After the Tour

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For my last Tour de Fleece skein, I decided to give spinning from batts another try. This batt, thankfully doesn’t look like upchucked bodily fluids or any other bodily fluid I know of. The stats: 1.9 ounces of Something Wicked This Way Wanders... by The Madd Batter. It’s a combination of Falkland, Firestar Sparkle, Merino, Mohair and Romney locks, and a bit of silk just because.

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I managed to finish this skein with a day to spare but the spinning was a mixed bag of easy-peasy and challenging. There were locks that disrupted my drafting, clumps of wool that wanted to do their own thing, as well as silk and sparkle that were more interested in floating around the room than becoming yarn. After spinning one long single, I plied it back on itself to make 90 yards of 2-ply which is part-art yarn. Some parts of crazy with sparkle and wild locks. Other parts are humble and unassuming. All around, the skein is a strong ending to Tour de Fleece. 

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The Stats

5 skeins finished  |  18.9 ounces of fiber spun  |  1,040 total yards

1,040 total yards? I just boggled my own mind and that’s awesome! I never dreamed I’d spin more than 1,000 yards during the Tour with makes the whole thing a success in my book. The added bonus is that I actually met most of my goals. I learned new skills - spinning from a batt and the butterfly wrap - and refined others. I spun new fibers and found a new favorite, Falkland. Didn’t get to around to the silk mawatas though. I expanded my tools with a WPI gauge from Girl on the Rocks, a 22 gram drop spindle, and a turkish spindle. I spun the good, special stuff and didn’t ruin it. I did not manage to SPIN ALL THE THINGS! but I did try. 

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Goals and yardage aside, Tour de Fleece taught me to lose the complacency with my own skills and keep learning, keep trying, and keep pushing forward. I’m a better spinner than I was a month ago and there is still so much more to practice. The thought isn’t depressing, it’s inspiring not just for my spinning but also in the rest of my life. There’s so much I can do if I just put my mind and passion to work.

Keep learning and keep pushing forward, my friends.

On Tour

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Another day, another skein for Tour de Fleece. This skein counts as number four on the Tour and, while it’s just a simple 2-ply, there’s something special about it. When I start spinning a new project I’m usually at home with a collection of books for reference and the internet to come to my rescue if I need it. This time was different since last Thursday night, I packed up a spindle and some fiber with my usual luggage for a road trip to visit friends. We talked, baked brownies, watched an Italian horror film from the 60’s that was so bad it was good, and generally had a good time. I also started spinning  this yarn. It was just me and the fiber. No books. No open laptop. Just me. You know what happened? I made yarn with my own hands and my head and no frenetic last minute questions. Feels good even though the spindle did keep dropping. I didn’t finish the spinning and start plying until after I got back home but it’s still road trip yarn and a nice milestone. 

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Spunky Eclectic Tan Corriedale Top - 4 oz. - Coxstand

Mostly Aran Weight 2-ply

264 yards

The Beast that is Tour de Fleece

Chez Strategos has been taken over by spinning. If I’m watching episodes of Psych via Netflix, I’m spinning. Taking a break between random chores, I’m spinning. Waiting on water boil, you guessed right, I’m spinning. I even packed a spindle and a few ounces of fiber to take with me on a road trip. Still don’t have around town spinning though so knitting still reigns supreme in my purse.  All the same, Tour de Fleece is the 800 pound gorilla in the room that keeps handing me spindles and great fiber. Can’t say that I mind.

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CosyMakes Falkland Roving - 4 oz. - Flabbergast

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Blue Dog Fibers Bluefaced Leicester Top - 5.3 oz. - Rhonda

It’s really great having him around since I can take these lovely clumps of fiber and create actual yarn. Why, no, the novelty of the whole process hasn’t worn off. 

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Flabbergast became the second skein of Tour de Fleece. I’ve had this roving in my stash for so long that it became this great precious thing that I couldn’t bear to mess up. Goal 4 for the Tour - Understand? Good. Play - is all about pulling out the good stuff and making yarn in spite of myself. When I unchained the roving, I noticed it had been dyed in a repeating pattern. I tore it lengthwise down the middle to preserve the repeat and set to spinning one long single to chain ply. The result is 150 yards of self-striping, aran-ish weight yarn. The Bearded One has already laid claim to it. 

Chain plying, aka Navajo plying, is great and definitely not as hard or scary as people seem to think it is. Just takes practice like everything else. I like this written, sans photo article and this video (done on a wheel but the process is still the same for a spindle).

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Hello, Rhonda. This recent addition to my fiber stash became 368 yards of sport weight 2-ply yarn and my third Tour de Fleece skein. I really underestimated how long it would take to ply this yarn. The upside is that it gave me the chance to refine my plying process towards maximum efficiency. It involves rolling the spindle with my feet. Not as awkward as it sounds.

