of fingering weight yarn and just barely got it all on to a single regular bobbin.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

I finished the newly-plied yarn just like any other handspun yarn because you still have to set the twist. I skeined it and measured the results before dunking it in a bath. I had about 137 yards of worsted weight yarn. Then I soaked it in cool soapy water for 20 minutes, rolled it in a towel to squeeze out extra water, and snapped it out my arms to even out the twist one last time. Then I let it dry over night.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

The twist really really relaxed and evened out. There are still a few over twisted and kinked spots, but most of the yarn is well behaved and smooth. I measured the skein again to see if setting the twist changed anything. The yarn was still a worsted weight, but I did “lose” 23 yards to the yarn plumping up. So I’m down to 114 yds, and really hoping I have enough yarn because I love it even more now.

Yarn thinner than you like? Learn how to chain-ply commercial yarn into the thicker, bulkier yarn you want!  #spinning #knitting | withwool.com

Before you go, here’s a few things to keep in mind before chain plying for bulkier yarn.

  • Even though chain-plying a fingering weight yarn will make a worsted weight yarn, the “new” yarn won’t have the same feel as a commercial or handspun worsted weight skein. Why? It’s much heavier and denser than either.
  • Because of how chain-plying works, expect to reduce your yardage to at most a third of it’s original number. My original 459 yds turned into 114 yds.

  • Sample a small piece of yarn first to see if you like the weight, drape, and density of the chain-plied version. It’d be really frustrating to do all that work and turn out with something you don’t like or wish you could undo. Take it from me, undoing a chain-plied yarn is not quick or easy.

Finally! Soft Alpaca Handspun

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

After many long months and countless other projects, I started feeling the itch to get back to spinning yarn. I hadn’t sat down at my wheel since the end of Tour de Fleece in 2017! Pretty sure my Sidekick was starting to feel a little lonely, and I can’t have that. My last project was 4 ounces of alpaca that I’d turned into batts on a rented drum carder. I spun the batts during Tour de Fleece and set them aside to let the twist relax a little before plying. I just never got to the plying part so the singles have been looking pretty on my shelves since then.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

Since the singles were the closest thing at hand and the easiest thing to spin (plus I had to clear my bobbins), they went on the wheel first. Not wanting any leftovers, I decided to ply each single with itself which meant winding each into a center pull ball. Happily, not one of the single broke during winding, and I wasn’t particularly gentle with them either. I’m not going to lie here - I was worried that the plies had too much twist because they didn’t pull apart. Weird thought for a spinner to have, I know, but my previous attempts at spinning 100% alpaca didn’t turn out great.  At least this batch of alpaca was still soft at this point.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

My last alpaca handspun turned out wiry and over-twisted which I did not want to repeat. After all, I only had this fiber in my stash for 10 years because I didn’t want to mess it up. So that I’d have to work to add too much plying twist, I went with a slower ratio for me, 5.7:1. Even though the drafting twist had been resting for several months, which could have skewed things a bit, I still aimed to line up the individual fibers and create a balanced yarn. Mostly pulled it off, and the newly plied yarn was soft and not wiry at all. Whew!

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

I didn’t wash this fiber before turning it into batts which I probably should have because I was cleaning up dirt and VM, and washing my hands every step of the way. I did my usual 20 minute soak with Eucalan and the water was so dirty that I couldn’t see the bottom of the sink. There was no missing that dirt ring though. It took 3 soaks for the water to finally run clear. After squeezing out the excess water, I lightly snapped the yarn but skipped thwacking it against the shower wall because it already had enough of a halo.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

The yarn looked pretty limp and sad when I hung it up to dry, but that changed fast. I suppose this is the reason why you spin samples first.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

All 4 skeins bloomed into an airy, plump, and positively luscious yarn. Not one of them was wiry or prickly or over-spun. There’s definitely some thick-and-thin spots but it’s reasonably consistent overall. Plus, getting rid of all that dirt made the yarn even softer which I didn’t think was possible. Washing and setting the twist had some other side effects too. Before washing, 2 of the skeins were a DK weight and 2 of the skeins were about worsted weight. All of them plumped up to a light bulky weight of about 7-8 WPI. Of course, this changed the yardage too. The 313 yds I started with turned into 264 yards, a difference of about 15%. Totally not complaining though.

Took a few tries, but I have finally spun soft alpaca yarn. And it’s everything I hoped it would be. | withwool.com

So now what? I’ve finally spun soft alpaca yarn which is a first for me and a long time goal. Definitely going to knit it into some sort of cowl or small shawl because there’s plenty of yardage to play with. Maybe something based in garter stitch with a simple lace pattern. Or I could just keep wearing it as is. :D It is really soft after all. I’m also thinking about submitting the best skein of the 4 to the handspun competition at a local fiber festival - that is if I can figure out all the rules and requirements.

3 Tips for Easier Plying from a Center Pull Ball

Use these 3 tips to make plying yarn from a center pull ball easier and tangle free. #tutorial | withwool.com

Knowing how to ply from a center pull ball is a handy trick to know. It’s great for plying those leftover singles on a bobbin or spindle. It’s great for when you don’t want to have any leftover singles/plies at all. You could even ply yarn from 2 separate center pull balls, not just the ends of one ball.

All that said, you have to use the technique carefully because if can affect the original drafting twist of your plies. This post from Jillian Moreno shows why. Still, there might be cases where you want to affect the twist. Maybe your plies have been sitting for months and the original twist isn’t as active. Or you want to add more twist because there wasn’t enough during drafting.

