The Spindle And The Wheel

Sunday, I was cleaning up all the browser tabs I’d left open from the past week. Most of them were longer articles I wanted to read, not skim, and videos that actually seemed worth watching. One of those unwatched videos was a 10 minute talk by Clive Thompson, The Pencil and the Keyboard: How The Way You Write Changes The Way You Think. He details the differences in how handwriting and typing affect your brain and why each is suited to different tasks, say note taking vs writing an article. It’s worth a watch. Near the end of the speech, around 9:25, Thompson says, “There was no individual tool that is perfect for any situation. What we really need is a lot of different cognitive tools in our tool kit. We need to be able to move back and forth between one mode to another…”

A week before watching said video, I felt the urge to spin. Not on my wheel, but on my turkish spindle which is a bit of a change. Since I got the Sidekick in September 2013, I have spun zilch on any of my spindles. Zero, nada, zip. Why the sudden change of heart? One of my spoils from Stitches West was 0.7 ounces of roving from Wonderland Dyeworks. The fiber was soft with beautiful color, and I wanted to enjoy spinning it for more than an a tv episode. So, out came the spindle instead of the wheel. This afternoon, I finally finished the single. Tomorrow, I’m plying back on itself with a spindle of course.

Looking at this single after taking such a long break from spindle spinning, I am very sure of one thing: the yarn I make with a spindle is entirely different from the yarn I make on a wheel. My spindle spun yarns are much the same, smooth and shiny, while my wheel-spun yarns are hairier and lacking the same luster. This all comes down to drafting. The only drafting method I’ve used with the spindle is the inch-worm forward draft because it’s only one that kept the spindle in the air. It isn’t called a drop spindle for nothing. The wheel let me try other drafting methods until I settled on a hybrid long-draw as my default. Just like in writing, in spinning there is “no individual tool that is perfect for any situation.” Sure, the wheel allows me to spin lots of different yarns - bulky or fingering, dense or airy, smooth or haloed - but I haven’t been able to replicate the yarn I spindle spin. To be fair, this is probably more my doing than the wheel’s. 

The reactions I get from both tools are fundamentally different. When working with a spindle, there’s an immediate knowledge of whether or not there’s enough twist. With the suspended spindle, either the single holds together or the fibers pull apart and the spindle hits the floor. There’s not much warning. Sometimes though, as the fibers slip, enough twist builds up in the thinned section to keep the spindle in the air. I’ll take it. Spinning at a wheel, the single is pulled away from me instead of towards my feet which makes the question of twist a little harder to answer. I’ve spun plenty of yardage that had enough twist to make it onto the bobbin but too little to actually hold together. Some of my most frustrating spinning moments have been pulling a single off the bobbin only to have it to fall apart over and over again as I’m feeding it though the orifice.

I once read a blog comment but where writer said they couldn’t wait to upgrade to a wheel from a spindle so that they could be a “real” spinner. With all the tutorials and articles focusing on wheels over spindles, I can understand where they’re coming from. Still, don’t discount the spindle. It’s been a valid tool for millennia, and it’s not going away any time soon. Just like the pencil and the keyboard are suited to different tasks, so are the spindle and the wheel. Being able to use move between them and use both, will allow us to do so much more than we could with just one.  

5 Training Tips for Tour de Fleece

Spinning along with Tour de Fleece? Here are 5 tips to help get you started. | withwool.com

It’s almost time for Tour de Fleece which runs alongside the Tour de France. Starting July 5, there will be 3 weeks of spinning, watching the Tour de France, and more spinning. 2014 will be my third time take part. For my first Tour in 2012, I spun with a spindle and turned 18.9 ounces of wool into 5 skeins and 1,040 yards. I wasn’t as prolific in 2013 when I only spun 1 skein but it was 512 yards. I’m looking forward to this year since it’ll be the first Tour I’ll be spinning on my trusty sidekick. With a wheel, I’m hoping to leave my previous numbers in the dust and put a serious dent in my fiber stash. Also on the list is learning new yarn constructions and spinning new fibers. But first, there must be prep and training to make the most of and, more importantly, enjoy the Tour. So, a few tips for training before the Tour officially kicks off on July 5th:

