My Favorite Posts of 2014

And it’s almost 2015. How did that happen? While it seems like it should only be July or August, I’m looking forward to the new year. I’ve got lots of plans and I can’t wait to get started, but first I’m going to remember all the good stuff that happened in 2014. It’s so easy to always focus on the next step that you can forget to celebrate what you’ve already accomplished. So, in no particular order, here are my favorite posts/wins from 2014.

One of my top wins is relaunching this site. I love the With Wool name, the new layout, and direction. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. 

Rolags: A Love Story & Handcarded vs Drumcarded Rolags

In bits and pieces this year, I learned that I love making and spinning rolags. Rolling them is easy and they spin up in no time at all. Even better, the resulting handspun is fluffy, light, and warm - the perfect thing to add to my ever growing stash of handspun. Can’t wait to do more with them in 2015.

Looking back through the archives, I was able to relive a few of the past year’s adventures. There’s my first trip to San Francisco, exploring LA’s Natural History Museum, and working my way through the Scorpion Submarine. I hope I can go on as many adventures and more in the new year. 


Another win is my surprise favorite of Tour de Fleece. On the bobbin and even plied, I just wasn’t sure about this skein. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t like it either. It was weird and totally different from what I usually spin, but a good soak did wonders. Glad I put in the work and followed through to the end. 

One of my favorite tutorials from this year is about how to start and keep a handspun journal. It’s a great treasure trove of information about your spinning and helps keep track of future goals. 

The Shur’tugal Socks took far too long to get off the needles. The wait was worth it because they’ve become one of my favorite pairs of hand knit socks. I’ll grab them on the rare occasion I can actually wear wool socks out of the apartment. They also made the list because I’ll really happy with the photos. Taking attractive photos of your own feet is no easy task.  

This year’s Spinzilla was a powerful win. I learned more about productive spinning, but the real lesson was that I was only spinning against myself. I don’t have to compete and constantly compare myself to others. Plus, I got 4 awesome skeins of handspun out of it.

I can’t pick a favorite post but it’s fun to look through the Wander the Web series. The photos are mini journal of my days and there’s lots of interesting links tucked away on numerous topics. If you’re wondering what happened to the new updates, the series has moved to my weekly newsletter, with a wooly bent, which you can sign up for here.

Onward to 2015!

Hand Carded Rolags vs Drum Carded Rolags

It’s taken me longer than I wanted, but after a bit of a delay, I’m finally writing about my last bit of Tour de Fleece spinning. It was a bit of an experiment and a lot of fun. See, several months ago, I got a rolag from a spinning guild demo on making and spinning rolags. Spinning it was fun and I loved the finished yarn but I only had that one hand carded rolag. Fortunately, I’d also gotten some fiber from the demo - natural wool, dyed wool, silk noil, and white mystery wool - to make another. The only problem was my complete lack of hand cards. A few months later when I rented a drum carder, I finally had the chance to turn that fiber into a batt and then a rolag. But would it match? Could a drum carder create rolags that matched hand carded rolags? To find out, I fed the 18g of material through the carder twice to blend the colors and fibers evenly. 


To match the guild rolag, I split the batt 3 times across the width and rolled each piece into a rolag. When it came time to spin and I kept everything about the process the same. Used the same ratio and twist direction. Plied the single with itself, just like the first. They both got the same finishing, a soak in the kitchen sink with Eucalan and a few good pops across my hands.

Are the finished sample skeins the same? Yes…and no. 

Both yarns are the same weight with similar WPI and have the same lumpy-bumpy texture. They’re both thick & thin and a little hairy. They’re both squishy and airy like the true woolen spun yarns that they are. So far, so good, right? The only difference between the 2 samples is the color and it’s not just because of the silk noil. The hand carded skein is darker with clear distinction between the brown and teal.  The drum carded skein is more blended, lighter in color, and noticeably teal. If I’d passed the fiber though the carder just once, the colors might have been more similar but maybe not. A drum carder has more surface area than hand cards which directly affects how fibers (and their colors) interact. 

Besides from the color differences, the hand carded skein and the drum carded skein have the same texture, the same weight, and the same loft. So long as the 2 are spun the same way, the finished yarn will be the same. The only difference is one of color and blending. Drum carders make it easily to repeatedly card fiber until it is as blended (or not) as you want it to be. How many times the fiber is fed through can have a major impact on the final color, especially with hand painted rovings. 

As for these 2 skeins, I’d definitely use them for the same project. To mesh the colors (AKA dyelots) the best bet is to alternate the skeins every 2 rows. Now, what to knit with 36 yds?