Personally, I haven’t noticed a huge difference in yarns that I’ve plied from a center pull ball vs. yarns that I’ve plied from bobbins. But I’m not spinning lace weight. In fact, some of my favorite yarns that I’ve ever spun have been plied from center pull balls. So here are my favorite tips and tricks for plying from center pull balls that I’ve learned over the years.

Use something as a center support for the ball.

Use these 3 tips to make plying yarn from a center pull ball easier and tangle free. #tutorial | withwool.com

As you work, the ply that formed the center core of the ball is being pulled out and moving onto the bobbin or the spindle. When enough of the center is gone, the ball will collapse on itself which means tangles and knots and aggravation. Putting something into the middle of the ball when it comes off the winder gives the ball a core of support which prevents those frustrating tangles.

Use these 3 tips to make plying yarn from a center pull ball easier and tangle free. #tutorial | withwool.com

And even if the ball does collapse on itself, like mine did in the photo above, the core will keep the ball open enough to work from and help prevent knots. I was able to ply the rest of this yarn instead of calling the whole thing a loss.

The center core doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just make sure that what you use is long enough to stick out from both ends of the ball.

  • Rolled up pieces of paper, like shown in this tutorial, work just fine. They’re also a good option if you’re taking a class or don’t have anything else close at hand.
  • A simple nostepinne is a great option for larger center pull balls and I'm using one in this example. They even come with a handle which makes holding onto them even easier.
  • And don’t forget about chopsticks, long handled spoons, or straight knitting needles. Whatever you’re using as a core doesn’t have to be big around, just smooth so it won’t snag.

Keep your hands farther back from the orifice.

How close you keep you’re hands to the orifice during plying seems to come down to personal preference; however, working farther back makes things a little easier. Keep your front hand about 8 - 12”, or 20 - 30 cm, from the orifice.  The extra space gives you more room to properly tension the plies and sort out tangles before there’s a problem.

Working farther back from the orifice also means that you can add twist at a slower rate since the twist will build up over the distance from the orifice to your hands. Then you’ll have a little more time and wiggle room to correct any issues.

One hand controls the plying twist, the other hand tensions the plies.

A post shared by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

I’m using my left hand, aka the front hand, to control when the twist enters the plies, and my right hand, aka the back hand, is holding the center pull ball on the nostepinne. Use which ever hand you prefer for each task.

The front hand only has 2 jobs: control when twist moves into the plies and to feed the yarn onto the bobbin.

The back hand holds the center pull ball and does all the work of keeping the plies evenly tensioned. You mainly want to hold the core support and just keep a thumb and a finger or two on the ball to hold it in place. The outer strand will be able to move more freely than if you’re holding it without the center core. Using this hold, I can angle and move my hand back and forth to evenly tension the plies. Think of it a dance you’re doing with the yarn.

The ball can sit farther back on the core so that the center ply wraps and feeds out slower. If the ball is closer to the tip, the center ply feeds out faster. One position isn’t better than the other. So experiment to see which spot works better for you and the yarn.

Wooly Links: March 2018

Wooly Links is a round up of the best knitting, spinning, and crochet links I find on the web. The collection goes out bi-weekly in the With Wool Express. You can sign up to get the newsletter full of Wooly Links and other good stuff every week below.


These giant oversized crochet doilies by Ashley V Blalock seem like they could grow and take over the world.

That Night There Were Roses by Debbie Sullivan solves the hump shape of crescent shawls with short rows. It’s lacy and gorgeous with a wide wingspan.

Neat! How to spin a beehive coil without using a core for your handspun.

A great complication of different knitting increases with clear diagrams and instructions.

This tutorial was sent to me when I asked for help preventing holes at sleeve joins, and it is a detailed look at how to seamlessly knit set-in sleeves. Saving it for later.

The Spring+Summer 2018 issue of Knitty went live and it’s full of good stuff. I’m definitely going to knit a sea turtle or 5 and Charmayne is on the list too.

Janelle Shane is trying to teach a neural network to generate knitting instructions, and a Ravelry group is interpreting and knitting up those garbled lines with interesting results.

I’m incredibly tempted and smitten by the large scale lace of the Equal Night blanket. Might even have the yarn in my stash to make it too!

Blocking your knits can be an art form all by itself.

I used a Clover pom-pom maker to make the pom on my latest hat, and it was so easy to make a great pom without a lot of extra trimming. Here’s a handy tutorial about how to use one.

Why crescent shaped shawls always seem to have the hump in the middle.

Info and advice from Patty’s Purls of Wisdom about biasing gauge swatches, metric vs US needle sizes, and “startitis”.

The SNAP hat pattern might be just the thing for all those leftover bits of sock yarn.

25 names of fabrics, wools, and leathers derived from place names.

Looking for a quick baby knit? Franklin Habit wrote up his variation of the vintage Fine-Hour Baby Jacket and it’s a cutie.

Here’s a great example of just how much color can change when colorful blended fiber turns into yarn.

I’m loving the texture of the Beeswax Scarf by Amy van de Laar.

A quick and helpful tutorial about how to count rows in garter stitch.

And now for something completely different... is about the other interesting stuff I find online. Sometimes it's photography, art, science, crafty goodness, or a good story.

The Parthenon, Pyramid of the Sun, and other ruins have been restored to their ancient architectural glory in a series a series of GIF's by Maja Wronska.

