Finished Fractal


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.


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. 


 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. 


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.


How to Not Skein Yarn


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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


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:   

  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.


Tour de Fleece Complete


 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.


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?


Just Plying Along


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.


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.


Still Spinning Along With Tour de Fleece


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.


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.


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?


Stash Enhancement


When I was perusing Wild Fiber last weekend, I found something new. Something that I’d only seen in photos, written about in blog posts, and occasionally added to my Etsy cart: pencil roving. It’s basically thin roving that’s about the thickness of a pencil. Hence the name. You can either knit it as is or you can spin it. Me, I’m going to spin it.


For this year’s Tour de Fleece I wanted to practice new techniques which means trying new materials as well as learning new skills. Pencil roving is new to me so it’s a suitable addition to the stash. I might not get to spin until after the tour but I’m still on the path to try new things.

I also found some teal roving while I was at the shop. Not sure about the fiber type it is but it’s soft with a long staple length. It’s nothing I haven’t spun before but, sometimes, you just need some good old fashioned stash enhancement.


A Fractal Tour de Fleece


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.


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.


Tour de Fleece 2013


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.



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.


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!


Ready for Tour de Fleece 2013?


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?