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. 

 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

 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. 

 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

 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? 

 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? 

Free Pattern: Show Off Boomerang

Show Off Boomerang - A free pattern for that one special skein of yarn, handspun or hand dyed, that’s a show off all by itself. |   withwool.com

I finally finished a couple of long-term works in progress last week, and decided to reward myself by casting on for something new. The yarn I spun during this year’s Tour de Fleece has been taunting me, specifically a wild combination of dark grey merino and random mini batts. I may or may not have wound the yarn at 11 PM. Okay, I definitely wound the yarn that late. I stayed up watching movies and cast on for a beautiful shawl. Unfortunately, the yarn obscured the yarn overs, increases, and details that made the shawl what it is. Simple, reversible, garter stitch was the only option. 

Show Off Boomerang - A free pattern for that one special skein of yarn, handspun or hand dyed, that’s a show off all by itself. |   withwool.com

I love the look of asymmetrical triangle shawls. And I love the fact that I could knit every inch of that precious skein without worrying when to bind off. So, I experimented with and frogged a few different versions of bias knit boomerang shapes before I found one I liked. Then I made sure that all the action happened on one row of the pattern repeat for easy auto-pilot knitting.  

Thanks to plenty of down time, I knit the shawl in one day and blocked it the next. Blocking smoothed out the curves - the yarn had it’s thick and thin spots - and added a few more inches of depth. I’m so happy I didn’t let the yarn linger in the stash or try to force it into a complicated pattern. This shawl will be the perfect pop of color on a dreary winter day. 

Show Off Boomerang - A free pattern for that one special skein of yarn, handspun or hand dyed, that’s a show off all by itself. |   withwool.com

If you’ve got one precious skein of handspun or hand dyed indie goodness that wants to do it’s own thing, the Show Off Boomerang might be just the pattern you’re looking for. 

Size: Your Choice

Yarn & Needles: 200+ yards of any weight yarn and needles to match

Show Off Boomerang - A free pattern for that one special skein of yarn, handspun or hand dyed, that’s a show off all by itself. |   withwool.com

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. 

Off To The Races

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

Tour de Fleece kicked off 5 days ago and I’ve been at the wheel for every one of them. It’s been an absolute blast. I’ve gone stash diving, spun yarn that’s been on my list for way too long, and am pushing myself to become a better spinner. The Tour came along at the right time to be the perfect motivation I needed to get going again. It’s been months since I’ve spun anything at all, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until now. 

Since I’ve taken such a long break, I picked 3 projects I thought I could tackle in 3 weeks. The first is something that I’ve wanted to spin since last year, a 2-ply yarn barber pole yarn with one solid ply and one wild variegated ply. I bought a 2oz set of random mini-batts from PineRiverKnits last year just for this purpose. To go with it, I set aside an equal amount of Ashland Bay merino in logwood. Then I put it all together in a bag, and that was the prep.

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

I started spinning the batts right after breakfast on Saturday. I didn’t want to fuss over the color progression, so I grabbed batts without even looking at them. The bigger ones I split in half lengthwise and worked the smaller ones as they were. There was so much color bundled up in every one! All of them were so fun and so easy to spin that I was sad when they were gone. Then I wasted no time spinning up the grey ply. My hands still felt pretty good and a had a couple of hours to myself, so I started spinning the first sock yarn ply. That first day of the Tour was really productive.

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

I didn’t have quite the same output on Day 2, but there was still plenty of plying. I use a jumbo flyer and bobbin for plying because I can get 4+ ounces on it without a hassle.  The yarn was beautiful and plying was going really well until I started running out of grey. I started plying a little slower in hopes that the grey would last a little longer. I know it doesn’t work that way, but I couldn’t help myself. There was still half an ounce left of the batt ply when I finally used all the grey. I wanted as much yardage as possible out of this one skein so drastic measures were taken. 

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

Having 2 flyers for my wheel made this really easy. I took the jumbo flyer and the front maiden assembly off and replaced it the standard flyer and maiden. No cutting of yarn required. Then I spun another half ounce of grey and let the twist rest for a couple of hours. Once I switched out the flyers again, I was back to plying. There was still a little bit of the batt ply left, but I pliedit with itself. 

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

I am absolutely thrilled with this yarn. It’s lofty and cushy and soft. The colors are way outside of what I would usually pick for myself, but I love how they interact with the grey. The yarn is thick and thin, ranging from sport to bulky weight. I can’t get the idea of using it for a trianglar or crescent-shaped shawl out of my head because it seems like the best way to show off the colors. I’ve got about 206 yards to work with which is probably enough for a small shawlette. 

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

Now I’m putting all of my spinning time into this sock yarn. One ply left for the first skein and 3 to go for the next. Spinning these is going much faster than I expected. I might be spinning more than 3 projects after all. 