Spinning along with Tour de Fleece? Here are 5 tips to help get you started. | withwool.com

Make a game plan. What are you going to spin? A sweater’s worth of wool? All those one off bumps of indie-dyed fiber? Do you want to learn a new technique? Try a new yarn construction? Spin a different fiber like silk or linen? Spin sock yarn or yarn for a specific project? If you’re spinning a sweater’s worth, sample the fiber and knit a swatch to make sure the final yarn matches the project. Also a good time to find out if you like spinning the yarn before devoting 3 weeks to it. 

Prep your fiber. If you’re spinning for a large project, split the fiber into manageable chunks, 1 oz or smaller. Take a break after spinning each ounce and your wrists will thank you. Plus, plying singles spun at the beginning with singles spun at the end will create a more consistent yarn.

Spindle or wheel, clean your gear. Spinning wheels need a good cleaning on a regular basis and prepping for Tour de Fleece is the perfect time. Give the wheel a good dusting and a little wax to keep the wood happy. Oil moving parts as necessary. This also a good time to inspect the wheel for any damage or replace loose drive bands and stretched out springs. If you need help, check out these links on wheel maintenance. As simple as spindles are, they need care and wood wax too. Now is also a good time to readjust bent hooks. 

Empty those bobbins. Or in the case of spindles, those straws and chopsticks. The more empty bobbins you have, the longer and more you can spin before you need to ply.

Find your team. I'm not saying that you have to sign up for any specific team to spin with. Just find a place where you feel comfortable sharing your progress, getting a pat on the back, and asking for help. Could be the Tour de Fleece group on Ravelry or Instagram or your own blog.

Spinning along with Tour de Fleece? Here are 5 tips to help get you started. | withwool.com

Wander the Web 38

The first single from April's Spun Right Round Fiber Club. 

The first single from April's Spun Right Round Fiber Club. 

Inspiring, fun, thought-provoking, and crafty links because there’s more to the internet than knitting and spinning. 

I’ve always wondered how people wind such beautiful and orderly spindle cops

Check out this beautiful spiral staircase

What Really Happens When You Start Over

About DIY Projects

Love these Retro Tech Lego Kits, especially the old school computers.

A Puppeteer’s Advice from Jim Henson

Bradley Hart’s Bubble Wrap Paintings

Spinning Blues

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Thanks to birthday gifts and great sales, I’ve been expanding my spinning library. The most recent additions are The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson and Spin Art by Jacey Boggs. Both books are wonderful, inspiring resources and I’m reading them cover to cover. My fingers have been twitching to start spinning but I’ve kept reading on for more info.

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It was until last Friday I realized that I haven’t spun in weeks! My most recent project was half of the pencil roving I bought during Tour de Fleece. What’s the hold up? The roving was turning my spindle and hands blue. After I cleaned the spindle, posted a tutorial about it,  and the dye finally faded from my hands, I wanted to find a way to protect the spindle from more dye. I thought I had found a solution in a hardy strip of paper. Friday, before the arms went on my favorite turkish spindle, I wrapped the shaft completely with a piece of heavy paper. I could finally spin again and finish this yarn.  The problem was that every time I set the spindle turning, I was slowly unwrapping the paper. Not even tape held it in place. Eventually, I ripped off the paper and wound another strip in the opposite direction. That strip wouldn’t stay in place either. Completely fed up with the whole attempt, I ripped the paper off and just kept spinning.

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My fingers and spindle are blue again but the spinning is easy and it isn’t as hard to draft a heavier single the second time around. I’m pretty sure using paper to protect a spindle can work but not for bottom whorl or turkish spindles. The method would probably be best for top whorl spindles if you left enough of the shaft unwrapped; there would be room to flick the spindle without touching the paper and releasing the wrap. 

Well, my first idea for protecting my spindle from extra dye didn’t work. The second attempt might involve latex gloves. Any suggestions or ideas to save my spindle and hands from unset dye?