So far, Tour de Fleece is going quite well even though I probably won’t meet all of my goals during the Tour’s last week. I’m going to miss that gorilla.

Spinning Batts

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Once I pulled this batt out of the envelope and decided it was good, my second thought was that it was larger than my head. Then, how am I supposed to make this into yarn? For all I knew it might as well have been a monster waiting for my to let down my guard so it could eat me. 

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Since Tour de Fleece waits for no spinner, I went looking for tutorials on spinning from batts and the internet came to my rescue. 

How to Spin from Batts by Vampy

The post lists five different ways to prep batts for spinning with clear photos and written instructions.

How to Spin a Batt from the Knit Girllls

This video covers four ways to spin from a batt. The yarn is being made on a spinning wheel but the prep still applies for a spindle. 

A Batt? What’s that? by St Seraphina Knits

Another informative video but this covers how to open the packaged batt and focuses on tearing the batt into strips for easy spinning.

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Eventually, I decided to tear the batt into strips and pre-drafted the fibers down to a manageable size. After all the uncertainty, this seemed like cheating since the prep work was so easy and nothing to fear. Now I want to get more batts and experiment with different prep methods. 

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Now that the monster had been tamed, it was time to spin and it was no harder than working from roving. If only the single didn’t look like upchucked bodily fluids.  Any suggestions for what to do with 3.5 oz of fiber that you don’t want to spin anymore?

The First Skein

It was Friday afternoon and my latest skein of yarn was dry and sitting pretty. All my spindles were empty which was something I could no longer abide. So I sifted through my fiber stash - it’s not big enough for me to dig through, yet - and found some lovely grey top. Once it was split into eighths, I got started. Then Tour de Fleece happened. I set my goals, found Le Tour de France on television, and kept spinning.

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Signing up for the tour flipped a switch in my head. I joined because I wanted expand my skills and challenge my complacency. First on the list, how I wind my singles/yarn on the spindle. Lately, I’ve fallen into a cone shape because my attempts at a beehive always fell short. Not this time. This cop was one of the most voluptuous I’ve ever made. The trick is too start wrapping next to the whorl and build out the diameter of the cop faster than the length.  

Besides from being pretty, I was surprised how much of a difference the beehive cop made to my spinning. Not only was I able to store more yarn on the spindle, but the singles didn’t shift up the shaft    and into the working, twisting section above the hook. The larger the cop’s diameter became, the larger the moment of inertia, and the longer the spindle would spin. I could focus more on my drafting and less on keeping things moving.

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The result is a single 336 yards long that I plied back on itself to make 168 yards of worsted-ish weight 2-ply yarn. It’s already whispering that it wants to be a pair of socks when it grows up. It’ll need a buddy though for the heels and toes.

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The Numbers thus far:

1 Skein

168 yards

As far as goals go, I’ve figured out to wind better cops/learn new skills,started spinning all the things, and made some new yarn. Tour de Fleece is off to a strong start.

Tour de Fleece 2012

Tour de Fleece, the annual spin - along to the Tour de France, has been in the back of my head for a couple of months. I kept hearing about it every few weeks and kept not deciding whether or not to join. Turns out, today, June 30th, is the first day of Tour de France and the Tour de Fleece. I thought I was out of the running this year until I checked the mail.

Waiting for me was a 4 oz. Spinner’s Hill Batt aptly named Garden Vegetable. I’ve never spun or even bought a batt before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, I was thrown for a complete loop. What am I supposed to do with this thing?

It’s huge and fluffy, and almost the size of my cat. (He’s also very fluffy by the way.) I’ve never tried to spin from anything like this before. Since the Tour de Fleece is all about challenging yourself and spinning yarn, I’m in. 

I might be going a bit overboard on my goals/challenges the first time around but why not? Whether I meet them all or not, I still be better than when I started.

  1. Learn new skills. I still pretty new to the whole spinning yarn thing and there is so much to learn and experiment with, and refine. This means that some days I might just watch tutorials and read articles. Then, the next day is all practice, practice, practice.
  2. Try new fibers. Till now, I’ve been spinning with nondescript wool, Bluefaced Leicester, and a little bit of Polworth. In my stash, there’s Corriedale, Faulkland, Alpaca Blends, and Silk Mawatas. It’s time to branch out.
  3. Expand my toolset. I’ve got a few heavier spindles, a niddy-noddy, a knitted plying ball, and a few dowels I’m using as bobbins. Turns out, I’m actually serious about this whole spinning thing,  so it’s time for a few more tools - a WPI gauge and a lighter spindle, for example. Any suggestions?
  4. Understand? Good. Play! I’ve spun a lot of the past few months and I’m light years ahead of where I was in March but I’m still afraid to pull out the good, hand dyed stuff because I might mess it up. Time to nip that in the bud, pull out the good stuff, and make some yarn.