The first 5 days of Tour de Fleece have been a blast with 1 awesome skein of handspun yarn! Off To The Races | withwool.com

Getting Ready For Tour de Fleece 2016

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

It’s officially summer which means it’s almost time for Tour de Fleece, a spin-along that runs alongside the Tour de France. If I’m being honest, both summer and the Tour snuck up on me this year. How is almost July? I’m not complaining through since I love summer and a reason to spin for 3 weeks straight. Tour de Fleece starts on July 2 and runs through the 24th, same as the Tour de France. The only tour “guideline” that I abide by is to spin every day and take breaks on the 2 rest days. There are also specific challenge days with the goal of spinning something difficult. For me, every day of Tour de Fleece is a challenge. I use this event as a time to improve my spinning through practice and trying new things.

The Tour de Fleece Ravelry group is the best source for info and a great community too. Check it out if you’re interested in spinning along this summer. Plus, here are my 5 tips for prepping for Tour spinning. 

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

2016 will mark the 5th year I’ve spun-along with the Tour. The first 2 years I used spindles, but since getting my wheel, it’s been my weapon of choice. There’s less than a week left to prep, but I only need to do 3 things. First, I need to give my wheel some love. I haven’t waxed or cleaned my wheel since moving from the humid Pacific coast to a much more arid climate - it could definitely use some attention. While I’m at it, I might as well clean my other tools. I recently picked up some second-hand cotton hand cards and a drum carder - both need a good detailing. 

Second on my prep list is picking what I want to spin and prepping the fiber so that it’s ready to go. Well I’ve picked my projects, but still need to prep so that they’re ready to go on Saturday. The last thing on my list is joining a team. I’ve only spun rogue, aka spinning without a team, in the past, but want to change that this year. Any recommendations? 

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

I’ve got one big goal this year, spinning more sock yarn. I spun my first skein of the stuff during last year’s Tour de Fleece. Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough yardage out of it to make socks for the Bearded One, and now that sock yarn is mine. So I’m going to spin 8 oz - which is overkill, but I will have enough - to make 2 matching skeins of sock yarn. Still need to settle on a yarn construction though. 

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

My second project is for fun. I love the look of 2-ply yarn makes where one ply is a solid color and the other ply is a mix of wild color. I’ve got some adorable mini-batts and gray roving to create my own version.

Time to finish getting ready for Tour de Fleece 2016! This is going to be so much fun. | withwool.com

My third project is this ombre pack from Greenwood Fiberworks. My original idea was to spin it as one long gradient single. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m really tempted to spin each color by itself and make a mini skein set. Then I’d pair it with an equal amount of a solid color for easy stripes.  

If I manage to do all that, I’m going to dig into my stash of alpaca and try my hand at that too. Tour de Fleece is going to be a fun and busy 3 weeks. Are you spinning for Tour de Fleece too? What are your goals?

3 Weeks of Tour de Fleece and 3-Ply Sock Yarn

Check out Tour de Fleece Week 1 and Week 2.

Tour de Fleece is a most excellent challenge. One year I might set out to spin enough yarn for a sweater, but I’m pretty happy using the time to learn about spinning. I planned to work through Drafting Worsted to Woolen but never got past the short forward draft. No complaints because I want to spin smoother, more consistent yarn which is hard to do with long-draw. Besides from the bump of orange merino I started with, I didn’t set aside any fiber beforehand. I dug through my stash and grabbed what caught my eye. Not the most efficient way to rock Tour de Fleece but it worked for me. In three weeks, I spun a worsted-weight 3-ply, a thick and thin single, and a 3-ply sock yarn.  

The first 2 yards were great but the sock yarn was this year’s challenge. I’ve been wanted to spin sock yarn for years and who knows how long I would have put it off if not for the Tour. Unlike my usual modus operandi, I didn’t go a lot of research before hand. I’ve been working towards spinning finer and finer yarn for the past few months and decided to just do it. I looked up sock yarn constructions in The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs and went for an opposing 3-ply construction because I’d never spun that style of yarn before. 

The other yarns spun up quickly and I suppose this one did too. Each of the 3 singles took about 3 days to draft. I reminded myself every time I sat down at my wheel that the third single had to go in the opposite direction so I wouldn’t forget.

Plying happened over during the last two days of the Tour. Sunday was pretty much a marathon plying session filled with lots of tv and I got finished yarn at the end of the day. It’s actually sock weight too! Putting it together was interesting because the yarn looked like one single wasn’t evenly tensioned with the other two. My guess is that putting more twist into the opposing ply of the opposing ply sock yarn is the reason. We’ll see how it relaxes after I give it a soak to set the twist.

At the end of the tour I’d spun 10 ounces of fiber which turned into 7 plies, 4 skeins of yarn (plus leftovers), and 875 yards. Not bad for three weeks of spinning. My short forward draw is much improved, and I’ve got the confidence to spin more sock yarn. Learning and improving my craft  are the reasons that I look forward to spinning during Tour de Fleece every year. The yarn doesn’t hurt either.