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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Winter Pinoak Reveal

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I finished this skein of handspun several months ago and I’m finally getting around to showing it off. I spun it before I got married and before I moved cross-country. I only finished spinning it in March 2013 but this yarn already seems like a relic of a different age. Maybe it is.

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Whatever time this yarn marks in my life, it was the first handspun that I wanted to knit as soon as it was off the spindle. I even wound it by hand while traveling over bumpy roads during the move. It was going to be road trip knitting and the first yarn I worked with after weeks and weeks without knitting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find just the right pattern and I still haven’t. Will the yarn turn into a Trillian? Or a Freesia? I just don’t know. The handspun is waiting patiently for me to decide. For now.

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The Specs:

462 yds of fingering/sport weight yarn

4 oz of Bluefaced Leicester 

Dyed by Yarn Geek Fibers 

Colorway: Winter Pinoak

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How To Ply Leftover Singles

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 In a perfect world, we would spin singles with equal yardage and have none left over after plying. I’ve heard tales of this happening to a few lucky individuals but, for the rest of us, there’s going to be extra. Those last few, or not so few, yards sit on bobbins or spindles or straws or chopsticks while we forget about them completely for the next project. That is until we need that spindle or ran out of straws for extra yarn. I know that I have plenty of un-plied singles from when I first started spinning and had no idea what to do with the extra. My last few spinning projects have also left me with leftovers and I’m tired of them taking up space in my spinning box. The remaining yardage can easily be turned into a 2-ply yarn since the hard work of drafting is already done. 

The leftover single can have a lot more yardage than you think. A plied mini-skein can give you a little breathing room on the final rows of a project or be enough to knit a small trinket - like a Christmas ornament or bookmark. Plus, the mini skeins are cute and perfect for petting on a stressful day.

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Wind the yarn off the spindle (or bobbin or straw) into a center pull ball. You can use a ball-winder, a nostepinne, or your hand. Just go slowly or risk snapping more delicate singles.

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Once wound, pull out the end from the center and the outside. Tie them together in a knot and you’re ready to start plying with a spindle or a wheel.

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The ends will pull out smoothly in the beginning but, as more of the singles move to the spindle, the ball will start to collapse. Go slowly and keep an eye out for potential tangles.

  

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Let the fresh yarn rest for 24 hours before picking something small to skein up the yarn before dunking it in a bath. I used two small lamps and a book for a third un-pictured, mini skein.

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Finally plied and finished, the yellow skein has 13 yds and the blue has 29 yds. I haven’t quite figured out what I’ll do with these skeins but, in the meantime, they’ll look cute on my desk.

How to Clean Dye Off Spindles

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Dye bleeds. It’ll cover your hands, your clothes, and perfectly innocent yarn. Not even spindles are immune. The pencil roving I started spinning last week has been great to spin except for the fact that it’s been turning my hands and favorite spindle blue. Once the first single was finished, I finally had the chance to take my spindle apart and see how drastic the color change had been.

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Blue, very blue. My blue “Smurf” fingers clued me in that the change would be severe but it was still disappointing to see the difference. It’s pretty, I’ll admit that, but the shaft is not the amazing amber color that it was when I first received the spindle as a gift a year ago. I’d rather have the amber back and, if fiber has turned your spindle an unwelcome color, you probably want it looking like its original self too. Plus, I want to get rid of any dye that might rub off on future projects. Here’s how I removed the extra dye.

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Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap to the rescue. I keep Dr. Bronner’s around because it’s a gentle, mild soap that can still get the job done. Plus, you can use it for cleaning just about anything.

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Wet a paper towel and squeeze out the excess water. Add a few drops of soap and start rubbing the stains. If the dying was recent, you should see a difference right away. Switch to a clean, damp cloth or paper towel to remove the soap. Pat dry.

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 The shaft still has a blue tint along with a few blue spots where the dye got into the grain but the spindle is much closer to its original color. Now I just need to find a way to keep the roving from turning the wood blue again. 

