Now I’m Really Finished With Tour de Fleece

I finished plying the last of my handspun and set the twist the week after the Tour ended. Now I’m Really Finished With Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

My spinning wheel and I spent a lot of time together last week as I finished plying my Tour de Fleece yarn. Glad I did too because, not only did I free up all my bobbins, I added some lovely new yarn to my stash. This Tour de Fleece handspun has really taken the edge off going Cold Sheep last month. 23 days and counting…

After the plying, it was time to set the twist for every skein. All the yarn got the same treatment. First, a 15+ minute soak in cool water with Eucalan. Second, squeezing out as much water by hand as possible and snapping the skeins over my forearms. Third, wrapping the yarn in a towel and squishing out even more water. Next time I’ll snap the yarns after the towel step because I was uniformly damp after finishing 9 skeins. I skipped thwacking them against the wall this time to keep a smooth surface. The last step was hanging them up to dry. The wait is usually the hardest part of the whole process, but washing before bed meant the yarn was dry and squish-able when I woke up the next day. 

I finished plying the last of my handspun and set the twist the week after the Tour ended. Now I’m Really Finished With Tour de Fleece | withwool.com
I finished plying the last of my handspun and set the twist the week after the Tour ended. Now I’m Really Finished With Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

What started as 5 oz of BFL from Greenwood Fiberworks turned into ~500 yards of sport weight yarn. I put a lot of Z twist into these singles and plied them with S twist to match. Fresh off the bobbins, all 5 skeins were closer to fingering weight. Soaking during finishing gave them a good plump body that I can’t wait to use for a hat. 

I finished plying the last of my handspun and set the twist the week after the Tour ended. Now I’m Really Finished With Tour de Fleece | withwool.com
I finished plying the last of my handspun and set the twist the week after the Tour ended. Now I’m Really Finished With Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

The 2-ply grey and mini batt yarn changed too. It bulked up to about 8 WPI and is firmly in the aran - bulky range after finishing. There are a few thick and thin in spots but those only add to its charm. Before going into the water, this yarn could have been described as lustrous. Washing the yarn relaxed the wool and gave the yarn a more rustic matte surface. All the glorious, out-of-my-comfort-zone color is still there though.

I finished plying the last of my handspun and set the twist the week after the Tour ended. Now I’m Really Finished With Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

It’s been years since I’ve worried about screwing up my spinning. When you spin without an end project in mind, you get awesome yarn no matter how you spin. The other Tour de Fleece yarns only had loose goals attached to them - they’d a success no matter how they turned out. These two skeins of sock yarn were different. They needed to match, have stripes, be fingering weight, and have at least 500 yards between them. The skeins do match and I’ll probably see some mottled stripes when I start knitting. Instead of 500+ yards of opposing ply fingering weight, I’ve got about 330 yards of sport weight. I really need to start sampling before spinning half a pound of fiber. Live and learn. 

I finished plying the last of my handspun and set the twist the week after the Tour ended. Now I’m Really Finished With Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

I can accept those differences and still make the knitting work. What I was really worried about was mucking up the plying. It was so hard to evenly tension the yarn because of the opposing ply. I wasn’t sure if the yarn had too much twist or too little. I couldn’t tell if the S twist ply was joining well with the 2 Z twisted plies. Setting the twist was the only way to know for sure. 

I was definitely relieved when I got my hands on the dry yarn. Both skeins are still kinked up with twist, but much less after going in the water. All the plies seem to be working well together too. Still, these skeins definitely weren’t my best attempt at plying, nor did they meet all my goals. I can still knit with the yarn though which counts as a successful spin to me.       

I finished plying the last of my handspun and set the twist the week after the Tour ended. Now I’m Really Finished With Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

Frustration aside, I’m happy with everything that I spun during Tour de Fleece and the next week. All the yarn is beautiful and oh so tempting. There is, however, one difference between this Tour de Fleece and previous years. I have plans and projects for everything I’ve spun. The ombre bundle is going to be a stocking hat. The colorful, bulky 2-ply is going to be a Myndie shawl. The sock yarn is going to be socks of course. Feels good to have a plan for this 1000+ yards that I’ve spun. Also feels pretty good to know that I can spin that much in a month when I want to. Now I’m off to knit and start my next spinning project.

Another Successful Tour de Fleece

I didn’t finish all of Tour de Fleece spinning, but the past 3 weeks have been a great success. Plus I got great yarn out of it. Another Successful Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

I started Tour de Fleece this summer after a long spinning drought. I had set up my wheel and cleaned it, but never picked out anything to spin. Something else always came up. The daily spinning challenge that is Tour de Fleece turned out to be just what I needed to get moving again. I’ve spun for the Tour every year since 2012 and I wasn’t going to skip this one. Three weeks later I’d spun a pound of fiber into 3 skeins of yarn - with leftover minis - and drafted the plies for 5 more skeins. I won’t have a tallied yardage count until after the plying is done, but I’ve got at least 500 yards. Might even have another 500 by the time I’m done.