Ethel Stein, a master weaver who combined historical weaving methods with a Bauhaus design aesthetic, has died at the age of 100. (via Mielke’s Fiber Arts Newsletter)

Diana Sudyka creates beautiful illustrations around vintage postage stamps.

Elyse Dodge meshes beautiful geometric mountains with painted landscapes of British Columbia.

 

Wooly Links: February 2018

Wooly Links is a round up of the best knitting, spinning, and crochet links I find on the web. The collection goes out bi-weekly in the With Wool Express. You can sign up to get the newsletter full of Wooly Links and other good stuff every week below.


A clear tutorial on how to work double crochet without it turning into a wobbly trapezoid. Saving this for the next time I dabble in crochet.

How to make super fluffy pom-poms

MochiMochiLand is at it again with a cute (and free) knitting pattern for a four-leaf clover.

I was in a bind the other day when I needed to figure out how to space button holes on a button band. This button band calculator from did all the math and made the knitting a breeze.

Knit and Tonic wrote a helpful review of the expanded edition of Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book.

Cute alert! Check out this free crochet pattern for a cactus hat.

As part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, which explores the durability of socks made without nylon or superwash fibers, @rebeccaspindle shared the interesting history and breeding of the Ryeland Sheep.

Why row gauge matters

Beth Smith shares how she uses sample cards to plan her spinning for large and small projects.

Adventures in natural dyeing with black beans. Follow along with a super detailed attempt at dyeing yarn with black beans. The colors are lovely.

Nora Fok creates wearable art using knitting, weaving, braiding, and knotting. One piece is made of 3,500 knit spheres made from nylon microfilament.

Even a knitter with decades of experience can really screw stuff up.

I’ve never washed a raw wool fleece, but this is the tutorial I’d use if I ever decided to try.

Curious Handmade has written an informative series on how to get started knitting your own socks.

Tutorials for 3 different and beyond-the-basics knitting cast-ons.

And now for something completely different... is about the other interesting stuff I find online. Sometimes it's photography, art, science, crafty goodness, or a good story.

I am continually surprised by the scale and detail that can be achieved with needle felting. Paolo Del Toro makes huge masks similar to Japanese Noh theater masks.

Cayce Zavaglia creates incredible portraits using embroidery, and this behind the scenes interview gives a neat look at her thought process and intention.

Bete Molina uses her background in graphic design to create these incredible patterned quilts.

Bring on the giant, inflatable, light-up rabbits of Amanda Parer! I’d love to see these in person.

A Little Studio Reorganization

I reorganized my studio with the help of some stacking shelves. | withwool.com

I’ve been feeling the itch to reorganize my studio space for months. I stared at it all for a bit before moving on to measuring and mentally rearranging all the furniture. Unfortunately, nothing drastic was going to happen without moving furniture to a different room which just wasn’t an option. But, I wasn't completely out of luck because I was able to stack a second shelf on top of one I already had. That little bit of extra storage space has made all the difference.

I’m not done rearranging, clearing out the clutter, and moving stuff around, by my studio feels so much cleaner and better organized. No more random piles of stuff shoved into corners. Yarn Fort can actually be Yarn Fort instead of a stack of all the things. The tip top shelf is the new spot for all my WIP’s and in-progress designs. My craft supplies, sketchbooks, and art supplies have a designated space that I can get to without moving other stuff out of the way first. And I have some extra shelf space to work with too. It’s great. The only downside of this new setup is that I haven’t figured out where to put the drum carder. It can’t chill on the couch for much longer.

It’s been awhile since Yarn Fort made an appearance, so here’s the stash in all it’s 5’ 7” glory. That’s 1.7 meters for my metric friends. While Yarn Fort hasn’t gotten noticeably smaller since 2016, it is better organized at least.

I reorganized my studio with the help of some stacking shelves. | withwool.com

How to Clean Stubborn Fiber Out of a Drum Carder

Chunks of fiber stuck in your drum carder? Get a pair of forceps to get those pesky fibers! | withwool.com

My drum carder has been sitting unused and unloved for the past few months. Why? All this green fiber stuck in the tines. I bought 4 ounces of Corriedale wool locks, AKA the green fiber, to practice making batts and figure out the carder’s quirks. Making the batts turned out to be a struggle because the locks were matted, but I didn’t realize how matted until it was time to feed them into the carder. I had to crank the drum while pulling back on the fiber to get them to open and pull apart instead of just feeding onto the main drum in one big clump. I made 2 batts before calling it quits because the all the  fiber stuck on the main drum. To make things even more aggravating, the stuck fiber only seemed to trap more fiber down there with it. The bent paper clip I attempted to pick the fibers out with didn’t do that great job and none of my other tools did a thing. So the carder went back on the shelf until I could figure out how to clean it.

The answer to my problem turned out to be in a blog post from 2009 (!) that listed the basic tools to use with your drum carder. Definitely worth a read if you’re thinking about getting your hands on a carder. Anyway, one of the recommended tools was a pair of long thin forceps, extra long tweezers, because they’re thin enough to get between the tines without damaging the carding cloth. So I picked up a pair at the hardware store.

This is what my carder looked like before:

Chunks of fiber stuck in your drum carder? Get a pair of forceps to get those pesky fibers! | withwool.com

And this is what the carder looked like after the 23 minutes I spent picking at with the forceps:

Chunks of fiber stuck in your drum carder? Get a pair of forceps to get those pesky fibers! | withwool.com

I didn’t pull off every bit of green since I’m going to try carding the rest of the fiber (it’s a point of pride and stubbornness now), but the difference is night and day. The forceps were great for picking up both small and large bits of fiber. Even better I was able to work them under the larger sections and push the fiber up so I could grab it.