What's up, pencil roving?

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Tour de Fleece may be over for the year and I’ve finished the Tour’s spinning but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving my goals behind. I’m spinning most everyday and I’m working up to spinning in public again. I’m still eager to try new things too. The closest, new thing at hand was the pencil roving I bought during the Tour. Time to satisfy my curiosity.

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Once I got the label off, the roving was packaged just like a skein of yarn unlike other bumps of roving that come braided or chained. There’s no need to put it on a swift before it can be used though.

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Looking closer, the roving is actually 2 smaller strands that were easily pulled apart. I’m not sure if this is how all pencil roving is packaged or something unique to Pagewood Farms but I like it. The strands were obviously dyed together and have the same color variations. Being able to easily split the strand in half makes it easier to spin color matching singles. This hank is a semi-solid blue so being able to spin matching singles doesn’t matter much but it would be a big help with a more variegated hank. Having 2 strands is also less work too since I don’t have to figure out where to split the fiber in half. 

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Separating the two strands seemed like the right thing to do, so I got right to work. Then I wound the strands into cakes for easy access during spinning and for pre-spinning storage.

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I’ve often read that pencil roving is great for beginners since the fibers all run in the same direction and there’s not a lot of excess fiber to worry with. These reasons make pencil roving easy to draft for the beginner and advanced spinner alike. I’ve only spun a bit over an ounce of the stuff so far, but my experience is that both of these things are true. The spinning it is quite easy and I’d recommend it if you’re still trying to teach your hands how to draft. Muscle memory is such a large part of spinning that can easily be overlooked in the beginning for the theory of adding twist to fiber. Making yarn is a physical process that uses your hands but also entire body. You must train yourself well.

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I’m taking advantage of pencil roving’s qualities to spin a heavier yarn. After spinning so much fingering weight, I want to make sure I can still spin a worsted weight or thicker yarn. It was a bit of struggle to get my fingers to relax and not keep such a death grip on the fiber. The beginning of the single is pretty fine but has gotten thicker over the following yards. Only the plied yarn will tell, but it seems like I can still spin a worsted weight yarn. If only my fingers weren’t turning blue in the process.

Finished Fractal

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My Tour de Fleece yarn is finally finished. Only took 1 extra week, 2 skeining attempts, 2 washes, and 3 days of drying time. Seems like I could have saved a few days if I’d had the patience to re-skein the yarn correctly the first time around. To reiterate, bicycle handbars are not the best option for skeining yarn. Over turned laundry baskets, on the other hand, do a decent job.

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All that extra time working with the yarn did have some benefits though. Not only is the yarn well blocked and balanced, I really want to knit it. NOW. Usually, my handspun likes to marinate in the stash for a bit since I don’t spin with an eventual project in mind. The yarn, itself, is the project. If I want to spin a fingering weight yarn, I spin a fingering weight yarn. That’s all there is to it. Any potential pattern comes much later. With this yarn, I just wanted to try my hand at fractal spinning for Tour de Fleece. Spending double the time finishing the yarn, let me better appreciate the final yarn and absolutely fall in love with the colors. Sometimes the colors stripe, sometimes they barber pole, and sometimes they create an amazing gradient. Knitting this skein up is the only way left for me to truly appreciate it. 

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 What was it like spinning a fractal yarn? No different than spinning any other yarn. Certainly nothing to be afraid of. The hard part is finding a bump of fiber dyed just the right way. Splitting it and spinning it are the easy parts. Just remember that you might have to pre-draft the undivided half of the fiber to get a matching single for the divided half. 

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The Finished Specs

Fingering Weight Yarn with 18 - 22 Wraps per Inch

512 yards

4 oz of Bluefaced Leicester 

Dyed by Yarn Geek Fibers

Colorway: Big Yellow Taxi

512 yards is a lot to work with and I really don’t want to split it up in a bunch of smaller project. Shawl, it is then.

