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. 

Spinning Yarn With Sweaty Hands

There’s no way to say this without relying on a host of cliches, so I’m just going to come out and say it. My hands sweat. Sometimes a lot which makes it hard to do things without messing them up. Half the time I’m writing with a napkin under my hand to keep my notebook from turning into a soggy mess. Damp hands make knitting almost impossible without a fan. Spinning yarn, especially drafting singles, isn’t much easier, but I have stumbled upon a helpful trick to keep the working end of roving/top from turning into a mangled clump. 

Instead of holding the roving in my hand, I drape it across my fingers and palm. The tail of the roving is held between the bottom edge of my hand and my thigh. Since the bottom of my fiber supply hand is securing the fiber, those fingers don’t have to do anything. When I do have to use my thumb, it is inches away from the tip. Only the hand I’m using to draft touches the working end of the roving which keeps the fibers aligned in one direction. Holding the fiber this way still gives me plenty of to work with and keeps me from unconsciously putting a death grip on my roving.

Since the fiber supply hand doesn’t move at all, this tip won’t help if drafting backwards or long-draw. So, stick with drafting styles that favor the forward hand. Also don’t forget the fan and a cold drink.