Chunks of fiber stuck in your drum carder? Get a pair of forceps to get those pesky fibers! | withwool.com
Chunks of fiber stuck in your drum carder? Get a pair of forceps to get those pesky fibers! | withwool.com
Chunks of fiber stuck in your drum carder? Get a pair of forceps to get those pesky fibers! | withwool.com

Cleaning the the carder wasn’t quick, but the forceps did a great job. They grabbed every stuck strand big or small. Plus, I didn’t scrape or poke my fingers on the tines. Glad I’ve got the forceps as part of permanent drum carder cleaning kit. They’re cheap, work well, and don’t take up a lot of space. Get a pair.

Chunks of fiber stuck in your drum carder? Get a pair of forceps to get those pesky fibers! | withwool.com

Wooly Links: December + January 2018

Wooly Links is a round up of the best knitting, spinning, and crochet links I find on the web. The collection goes out bi-weekly in the With Wool Express newsletter. You can sign up to get the newsletter full of Wooly Links and other good stuff every week here.


Got a hole in your handspun sweater? Here’s how to reclaim the yarn.

Even if you don’t spin, this article on the differences between woolen and worsted mill spun yarn explains the differences - durability, warmth, color, stitch definition - between the two types.

This post by Elise Blaha focuses on knitting and sewing, but the overall focus on getting started making your own clothing applies to any craft. About time, cost, knowing what to make, supplies...

Techniques for advanced swatching: cables, lace, in the round, and fair isle.

Kate Davies outlines how to estimate yardage to make a pattern larger using her Carbeth jumper. I use a similar method myself for all sorts of projects.

Loving the cosy simplicity of the Earthshine cowl by Hillary Smith Callis.

The new issue of Twist Collective is live and it’s packed with good stuff.  Patty’s Purls of Wisdom tackles lying gauge swatches and how to get a swatch that tells the truth.

The Harmonium Slouch Hat by Kelly McClure is a great mix of slouchy and fuzzy.

A Guide to Reversible Cables that look good on both sides.

The Vintersol sweater keeps popping up in my Instagram feed and I love the yoke more and more each time.

Knitter Nina Dodd and photographer Joseph Ford collaborate to create hand knit sweaters that blend in seamlessly with the background. They’re all so good!

I’m looking forward to listening to this interview with Rachel Denny who makes incredible knit and crochet sculptures of deer and yaks. The photos are incredible!

Strauch Fiber released two worksheets to track and keep notes on making batts and spinning yarn to keep all of the details. (via Mielke’s Fiber Arts Newsletter)

The Winter 2017 edition of Knitty is here with plenty of good stuff inside.  My favorites are the Skew Too Mitts, the Cool Bearing sweater, and the Stellen Socks.

Try out this neat trick to figure out what the weight of that label-less yarn is. Good for figuring out whether a yarn would be a good substitute too.

Now this is a spinning kit! Jillian Moreno shares what she carries for her every day spinning and teaching. So much good helpful stuff in there.

If you’re on the hunt for gift tags for your hand made gifts, Alisa Burke put together a colorful collection.

Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits wrote a great essay on developing the knit “grit” and stamina to get past self-doubt, the middle slog, and finishing.

This DIY llama ornament is pretty cute and looks simple to make too.

A cute idea to use of leftover yarn for a pair of striped socks. I’m keeping this in mind for later.

I love the simple undulating texture of the After Midnight mitts by Thea Colman.

And now for something completely different... is about the other interesting stuff I find online. Sometimes it's photography, art, science, crafty goodness, or a good story. 

Amy Joy Watson combines wood, rope, and paint to create these beautiful hanging sculptures.

Take a look at how pencils are made. The photos are incredible. Definitely gives a new appreciation for how this commonplace tools are made.

Need some cute today? Here’s cats wearing hats made from cat hair. The Princess Leia wig is great.

Impressionist paintings? Nope, close-up photos of Jupiter taken on NASA’s Juno Mission.

Everyday objects arranged into incredibly detailed patterns. My favorite is the rainbow of forks and toothpicks.

The 80-year-old timber escalators of the Wynard Station in Sydney, Australia were turned into a beautiful suspended sculpture for the station’s renovation.

17 Fiber Arts Things That Made 2017 Great

I’ve enjoyed making lists since I was kid and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I wanted to write up a 2017 review, but couldn’t muster up the energy or motivation to write about in paragraph form. So, I’m taking a page from Austin Kleon’s blog and making a list of the knitting and spinning that made 2017 great. Somehow the 2017 list was 17 items long without any extra help from me.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

1. The Bearded One and I going to our first fiber festival, Estes Park Wool Market.

2. Completing 100 Days of Spinning where I spun and worked with handspun yarn for almost all of those 100 days.

3. Putting in the work to design more knitting patterns. Most of them didn’t make it past the layout stage, but they’re so close to being released in 2018.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

4. Releasing the Melded Scarf, a free pattern for a striped reversible scarf, in February.

5. Knitting a Boneyard shawl with my own handspun yarn.

6. Mostly staying on the sheep and being more conscious about my yarn and fiber buying. The stash is still worthy of the name Yarn Fort, but it hasn’t taken over any more space.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

7. Spinning along with Tour de Fleece for the 5th row in year.

8. Pushing my spinning boundaries to try new batts and more textured yarns.

9. Going to Interweave Yarn Fest.

10. Finally playing around with the drum carder and figuring out how to use it.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

11. Digging into my fiber stash and spinning a beautiful gradient from one giant batt. 8 matching skeins!

12. Taking my first ever spinning class about different ways to spin color with Maggie Casey.

13. Going to meetings and being a member of my local fiber guild.

All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com
All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com
All the #knitting and #spinning that made 2017 a great year. | withwool.com

14. The KIS hat and Mosaic Sisters patterns being used to teach classes on color work and mosaic knitting respectively.

15. Getting a whole room to use as my studio where I can work and get to all my art supplies, yarn, books, and notions. Wanted this for years so it’s great, but scary too.