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How to Not Skein Yarn

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Desperate times came for desperate measures, my friends. There I was with my finally plied Tour de Fleece yarn ready and waiting for its bath. Unfortunately, my swift didn’t make into the car for the cross country trip (too big) and  my niddy-noddy, which I meant to bring, didn’t either. Both might as well be in another dimension right now. With my swift I could have easily wound it up in a skein, see this tutorial. Same with the niddy-noddy. So, I went looking for alternatives.

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Say hello to Allie, my new bike. The handlebars seemed like the perfect thing to wrap fresh yarn around. Alas, this was not the case though that wasn’t apparent until much later.

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I put the spindle into the front basket for easy yarn dispersal and got to work. It didn’t take me too long to empty the spindle and tie off the skein. 

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Now that it was time to take the yarn off the handlebars, things went south. See, the handlebars don’t go straight back but angle to the side . I had hoped that if I wound loosely, getting the skein off the handles would be pretty easy. Nope. I had to slide the skein off a few too tight strands at a time.  Nothing snapped, thankfully. Just for good measure, add in a few too long stands that accidentally got wrapped around the break grip too. The skein was a mess.

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A more patient person would have re-skeined the yarn around something else but I was not feeling particularly patient. There was yarn to wash! and, adding insult to injury, I had to first wash dishes to free up the sink. I had no patience to spare after doing the dishes. So, the yarn got its bath and I got the pleasure of thwacking it afterward. 

Now that the yarn is dry, I’m not sure I did the right thing. The accidentally too long strands are still kinked and curling on themselves. Looks like the yarn wasn’t properly finished the whole skein through. At least I know I managed to spin a nice fingering weight, which was my goal, instead of a lace weight. With today’s bolstered patience reserves, I’m going to re-skein the yarn but not around the bike’s handlebars. I’m going to do what I should have done yesterday and wrap the yarn around an upturned laundry basket.  Wish me luck.

 

Tips for Spinning Yarn on the Beach

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One of my goals for Tour de Fleece was spinning in public. I knit in public all the time but hadn’t worked up the courage to spin in public until last week. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d actually do it which is what finally made me suck it up and get it over with. If I was going to spin beyond my front door, I was going to enjoy my surroundings. So, spindle in hand, I headed to the beach. There was all the sun, sand, and waves that I enjoyed on my daily walks. A spot was found and the only thing left to do was actually spin. I started spinning reluctantly but lost any thought of nervousness once I found my rhythm. People stared but it wasn’t the end of the world. It was actually pretty nice and I’m looking forward to spinning on the beach (and in public) again. If you want to try spinning on the beach too, here are a few things I learned:   

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  1. Sand is everywhere, so bring a towel. It’s the beach and sand will end up in places you didn’t know existed. A big, oversized towel will provide some (relatively) sand free space to spin. If the spindle drops, the towel will be there to catch it and spare your yarn from the sand.
  2. Use the wind to your advantage. Part of the reason to visit the beach is to enjoy the sea air. Make it work for you. Stand at an angle that will keep your fiber or singles blowing away from you and your work. Not having to hold your fiber out of the way might make drafting easier too. 
  3. Use the sky and the sand! The sky and the sand are great, uninterrupted backdrops to inspect your spinning. Analyze your plying or just admire your handiwork.
  4. Mind the tide. Waves are great to listen to but they like to travel. If you start spinning near the waves at low tide, they could be at your feet before you know it. Don’t forget about the spray either. Wet wool is hard to work with.
  5. Be prepared for stares. Yes, stares. Seeing someone zoned out with their phone is far more common than seeing someone spin yarn. It’s only natural that people will be curious. Don’t get nervous. Instead, smile and maybe even say hello. 

As always, bring along all the regular beach necessities; like sunscreen, a hat, and a snack, too. Spinning is fun but sunburn is not.

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Tour de Fleece Complete

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 Tour de Fleece is over and done for another year but I don’t have any finished yarn to show for it; however, I do have some lovely, almost yarn. Half of it is plied on the spindle and the other half is still wrapped up in a plying ball. All of that last minute plying just wasn’t enough. 