I picked three projects to spin. A set of mini batts, 2 matching skeins of sock yarn, and an ombre bundle. I didn’t spin every riding day of the Tour, but I finished everything except for plying the bundle. And here I thought I was going to have to pull more stuff out of the stash. Even though I didn’t finish everything on my list, I’m calling Tour de Fleece a success simply because it got me spinning again. The dry spell is over and I’m ready for making yarn to be a regular part of routine again. 

I didn’t finish all of Tour de Fleece spinning, but the past 3 weeks have been a great success. Plus I got great yarn out of it. Another Successful Tour de Fleece | withwool.com

First up is finishing the ombre bundle from Greenwood Fiberworks. When I bought the kit, I thought I’d make one long striped single. Instead, I’m making my own mini-skein kit. I love the colors and will get exactly the kind of yarn I want. I’m aiming for a fingering to sport weight 2-ply and enough yardage to make an extra long stocking cap. Let the winding and plying begin. Then it’ll be time to set the twist on all this yarn with one big washing party. 

Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn!

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

The last week and some change of my Tour de Fleece spinning finally moved to the next step over the weekend. I finished drafting all 6 sock yarn plies and rewound them onto storage bobbins so I could spin them from the same end. I only have 3 regular bobbins for my wheel which wasn’t enough to leave the plies as they were. Also, it was an attempt to hack my brain. If I stopped midway to ply the first skein, I knew it’d be harder for me to sit down and spin the remaining 3 plies I needed. Assembly lining the process definitely kept the motivation going. 

A video posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

I made the last minute decision before drafting the 3rd ply that I wanted to go for an opposing ply construction, 1 ply going in the ply twist direction. The general thought is that this construction makes for a more durable yarn. I haven’t conducted my own tests on the matter though. I’ve spun sock yarn with this construction before and I don’t remember plying being this aggravating. Should have taken better notes. Anyway, I started plying the first skein and it didn’t go well from the first yard. Because one ply shares the plying twist direction, it was hard to tension all the plies equally. It looked like the 2 other plies were wrapping around the opposing ply instead of bonding together. Didn’t look like the most comfortable thing to walk around on. Plus, adding slack to a fine yarn with hard twist meant that I was constantly unkinking the yarn. Ugh. 

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

A photo posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

The second skein a little better since I knew what to expect. The second skein appears to be more evenly plied than the first too. I upped the tension on the lazy kate and made one other change which seemed to help. For the first skein, I plied with the yarn feeding through the left arm of the flyer. For the second, it fed the right side which is the default arm I use. Note: I also drafted the opposing plies on the left flyer arm. I’m not exactly sure why changing which arm of the flyer I used would affect the twist, but I have a guess. Plying on the right arm changed how the yarn fed onto the bobbin and resulted in less twist. Therefore, the opposing ply was able to better meld with it’s companions. I have no idea if this is true, which means I’ll be experimenting to test this hypothesis in the future.

I have one tip for spinning opposing ply yarns which I’ll definitely be using next time around. Spin the opposing ply with less twist than the other plies. When it comes time to ply, the plying twist will give it the remaining twist without creating hard wire. 

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

So, how did the yarn turn out? Well, it’s definitely wild and not quite what I was I was expecting. That’ll teach me not to sample first. Maybe… I was aiming for 700 yds of fingering weight yarn. Some sections are fingering but there’s more heavy fingering and sport weight though. I haven’t set the twist yet either so there’s a good chance this yarn will bulk up a lot in the bath. At least the ~330 yards I have are enough to knit socks for size US 14 feet.  

I was also trying for a striped yarn. The parts of the beginning of the skeins definitely are, but there’s more marl than stripes. Oh well. I knew going into this that trying to line up the colors on 3 different plies was going to be a hassle. At least both skeins match so I got that part right. 

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

There was a good chunk of extra yardage with the same twist leftover that I ended up chain-plying. It’s 52 yards of gorgeous. Kinda wish that the rest of the yarn looked more like it. Next time. 

Tour de Fleece 2016: Sock Yarn Challenge

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge.   |   withwool.com

It’s the second week of Tour de Fleece and I’ve spun a lot of yarn. Definitely far more than I expected to for this point in the tour. In the first 5 days, I drafted, plied, and skeined 200+ yards of bright colorful goodness. I’ve haven’t stepped away from the wheel since I’ve also been spinning the 6 plies I need to make 2 matching skeins of sock yarn. I am so glad I did all the prep work for this handspun before the Tour. It’s made the whole process go so much faster. Here’s how that went. 