16. Developing a new appreciation for hats knit with fingering weight yarn.

17. Wearing and enjoying my own hand knits. And seeing the Bearded One wearing and enjoying his hand knits too.

A Handspun Boneyard

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

I’ve wanted to knit a Boneyard Shawl for years. Not with the burning desire that makes you drop everything and head to the yarn shop, but when I eventually found the right yarn. Eventually is the key word. I wanted a variegated yarn that’d be fun to knit and fun to wear. I’d know it when I found it. I didn’t find that perfect yarn because I ended up spinning it during the 2017 Tour de Fleece. It’s a thick-and-thin variegated mix of greens, blues, and browns. The skein is one of my favorite yarns that I’ve spun this year, and was thrilled that I had enough yardage to make something big out of it. Well, bigger than a hat anyway.

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

With 260 yards of aran weight to work with, I knew it was finally time to cast on for a Boneyard Shawl. So I did, and it was a fun knit. The shawl was so hard to put down because it was good auto-pilot knitting and I wanted to see what color would come next. The only change I made was to switch out the m1’s for lifted increases.

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

The only trouble came when I was trying to figure out how much shawl I could knit. There were still a few yards left and I didn’t want to waste any of them. So, the Boneyard sat on my desk for months, mocking me, while I worked on other projects. The shawl would probably still be sitting on my desk too if I hadn’t needed a break from all my holiday gift knitting. I’d knit 7 ridges already and decided to start the edge and see how far I got. A few tv shows and an inch of garter stitch later, it was time to bind off. Why did that take me so long to do? Ugh! At least I made the most of the yardage.

It may have taken years to find the right yarn and also a good bit of procrastination, but this Boneyard Shawl is just what I imagined. It's cosy, just the right size to wear under a coat, and special. Also, it feels good to knit with my own handspun in the same year that I made it. Who knew?

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

The Details
Pattern: Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West
Yarn: 253 yds 2-ply aran weight handspun
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm)
Dates: August 20 - December 2, 2017
@Ravelry

Wooly Links: November Edition

Wooly Links is a round up of the best knitting, spinning, and crochet links I find on the web. The collection goes out every week in the With Wool Weekly newsletter. You can sign up to get the newsletter full of Wooly Links and other good stuff every week here.


Clare Devine of knitsharelove.com is conducting an experiment to try out sock yarns spun without the added durability of nylon. I’m curious to see how it turn out.

Halloween is behind us but the amazing skeletons crocheted by Caitlin McCormack from discarded textiles deserve a look no matter the time of year.

Looking to expand your stranded color work library? Tin Can Knits has some suggestions to help get you started.

5 Tips for Getting Gift Spinning (and Knitting) Done

“A Day in the Life of a Fiber Mill Owner” is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at running a fiber mill.

And here’s a look at the commercial process of skeining and prepping yarn for yarn shops.

A pretty convincing argument for 2x2 rib to be the stitch pattern to teach new knitters. What do you think?

The Sheep Spot newsletter has a great article on different methods to reduce striping in handspun yarn and fabric.

I love the colors and strong stripes of the crochet Tangram Wrap from One Dog Woof.

Here are some simple printable gift tags for when you finish up all that gift knitting.

Ambah O’Brien shared a tutorial for making ombre pom-poms which look like a lot of fun. I’m tempted to make a few as ornaments.

I’ve been enjoying Felicia Lo’s new vlog, Taking Back Friday, which covers her current knitting and weaving projects, yarny events, and her thoughts on making. Check it out.

A nearly invisible knitting increase is a good thing to know. Knit.Love.Wool demos her favorite version in a top down yoke.

How about a pattern for some cute crochet leaves?

The pattern for the Fox Isle Socks is just too cute. It would definitely scratch that color work itch.

Need a little fiber arts inspiration? Rebecca Mezoff shares her favorite sources for fiber art inspiration and the comments are full of good stuff too.

A solid gift guide for the knitters and crocheters in your life. And yourself too.

There’s no doubt in my mind that knitters can come together and do powerful things.

 

And now for something completely different... is about the other interesting stuff I find online. Sometimes it's photography, art, science, crafty goodness, or a good story. 

Dennis Cherim’s The Coincidence Project is an ongoing series of exceedingly well-timed photos that you’ll have to look at twice.

To help get you into the winter spirit, take a look at First Snow.

Take an armchair trip to Iceland’s impressive countryside.

War and Pieced documents wartime quilts sewn by soldiers from military uniforms. I would love to see this in person.

Sewing and NASA go hand in hand.

 

Review: Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno

Yarnitecture is a valuable book and great reference for both the new and experienced spinner. #ontheshelfreviews #handspunyarn #knitting | withwool.com

Yarnitecture is one of the more recent additions to my spinning library. It had been on my radar for a while and I finally bought it after flipping through it at the bookstore. My first impression was that it was a beautiful book with striking photos and a clear layout. The paper felt nice under my fingers, and the book had a nice weight. It felt like an expensive reference book that was pretty enough to hang out on the coffee table.  