Despite my lack of finished yarn, Tour de Fleece 2013 was a big success. Thankfully, I skipped any yardage requirements and stuck with 3 simple things: spin everyday, practice new techniques, and spin in public. I thought spinning everyday would be the easy goal but I didn’t manage it this year. Still, spinning almost everyday got me a lot of proto-yarn. As for practicing new techniques, I just stuck with one and tried out fractal spinning. I’ve never attempted to spin yarn or affect color this way before. We’ll see if I pulled it off once I actually finish the yarn and knit it. I also bought pencil roving which I’ve never spun before. Totally counts towards practicing a new technique.

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The one goal I made, that I was 90% sure wouldn’t happen, was spinning in public. I’ve spun at knit night before and at fiber guild meetings but none of that counts. All of those people understand the attraction of yarn. Out in the knitter sparse public, who knew what the reaction would be. Last Friday, I sucked up my potential embarrassment, packed a towel, and headed to the beach with my spindle. I enjoyed the sun and the sound of the waves. I got quite a bit of plying done and got quite a few stares too. Once I found the rhythm of spinning, I was too relaxed to be embarrassed. If anything, people were embarrassed when I noticed them staring at me. Who knew? One man stopped fishing to watch but quickly went back to the fish when I looked in his direction. At least no one came up to me and commented that spinning was a “dying art”.

How did your Tour de Fleece go? Meet all of your challenges are you still plying, like me?

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Just Plying Along

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There are 3 more days of Tour de Fleece and I’m just started plying. It’s highly improbable that I’ll have a finished skein by Sunday night but I’m going to try anyway. If only the yarn would expertly ply itself while I’m asleep. 

To make the whole plying process run a lot smoother, I’m falling back on my favorite technique, the plying ball. It does take longer to start since you have to wind the singles together around a core but it’s worth it. A plying ball is portable, doesn’t require a Lazy Kate, and makes tensioning the singles during plying so much easier. Plying balls also give you one last chance to fix any breaks or weak spots before they snap during plying. One extra, added bonus is that you get to see how all the colors line up which is great if you’re spinning a fractal yarn, like I am. For more info on how to actually wind a plying ball, check out this tutorial.

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All wound and ready to ply! My attempt at dividing the fiber for fractal colors seems to have worked. I was also exceedingly happy to see that one single wasn’t much longer than the other. It’s the small things in life. 

I’m a few yards into plying and seeing the colors change as they move through my fingers is wonderful. When I first picked out this fiber and my lightest spindle, I was aiming for a fingering weight yarn but, so far, it looks more like a lace weight. Maybe a bath and a good thwacking will bulk it up a bit. If not, that’ll teach me not to spin samples first.

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Still Spinning Along With Tour de Fleece

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Somehow, I was under the impression that Tour de Fleece is a lot longer that 3 weeks. I read the dates and wrote them down but my mind kept telling me that I had months and months to spin. I had this same mistaken thought last year too. So, I let myself be distracted by Steam Summer Sales, new video games, and long walks on the beach. So much for my goal of spinning everyday of the Tour. Well, Tour de Fleece ends this Sunday and I’m still spinning the second single. It is for a fingering weight yarn, in my defense, but I’m still got to get my butt spinning, spinning, spinning.

Spinning the second ply for a fractal spun yarn turned out to a bit harder than I thought. I spun the first ply from all the small divided chunks of fiber. My hands adjusted to all that thin fluff and switching to the bulkier, undivided roving threw my hands for a loop. It was hard to spin a matching, consistent single to match the first. My spindle kept dropping and my frustration kept rising.

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The only solution was to break down and predraft, aka thinning without adding twist to, the roving. When I first taught myself to spin, I always predrafted the fibers. Once my hands learned the motions of drafting and I could keep up with the spindle, I didn’t have to predraft before spinning anymore. Not predrafting became a source of pride. I thought that if I had to predraft fiber that I was taking a step backward and would lose all my spinning cred. The truth is that predrafting is just another technique in the spinner’s tool box. Sometimes you’ll need it and sometimes you won’t. When you’re first learning to spin, predrafting can be be a huge help but it isn’t strictly necessary. Using it later down the road to create consistent, matching singles won’t get your spinner’s license revoked. Just like there’s no knitting police, there’s no spinning police either. Do what works for you and the yarn you’re creating.