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge.   |   withwool.com

I was checking out the local yarn shops in town and found these blue, tan, brown, and white beauties. The mystery wool isn’t the softest stuff, but it would make a good durable yarn if spun the right way. The Bearded One liked the colors so I picked up 8 ounces to make him sock yarn. 8 ounces is probably overkill, but 4 certainly wasn’t going to be enough either. Spinning 2 skeins of matching sock yarn seemed like a good challenge for Tour de Fleece so I pulled the fiber when it came time to prep. 

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge.   |   withwool.com

I was rather surprised when I opened up the braids to find finger-sized top instead of the regular bundle. I love spinning pencil roving, which has a similar diameter, so this was pretty awesome. After a little trial and error, I found the color repeat and laid out both braids the same way. The top was dyed in just such a way that I could evenly split it up for 6 plies without breaking the color sequence. Perfect. The repeats aren’t a 100% match, but they’re close enough to work. 

A little digging - thank you, internet - told me that I’ve got Northern Lights Top from Louet. Northern Lights has been on my “spin it” list for a while so this is all a happy coincidence. 

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge.   |   withwool.com

Next came the hard part, storing the top so that I spin it all in the same direction. Don’t want to mess up the colors after all. My plan was to spin a yarn that striped when the colors matched. I’m not trying to make the colors line up perfectly, just make sure that they end up in about the same place. A little blending is A-OK. I pulled my never before used storage bobbins out and wound all the top on them in the same color direction. Then I kept the original braids together by stringing the bobbins on the cables from my interchangeable knitting needles. When it came time to spin, all I had to do was grab a bobbin and get going. 

Prepping fiber to spin matching skeins of sock yarn for the Tour de Fleece 2016 challenge.   |   withwool.com

A photo posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

The spinning has been pretty easy and really fast too. When I made sock yarn during Tour de Fleece 2015, each ply took me 3 days to finish. Now I’m knocking them out in a few hours over the course of a day. Woo! Opting for the opposing ply construction again - where 1 ply is spun in the same direction as the plying twist. I finished the plies for the first skein on the 7th, and I’m so close to finishing the last ply today.  

A photo posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

There’s one more step before I start plying. I’m rewinding the plies onto storage bobbins for two reasons. One, I don’t have enough bobbins for my wheel to spin 6 different plies at once. Two, I’m hoping that by plying from the same end of the yarn as I started, that the colors will match up better. Let’s see if I’m right. 

Sampling Perendale Wool

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The planets aligned a few weeks ago and I won something through a Twitter giveaway. I never expect to win anything through online contests. Usually, I’ll leave a comment or retreat and promptly forget about the whole thing. So, on the rare occasion I actually win, it’s a nice surprise. The something I won this time was a half pound of Perendale wool fiber from Louet in celebration of their new website. 

The fluffy bundle arrived last week and I pulled off a little bit to sample since I’ve never spun Perendale. The top is think, fluffy, and definitely smells of sheep. The scent isn’t overwhelming but noticeable compared to a more processed fiber. There’s a few bits of vegetable matter but, on the whole, the top is very clean. While the Perendale isn’t Merino soft, it isn’t scratchy either. It’d make a good pair of mitts or a hat.

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On a folded up piece of paper was information about the farm and location where the lovely sheep who grew the wool live. It’s a nice touch and I’m glad to know a bit more about where the wool came from. Info about the staple length, color, and style was included as well. 

Knowing the staple length, 3-5”, made it much easier start spinning up a sample single. Drafting was a lot easier too once I reminded myself to keep my hands further apart. Overall, Perendale is pretty easy to spin and I’m looking forward to plying the single. As for the remainder of the 8 oz, well, I have a grand plan. There’s a spinning wheel in my not-too-distant future and I’m going to use the Perendale to learn how to use it.

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Recently...

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Over the past 2 weeks or so, I've been spending a fair amount of time with my new spindle, a 3" and 2.2 oz Schacht Hi-Lo. It's so much better than my old spindle and I'm really enjoying it. So far, my forays into spinning have included lots of youtube videos and two awesome books: Spinning in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont. Both cover spindle spinning and, while there is a bit of overlap, come at the subject from very different directions. I've been reading and referring to both of them a lot in the past few weeks and they've been very helpful.

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In Respect the Spindle, one of the tips, when trying to learn how to use a spindle, is to spend 15-30 minutes a day spinning. I've managed to stick with it pretty well and, at this point, I've spun about 140 yards. Most of it has been thick and thin singles which I'm totally in love with and completely in awe of. It's hard for me to believe that I made this awesome, mostly cushy stuff.  It's even usable and I've been racking my brain trying to come up with a way to use it. Especially that brown skein. It's 54 yards of awesome.

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All this this practice spinning seems to working. My hands are better at drafting the fiber and my singles are much more consistent. I'm even moving beyond "park and draft" if only for a few seconds at a time. I can't wait to see how this will progress over the next 2 weeks.