Tour de Fleece 2014 Recap


I knew it was going to be a photo finish. There were only 6 days remaining of Tour de Fleece and I still had ounces left to spin. Color Bot was starting to fill up a bobbin but I still hadn’t drafted my way through the first of 4 color repeats. If everything went just right, I’d be able to finish the first single Thursday. On Saturday, I’d haul the wheel to the spinning guild meeting and finish the second single. Sunday, the last day, I would ply. It was going to be tight but I could pull it off unless there were some major hiccups. Instead of hiccup, it was twinge in my shoulder that moved down to my elbow and finally to my wrist. Didn’t take long for my left wrist and hand to swell up and hurt to move. I was officially out of the race.

How did I do this to myself? Well, yoga’s downward dogs and planks didn’t help but the main culprit is how I spin. No matter how I draft, long-draw or otherwise, I usually end up twisted to the left with my arm sticking straight out behind me. Knew this wasn’t the most ergonomic posture and it finally came back to bite me. So, until my arms heals up, no spinning and no yoga.

Not spinning for the past few days, especially the last of the Tour, has been annoying and the knitting has been scant; however, my shoulder and arm are all the better for it. Wrist braces don’t exactly make that stuff easy anyhow. The swelling has gone down and everything hurts  much less now. At least I was able to reach the majority of my Tour de Fleece goals before my arm called it quits. I spun a few of the batts I made on the drum carder. I tried new a new technique for spinning fine singles and it actually worked. Not being able to spin gave me the time to read about spinning, specifically spinning ergonomics. FYI, the articles in Ply have been especially helpful. Didn’t get around to spinning new fibers but nothing’s stopping me from trying once my arm heals.

Aside from messing up my arm and shoulder, this year’s Tour de Fleece was a good one. I learned and tried new things, had fun, and got some great handspun out of it. Keeping a relaxed pace was nice too and not spinning every day probably saved me some pain and stress in the long run. Not including Color Bot, I spun 3.2 oz (90g) into 4 skeins and 206 yds. Not much but still worthwhile. 

How did your Tour go for you? Injury free, I hope.

Handspun Corriedale

I’m glad I saved all the batts I made on the drum carder to spin during Tour de Fleece. Haven’t been able to spin all of them, but the batts I have spun have been worth the wait. They’re both fun to work with and very versatile. If you want a worsted yarn, you can spin them in one big chunk or tear them into strips like I did with the Mystery Batt. For a woolen yarn, you can tear batts across the “grain” and roll them into fauxlags (same as rolags which come off hand cards instead of a drum carder).


The fate of my only Corriedale batt was being torn up and made into 11 ever so squishy fauxlags. I split them in half by weight and started spinning. Seems like I say this every time but I had so much fun working with these. Scout’s honor, fauxlags/rolags are my favorite thing to spin. It’s a shame that I don’t that work with them more often. Definitely a good thing that I also love the lofty woolen yarn fauxlags become.


The finished yarn is squishy and nice even though this batch of Corriedale isn’t the softest. It’s even a consistent thickness. The thick and thin spots lend character instead of defining the skein as a whole. Looking forward to knitting it up once I’ve got the right pattern in hand. In the meantime, back to spinning through the last weekend of Tour de Fleece!

The Specs:

Fiber: 40g (1.41 oz) Corriedale

Yardage: 90 + 18

Weight: DK - Worsted

Dates: July 13 - 18, 2014

Spinning Color Bot

Color Bot arrived in my mailbox in March from the Spun Right Round fiber club. The green, blue, gold, and purple were right at home in my stash. The neon pink and red? Not so much. This bump definitely isn’t something I would have picked out for myself but it’s good to step out of one’s comfort zone every so often. Still, neon pink is light years outside of my comfort zone.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to spin it since opening the package. I wanted to downplay the pink while making the blues and green pop. Spin it fractal? Let it barber pole? Split it and let the fiber do what it will anyway? Even with fiber I’m not initially fond of, I usually love the final handspun but that didn’t seem likely this time. Neon pink just isn’t a color I’m drawn too or wear on a regular basis.


I had one other idea but immediately dismissed it - completely removing the pink/red. Would taking out the pink solve the problem? Definitely but it seemed like defeat. If I couldn’t spin colors, even colors I didn’t like, into something I thought was great, then I must be a failure as a spinner. But, I told myself, “I’m smart and have the internet at my fingers. I should be able to find some trick to spin all 4 oz in a badass skein of yarn.” What I found instead of this post on Woolen Diversions(interesting blog, by the way). She had a bump of fiber she wasn’t fond of either. So, she ripped out the colors she didn’t like and spun the ones that she did. Reading about her process gave me a new perspective. Maybe removing colors I didn’t like didn’t make me a failure. Maybe it wasn’t defeat. Maybe it was just another trick in a spinner’s toolbox. 