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There are just 5 days left in the tour and I’m going to make the most of them. I’m going to finish the second single today and then there will be ALL the plying. It’s definitely a race to the finish. How’s your Tour spinning along?

 

A Fractal Tour de Fleece

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Tour de Fleece spinning continues with one single down and one to go for my first skein of fractal yarn. I’m pleasantly surprised that it’s only taken me just over a week to spin 2 oz of what’s essentially a lace weight single. Let’s hear it for daily progress and getting stuff done! I hope I can keep up the pace since Tour de Fleece waits for no one. Part of what made the spinning go so quickly was because there where 3 little chunks of fluffy goodness to work with. I’d finish spinning one section, feel accomplished, and be raring to go with the next one. Seeing the beautiful colors rush through my fingers didn’t hurt either.

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Turns out that the hard part of Fractal Spinning is all at the front before you actually start turning wool into yarn. It’s in picking out the batt or top or roving with the colors arranged just so.  It’s in splitting the fiber evenly to get the best color repetition. It’s in rolling all the split fiber to start at the same color or end.  Once you begin spinning, it’s just like spinning any other 2-ply yarn. Nothing scary about that. Makes it easy to focus, find a rhythm and, maybe, zone out a little too. Might even be easy enough for me to go spinning in public. Let’s see if I don’t wuss out on that goal this year.

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Tour de Fleece 2013

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Tour de Fleece has officially begun! How’s your Tour going? I got a late start on Day 2 and was finally able to prep my fiber and get to the business of spinning. Today, Day 3, I’m just enjoying the process and putting a few more yards on my spindle between mundane tasks. Washing all those dirty dishes  really cuts into my spinning time. 

I’m keeping my goals short and simple this year. 

Spin everyday.

Spin in public. 

Practice new techniques.

Spinning everyday should be easy as long as I don’t have to spend another day acquiring and assembling furniture. Spinning in public will be something completely new and strange for me but doable. Learning and practicing new techniques is something I try to do all the time and have a long list of things to pull from.

 

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Near the top of spinning techniques list is Fractal Spinning which I’ve wanted to try since I first read about it. Fractal spinning is a way of dividing fiber to spin for self repeating colors. Knitty published a helpful article on the process in their Winter 2011 issue. Whenever I open up a bump of fiber, I check to see if the colors were well arranged for fractal spinning. This happy bump of yellow, grey and white fiber from Yarn Geek Fibers was the first to really fit the bill.

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I spit the fiber lengthwise in half and then split one half lengthwise three more times. The smaller strips are working their way onto my spindle first. Since I’m aiming for a fingering or sport weight yarn, this is probably going to probably going to take me the entire Tour to spin. Such a difference from last year and its 5 finished skeins!

We’re just 3 days into 3 weeks of Tour de Fleece and there’s lots of yarn to spin. I wish you the best of luck!

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Ready for Tour de Fleece 2013?

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Tour de Fleece is a fun and ever growing spin-along that runs every year alongside the Tour de France. Doesn’t matter if you’re new to spinning or have miles of your own handspun stashed away, you can participate. You could even use the Tour de Fleece as a reason to learn how to spin yarn if you’ve been too afraid to start. Both Tours start tomorrow, June 29, and finish on July 21. The guidelines are simple. Every day that the tour rides, spin yarn. When the cyclists rest, take a break too. Most importantly, challenge yourself. Don’t be afraid to ride right out of your comfort zone. 

One of the great things about Tour de Fleece is that you don’t have to go it alone. You can join a team and show off your successes as well as ask for help. There are tons of groups and teams on Ravelry and elsewhere dedicated to Tour de Fleece. The main Ravelry group is Tour de Fleece which is very active with over 6,000 members. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have a wheel. Spindles are wonderful, productive tools in their own right. I’ll be using them to spin all of my yarn again this year. 