When I got beyond that initial skim, Jillian Moreno's Yarnitecture proved to be jam packed with spinning information and help. I would have loved to have this book when I was learning to spin. There’s a chapter about different fibers. It talks about the different kinds of drafting methods with photos and instructions. There’s info about plying, details about spinning balanced yarns, tips for sampling, and so much more. And sprinkled throughout this treasure trove are little side notes to back up the main text. For example, there was a note about leaders, those helpful pieces of yarn that feed your yarn onto the bobbin at the beginning of a project. I learned to spin on a spindle and knew what a leader was and it’s name. But when I got my wheel and sat down to spin, I didn’t know how to correctly get the yarn through the orifice and onto the bobbin. I didn’t know if the “leader” for a wheel was still called a “leader”. How do I look something up online or in a book, if I don’t know what it’s called? A few clumsy google searches told me a leader is a leader and I was able to set up my wheel.

Yarnitecture is a valuable book and great reference for both the new and experienced spinner. #ontheshelfreviews #handspunyarn #knitting | withwool.com

This story brings me to my next point. Yarnitecture is a great reference with photos and step-by-step instructions that covers a lot of the questions and problems a spinner might face. While it’s not the end-all-be-all of spinning references, it gives spinners the knowledge and correct words to ask questions, whether online or in person, and continue learning about their craft.

Earlier I said that I would have loved to have this book when I was learning to spin. What about now that I spun miles of yarn on spindles and a wheel over several years? What if I’ve spun yarn thats reasonably consistent, made from several different constructions, and suited for different purposes? What if you’ve done the same? Yarnitecture still has value to an intermediate spinner because the book’s main goal focuses on spinning yarn for a purpose. Maybe that purpose is making yarn for a particular pattern or spinning enough yardage to make something bigger than a hat. Yarnitecture provides a method and thought process to think about spinning yarn beyond the lone skein. Now I love spinning just for the fun of it as much as the next spinner, but I want to use my handspun too. There’s far too many beautiful skeins just waiting for me to find that one perfect pattern. If I’d put a little more thought into the process at the beginning, I could be wearing and enjoying my handspun instead of keeping it in a bin because I don’t know what to do with it.

And making a sweater’s worth of yarn for myself (and the Bearded One too) is on my spinning bucket list. I’ve never spun that much yarn for one project, but I feel like Yarnitecture has given me a blueprint that I can use to tackle that goal. 

In this vein of making yarn with an end project in mind, Yarnitecture includes 12 patterns for handspun yarn by well-known knitting designers. There are shawls of course, but also a variety of sweaters and accessories. Every pattern includes the usual knitting pattern preamble notes as well as detailed information about how the handspun was spun so you can recreate the yarn. And you’ll actually want too because the patterns are beautiful. I’m very tempted to spin and cast on for the Maya Cardigan by Kirsten Kapor, the Hive Mind mitts by Adrian Bizilla, and the Rigby Cardigan by Bristol Ivy.

Let’s sum up. Yarnitecture (<<— affiliate link!*) is a great book for new spinners just getting into the art of making yarn, and intermediate spinners who are interested in spinning for larger projects. It has clear photos, detailed step-by-step instructions, and lots of helpful information. Definitely give it a look and consider adding it to your spinning library.

*This review contains an affiliate link which means, if you decide to buy through that link, I’ll get a small commission. My opinions of this book are unbiased and totally my own. I wouldn’t recommend this book if I didn't think it had value. Thanks!

Spinzilla Watching

Following Spinzilla is making me want to spin again! | withwool.com

Spinzilla, an epic competitive spin-along to make as much yarn as possible, kicked off on Sunday. The event started in 2013 both to promote hand spinning and raise funds for the NeedleArts Mentoring Program. And whether you joined a team or are spinning rogue this year, I wish you lots of wool, yardage, and happy hands. 

I made a yardage calculator for previous Spinzillas which you can find here. It should take the guess work out of tallying everything you’ve spun, and will also calculate the plying yardage. 

I’ve spun rogue, aka without a team, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, but decided to sit this one out. Just the thought of a week of near constant spinning made me tired. Though it’s been a lot of fun watching other spinner’s progress and yarn pop up on Instagram over the past few days. So much color and yardage! Even though I’m not spinning along this year, Spinzilla has made me realize that I haven’t touched my wheel since the end of Tour de Fleece in July. Eeek! That’s quite a switch after my 100+ days of daily spinning I tackled in the first half of this year. I’ve got 4 bobbins of alpaca ready to be plied and 500+ yards of fingering weight 2-ply to get back to. I really shouldn’t let that sit much longer so guess it’s time to get back to the wheel.  

Tour de Fleece 2017

12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

And that's a wrap! Another Tour de Fleece is behind us. If you spun along this year, I hope you enjoyed yourself and made handspun you can't wait to use. 

&nbsp;12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

While I didn't spin every ounce of fiber I pulled from the stash, I'm still pleased with what I did accomplish. I started spinning just for the fun of it with the rough goal of making a heavier than a sport weight yarn. Definitely succeeded on that count. The first skein of the Tour is a textured bulky yarn and the closest I've come to spinning art yarn in awhile. It's 158 yards of Shetland Wool, Alpaca, and Silk Noil. You can read more about the technicals of how I spun it here

&nbsp;12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

The second skein started as 4.2 ounces of hand painted top and turned into 260 yards of aran weight. I split the top in half down the middle. The first ply I spun as is and second I split in half again. It made a nice lazy fractal that I really want to knit. Pretty sure I've got enough yardage to make a small Boneyard Shawl if I knit at a loose gauge. 