Still Rocking Tour de Fleece

I feel like I spun so much during the first 9 days of Tour de Fleece and so little last week. I took a break on the first rest day and then another the next day but I’ve been spinning (and binge watching Gilmore Girls) every day since. My only project has been the sock yarn I started on the 9th day. As fine as the singles are, I’ve been making good time and finishing one every 3 days. I started the third yesterday which means I should have just enough time to finish it, and ply them all together by the end of Tour on Sunday. Fingers crossed. Or not, it’s hard to draft that way. 

I didn’t spin a sample since I only had 4 ounces and decided to make sock yarn on a lark. So, it might be a little too thick to count as fingering weight. That’s fine by me though since I like heavier fingering weight yarns for knitting socks. Especially when I’ve promised said sock yarn to size 14 feet.

My thick-and-thin Columbia/Firestar single couldn’t take up space on my last bobbin any more so I skeined it up. I just couldn’t get the idea of keeping it as a single and striping it with another single. Maybe it’ll be a hat or maybe a shawl, but it’s going to turn into stripes. Before that I have to set twist and I hope it’ll plump up into more than the sport weight it averages now.

Happy spinning during the final days of Tour de Fleece 2015!

Rocking the First Week of Tour de Fleece

The first week of Tour de Fleece is over and Monday was the first rest day. Instead of spinning anyway, I took the opportunity to empty my bobbins, inspect my new handspun, and prep for the next week of making all the yarn.

The first yarns off the bobbins were these two skeins of Ashland Bay Merino in Apricot. I’ve had the image in my head of a smooth, lustrous 3-ply since I bought the fiber several months ago and am so happy that I was able to pull it off. Thanks to watching Drafting From Worsted to Woolen I was able to consistently use a short-forward draft without getting lazy and switching over to long-draw. Slow as it was, the short forward draw allowed me to spin finer singles which means this is my first 3-ply worsted weight yarn.  My other attempts have all ended up bulky. I even got some decent yardage, 192 yds, which is more than enough for a slouchy hat. 

The mini skein, another 40 yards, is a leftover single plied with itself. It’s 2 plies turned into a mostly sport weight yarn. 

Columbia-Firestar-Single.jpg

I dipped into some of my stash acquisitions from Stitches West. This uneven single started as two ounces of Columbia wool and Firestar pencil roving from Carolina Homespun. When I started spinning, I was sure I wanted it to be a fat single. Unfortunately, only the last half of the single is anything close to what I was going for. Can’t decide if I should leave it as it is or ply it for a more even yarn.

Here’s my current yarn-in-progress and it’s also my biggest challenge this year. Since I’ve gotten more comfortable with the short forward draw over the past weeks (and liking the resulting handspun), I’m attempting to spin my first skein of sock yarn. Why wait for the challenge day to do something difficult?

This yarn will also be a 3-ply but I’m trying out an opposing ply construction, two of the singles are spun in one direction with the third spun in the direction of the plying twist, that I found in The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson on page 129. The extra twist that goes into the opposing single during plying is thought to add durability and elasticity to the finished yarn. The fiber I’m using is 100% Cheviot wool, which my reference say is fairly durable, but I’m hoping this construction will compensate for the lack of nylon. I wouldn’t be surprised if I spent the rest of the Tour spinning this one skein of sock yarn, but I’m going have fun doing it. 

What are you spinning for Tour de Fleece? 

Let’s Get Ready For Tour de Fleece 2015

Tour de Fleece, the grand summer spin-along to the Tour de France, is coming up on July 4th. I am so excited to spin more yarn for my fourth Tour! Part of the why I look forward to it every year is that I add lots of new handspun to my stash. I haven’t knit it all up yet but that’s okay. The reason I’m most excited for Tour de Fleece though is that I use it as a time to learn new techniques, try different fibers, and level up my skills.

Before the 2014 Tour I wrote a post with 5 training tips for Tour de Fleece. This year I’m taking my own training advice which means the first thing to do is empty all my bobbins. I only have 3 bobbins that I can use on my Sidekick and one of them is a Jumbo for plying. My current project, 4 oz of hand dyed falkland,  has been on the wheel for far too long and I finally finished spinning the second single last Monday. Tuesday, I started plying. I’m still plying today, but I’m always happy to see how much faster the bobbin fills up. One more skein before Tour de Fleece! Well, at least one more.

I’ve also set my goals for 3 weeks of dedicated spinning. The first and most important one, don’t hurt myself. My shoulder wasn’t pleased after I spent so much time drafting long-draw last year. I had no choice but to take a spinning break. My second goal involves this yarn I’m spinning right now. Before I started drafting I watched the second segment of Jacey Boggs’ Craftsy class, Drafting From Worsted to Woolen. The difference in my worsted spun yarn before and after watching the 23 minutes of this segment is incredible. My singles are smoother, more consistent, and much finer. So, for Tour de Fleece I’m going to spin and ply my way through the rest of Drafting From Worsted to Woolen. This is going to be fun. 

Happy spinning and training for Tour de Fleece!