I still haven’t picked my spinning goals for this year’s Tour but there’s still one more night to decide. Should be just enough time, right? Are you participating? What are your goals for this year?

Spinning Winter Pinoak

Winter Pinoak on BFL by Yarn Geek Fibers

Winter Pinoak on BFL by Yarn Geek Fibers

I am a sucker for the color green. The socks I’m knitting on and off are green. My last batch of handspun was green. Last week, I bought green yarn. I have overloaded on green and need something to cleanse my palette. The only new project I’ve started - well, the only I can write about at the moment - is definitely not green. 

After finishing the last handspun, I was ready to start spinning again and picked something from the not green segment of the fiber stash. Didn’t take long to go through that scant selection and I should probably change that at some point. Careful deliberation led me to a lovely bump of fluff called Winter Pinoak from Yarn Geek Fibers. Winter Pinoak looks exactly like it sounds. There are blues, dark greys, brown, cream, and a wonderful bit of orange at the end. I can’t help but think of the orange as that one stubborn leaf that won’t fall off a tree even in the dead of winter. The orange is what first grabbed my attention in the Etsy photos and pulls all those cooler colors together. Plus, I was reminded of my alma mater's colors which didn’t hurt.

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Unchaining the roving didn’t make the fiber figuratively jump up and tell me what it wanted to be. That’s what usually happens so the fiber and I had to get to know each other a little better first. After looking at the colors and gauging the softness, I, or rather the fiber, decided it wanted to be a shawl. Quite possibly the Trillian Shawl too. Being the good fiber mama that I am, it was time to fulfill that wish.

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The fiber was split lengthwise down the middle so I could spin 2 singles to ply for a 2-ply yarn. There was a problem. The orange. It was all the way at the end and that just wouldn’t do. It could end up on a cast-on row. It could end up on the bind off row. It might not make the finished project at all. The orange is what I love about this bump and it deserved to be celebrated. So, I split the fiber at the midpoint and ended up with 4 happy coils.

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Finished spinning the first single on Wednesday. It started off blue and grey and ended with blue and cream. In the middle is this amazing section of red orange that I cannot wait to uncover in the plying. Instead of following the color progression as dyed, tearing the fiber in half let me put the orange right in the middle. It will be boltstered and framed by the cooler colors around it. At least, that’s what I hope happens. I also hope I’m up to the task of spinning 400 yards of fingering weight yarn. That may not happen but 300+ yards of sport weight is also a pretty great thing to get off the spindle too.

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Spinning Targhee

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I bought some hand dyed Targhee wool from SpunkyEclectic.com way back in January. Having never heard of the breed before it I saw it on the site, I was curious about how it would spin. The internet wasn’t very forth coming on the matter and I haven’t yet invested in a weighty tome about fiber type which meant that the best way to learn about Targhee wool would be to actually spin some. 

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For the learning process, I fell back to my default yarn, a woolen spun 2-ply. The only prep I had to do was to split the roving in half lengthwise. Then it was time to spin. The first single was a little wild and inconsistent because I had to get my spinning fingers back. The second single was much more consistent. Due to these differences, I made the executive decision to ply each single back on itself though that probably wasn’t necessary. In the end I came out with 2 wonderful skeins and about 300 yards.  

Now that I’ve spun up about 4 oz of Targhee wool, I can type that Targhee is some of my favorite wool to spin. Definitely top 5 along with Falkland, Corriedale, and Blue Faced Leicester. It was easy draft and has a wonderful, soft hand. The staple length was several inches long and easy to work with. Whether to the specific breed, woolen spin, or how I finished the twist, the finished yarn bloomed significantly. During spinning, the second single was between a fingering and sport weight. After finishing, the yarn bloomed up to mostly a heavy worsted and lengths of super bulky.  

Looks like a super fun yarn to knit and I can’t wait to actually knit with it though I have no idea what to knit with it. I do know it will be warm and cosy. 

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