&nbsp;12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

I spent the last chunk of Tour de Fleece doing some challenge spinning: 4 oz of alpaca batts. Plus, I got to check "Spin a batt I made myself" off my goals for this year. My previous attempts at spinning alpaca turned out wiry and over twisted, and I wanted to do a much better job with this batch. Obviously, I haven't plied it yet but I'm pleased with what's on the bobbins. It's got a reasonably smooth surface and is still soft. Seems like it's got enough twist to hold together during plying too. I'm cautiously optimistic about getting a soft, cushy yarn that'll do justice to the 10 years I've been waiting to spin this precious fiber

&nbsp;12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

What I didn't do much of was play around with my drum carder. I got 2 batches of fiber through for one pass each. Then I hit a snag. The locks I'm working with are a bit felted. Teasing them open helped get them onto the main drum, but a good quarter of the fiber stayed trapped in the tines when I peeled the batt off. Got any tips for picking the fiber off the drum? I haven't found a good solution that doesn't involve teasers and a lot of time. 

Drum carder snag aside, this was a good Tour de Fleece. I enjoyed spinning everyday - even on rest days - and spun just for the fun off it. I joined a few teams and had fun sharing and talking to other spinners. I’m pleased with all my new handspun, and even have a few ideas of what to do with it. So I’m calling this Tour a win. 

How did this Tour de Fleece go for you? Did you learn something new or try a new fiber? Spin a lot or a little? Make yarn you can’t wait to use? 

&nbsp;12.2 ounces, 418 yards, and 3 weeks of awesome yarn! I had a blast spinning along with Tour de Fleece this year! | withwool.com

Tour de Fleece 2017 Challenge

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

I admit that I haven’t really been keeping track of the day to day calendar of Tour de Fleece. When are the rest days? No clue. I’ve just been spinning every day and having fun with it. The only reason I figured out Sunday was a challenge day was because I happened to check the forums that day. By some random happy coincidence I just so happened to have some challenging spinning.

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

If you’re not familiar with Tour de Fleece, or Tour de France, there are 3 challenge days when riders tackle mountains with steep grades above 10%. Spinners get to set their own challenges. I was fairly sure that I was going to tackle some sort of art yarn construction. Instead I pulled 4 oz of alpaca batts out of the stash. I haven’t spun a lot of alpaca, and my last attempt had so much twist that it was a wiry, prickly beast. So I’ve been hesitant to try again. Making the mental hurdles even taller is that fact the Bearded One gave me this fiber when we were dating many, many moons ago. I’d had it for several years and it was scary enough to put the fiber through a rented drum carder in 2013! 

Let’s do a little math. The shearing date on the label says 2007. I turned the alpaca fiber into batts in 2013. Now it’s 2017. I’ve had this fiber stashed away for 10 years! To cut myself a little slack, I was only just getting into spinning in 2007 and didn’t truly learn for several more years. Still, 10 years is way too long for such beautiful fiber to be hiding away in my stash. 

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

The batts are 100% alpaca and one solid color. Since there was no need to preserve color sequences, I split the batt into strips and started spinning. I wanted a smoother fiber and went with an inch worm worsted draft and an 8.0:1 ratio to keep from over twisting the fiber. 

I finished drafting the first batt yesterday, and it was much simpler than I expected. Could be that my spinning has improved in the years since I last attempted spinning alpaca. Could be that my brain made things much harder than they had to be. Sometimes the mental hurdles are the hardest to jump. 

My challenge for Tour de Fleece 2017 was getting over the mental hurdle of spinning 10 year old alpaca fiber. Spoiler: It was easier than I thought it’d be. | withwool.com

This fiber is special and I don’t want to waste a single bit of it. The batts aren’t all the same so I’m going to spin each one separately and ply them back on themselves. Sure, it’s more work, but I could use the practice. And I can’t help but picture how cute 4 little skeins are going to be. 

So much yarn! I had to hand wind the handspun to get it all on the bobbin. Worth it. #TourdeFleece | withwool.com

And in non-challenge spinning, I finished plying the 4.2 ounces of hand painted green top! I know I said the galactic handspun was the most yarn I’d ever packed a bobbin, but this skein beats even that. I hand wound a good chunk of the yarn onto the bobbin, and don’t think I could get another yard on there if I tried. Really curious about how much yardage is packed on there because I’m tempted to turn it all into a Boneyard Shawl.

So much yarn! I had to hand wind the handspun to get it all on the bobbin. Worth it. #TourdeFleece | withwool.com

The End of #100HandspunDays

Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com

Wednesday, July 12th, is the official end of The 100 Day Project. I have spun yarn, swatched with said yarn, and fiddled around with my drum carder to prep fiber to spin into yarn. There was one day at the beginning when I completely forgot to spin something until I was tucked into bed, but the other 98+ days have not lacked yarn or spinning or fiber. 

I started this project with 5 goals that I thought would be easy to do over and over again for 100 days. 

  1. Sit down at the wheel and spin! - This part was pretty easy and what I did for most of the project. 

  2. Fiber prep counts. So taking a few days (or weeks) to learn how to make batts or practice hand carding is encouraged.  - I didn’t do as much of this as I thought I would. My lofty idea that I’d be churning out batt after silky batt didn’t happen. I did pull out some locks and start figuring out my drum carder’s quirks though. 

  3. Work out of the fiber stash and see just how far it’ll go. - I have bought the occasional bump of fiber and gotten samples to spin from classes, but the bulk of my spinning has been from stash. The stash bins do look a little emptier.

  4. On busy draining days, reading about fiber, breed characteristics, and yarn construction is a-ok. What good is having a spinning reference shelf if I never use it? - This didn’t happen outside of my usual blog reading, which I do regret. Maybe my next bookshould be Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno? 

  5. Share the day’s spinning on Instagram and in blog posts. I’m using #100HandspunDays to keep things organized.  - I shared some of this project on IG, but my attempt at this really fell flat. I did share a lot about #100HandspunDays here though.  Thanks for following along!

Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com
Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com

I finished spinning a long purple gradient that had been lingering on the bobbins for far too long.

Then I started a new big project, 500+ yards of fingering weight yarnLearned to love spinning sample mini-skeins too.

Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com
Reflecting on my first attempt at the #100DayProject. I made a lot of handspun yarn and learned a lot more about spinning. | withwool.com

I somehow tricked myself into thinking #100HandspunDays ended last Sunday. So these last few days seemed like a surprise bonus. When I thought that the project was over, I was surprised at how strongly I didn’t want to stop. I want to keep spinning and to keep learning more about spinning. Besides from getting me a lot of great new yarn, #100Handspun Days has shown me that I’m not ready to give up on my wheel and making yarn. It’s something I still enjoy and want to do. Sure, there will be times where this need will ebb and flow, but it’s not going to dry up over night or over a couple months. 

Once #100HandpunDays is officially over, I’ll be putting my spinning motivation into Tour de Fleece. The past week’s project has been 4.2 ounces of hand painted top. I split the top in half down the middle and spun the first ply. I split the other half in half again to create shorter color segments for the second ply. Almost finished with the second and then it’ll be time to ply. I’m curious to see how the yarn comes together.

Off to the Races - Tour De Fleece 2017

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

Tour de Fleece kicked off on Saturday! What’s Tour de Fleece? It’s a giant, international spin-along that runs along side the Tour de France. This is my 4th year spinning with the Tour, and I wholeheartedly recommend joining up if you’ve been on the fence. It can be a personal challenge or a team affair or both! It’s still early and not too late to start.   

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I’m not setting a ton of complicated goals this year, but keeping things simple. Spin every day. Work from stash. Spin a few batts I’m going to make on my drum carder. Anything else is a sparkly bonus. 

I tossed my fiber stash out of its bins a few days before the Tour kicked off and it looked like a wooly explosion. There was roving on my desk and couch. There were batts on the floor and chilling in the corner. Hand dyed fiber everywhere. By the end of it, I’d picked what I want to spin and better organized the fiber stash. Here’s what I’ll be spinning for the next few weeks. 

  • A giant 8 oz batt. Not sure exactly what I’m going to do with it yet, but it was taking up too much room to keep hanging around.
  • 4 oz of Dudley Spinner hand painted top. I fell of the sheep last week and bought this to spin during the Tour. Totally counts as spinning from the stash since I got it before Tour de Fleece right?
  • A bundle of 100% alpaca batts I made several (maybe 4) years ago on a rented drum carder. Way past time to see how these spin up. 
  • A Fiber Preparedness Kit from Wild Lily Artisan Fibers. It’s got punis, dyed locks, and random bits of dyed roving. Thinking this will be challenge day material. 
  • The Epic Green Spin is also on the list. Still working my way through sampling and swatching, but I hope to start the final yarn during the Tour.
  • 4 oz of top that just looks fun to spin. 
The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I wanted to kick of the Tour with something fun and easy so I started with the 4 oz of carded roving. It’s a blend of shetland wool, alpaca, and silk noil. Just looking at all that silk noil, I knew there was no way it would turn into a smooth, even yarn. So I drafted long-draw and occasionally double drafted the larger chunks.

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I ended up with 2 almost overfilled bobbins that I plied last night. Not even the bulky flyer with a jumbo bobbin was big enough to get all this yarn on by itself. Once no amount of tension would feed yarn onto the bobbin, I had to do it by hand. It went something like this: ply as long a length of yarn as my arm would allow, wrap yarn around my fingers, turn bobbin to slowly feed yarn onto said bobbin, and repeat. Not a quick process, but I got all the yarn plied. No mini-skeins here! And the bobbin is absolutely packed with bulky yarn. Can’t wait to get wound into a skein and see how much yardage I have.  

The start of Tour de Fleece 2017 has been a blast! Spun a good chunk of handspun yarn already and looking forward to making a lot more. | withwool.com

I also pulled out the drum carder, and I’m starting simple with this too. The carder is new-to-me and I haven’t used it until a few days ago. Before I get into making complicated multi-fiber art batts, I wanted to see if the carder had any quirks. Last year I bought 4 oz of dyed wool locks to try out the carder, so I started with them. The fiber is slightly felted so it’s more difficult to process than I expected. And taking way longer to process than I expected. I’ve been putting on a little bit at a time since Friday afternoon, and I’m about halfway through the first pass. I’m pleased with what I’m getting off the carder and plan on putting the fiber through at least once more to smooth it out. Maybe by next week, I’ll have a few new batts to spin. 

So that’s how my Tour de Fleece is going. What about your Tour? Keeping your spinning simple or doing something big?