When I finally unchained the top, I ripped out the pink with gusto. The fiber was dyed in a clear repeat so getting the colors I wanted wasn’t hard.  There were just 3 oz left to spin and I decided to use those 3 oz to attempt one of my Tour de Fleece goals. Since I got my wheel last September, I’ve been trying to spin a fingering weight yarn. Come close over the past few months but haven’t spun anything smaller than sport weight. Then I saw this trick for spinning fine singles that involved threading the single across opposite flyer hooks which is supposed lessen the tension/slow the uptake. After spinning the first color repeat, my single is intentionally and consistently thin. It isn’t falling apart and I’ve only put enough twist to snap the single once or twice. Won’t know for sure if I’ve succeeded spinning a fingering yarn until after the singles are plied and the twist is set but I’m hopeful. If not, I’ll still end up with great yarn I actually want to knit. 


The First Skein of Tour de Fleece


My first skein from Tour de Fleece was spun from the first batts I made on a drum carder. The batts I made before I knew what I was doing. The ones that were kind of blended but mostly filled with lumps, bumps, and clumps. The ones that looked like an impressionist painting. Looking at them fresh of the drum carder, I knew that they weren’t going to be create a smooth yarn but whatever. I’d just made my first batts and they were awesome.


When Tour de Fleece rolled around, I was less excited and more annoyed that I hadn’t split the fiber evenly for 2 equal batts. So I tore them into strips and started one single that’d be plied with itself. Tried to aim for a 2-ply worsted weight but the fiber had other ideas. Sometimes the fiber wouldn’t take the twist or there was an un-draftable clump. The single came out thick and really thin and not just because I was drafting long draw. (Short forward draw was not an option thanks to the lumps.) So much for that worsted 2-ply idea.

At this point, I wanted to trash the single and move onto a different, less ugly project; however, plying solves many ills and I wanted to see if the plied yarn was any more appealing. Chain plying seemed like the best bet to get a worsted weight yarn and it was easy to find a rhythm once I got started. Where the single was thin, I got fingering weight. Where it was thick, I got bulky. The clumps just stood out like a sore thumb.

Plying fixed a lot but giving this yarn a bath and a good thwack made it so much better. Instead of throwing it out, I wanted to keep it for something good. The yarn, clumps and bumps included, plumped up into a unified whole. Every random bump seemed like it belonged right where it was. The skein definitely wouldn’t be as interesting without them. Maybe even boring. If I knew how to weave, that’s what I’d use this yarn for. Who knows? I may learn eventually.


The Specs

Fiber: Mystery Wool from a Gwen Erin Grab Bag 

Yardage: 86 yds

Weight: Fingering - Worsted - Bulky

Dates: July 7 - 9, 2014

Slow and Steady Tour de Fleece


Tour de Fleece is well underway with 8 days down and 13 left to go. This year, I’m doing things a little differently. As in previous years, I’m aiming to challenge myself and learn something new but at a rather relaxed pace. I’m not trying to spin all the things, clear out my fiber stash, or make myself spin every free moment of the day. In an afternoon, I might turn a batt into rolags and start spinning them that night or the next morning. No rush. The yardage isn’t exactly piling up but I get to spend more time enjoying the process. Plus, at the end of it all, there’s beautiful yarn waiting for me.

My goals are pretty simple.

  • Spin up the batts I made during my adventures with the drum carder. 
  • Spin new fibers. I’ve got Romney, Alpaca, Angora, a BFL/Silk/Angora blend, and silk hankies. All fibers that have been hanging out for far too long in my stash and I’m ready to try my hand at them. Bonus, I’ve turned a few of them into batts. 
  • Try new techniques and read up on spinning. Top technique on my list - A tutorial by Lisa Raynor that shows how pulling a single through several flyer hooks to lessen tension makes it easier to spin fine yarn. I haven’t yet been able to spin a fingering weight yarn on my wheel and this tip might get me one step closer. As for reading, I’ve got the latest issue of Ply to keep me occupied.

The relaxed pace of this year’s tour is growing on me and the last 2 weeks should be a breeze. How’s your Tour de Fleece spinning going? Achieving your goals or throwing everything to the wind?

5 Training Tips for Tour de Fleece

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

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. |

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. |

Prepping Arco Iris

Tour de Fleece is rapidly approaching. I’m still trying to figure out my plan for the 3 week challenge but, in the mean time, I’m going to squeeze in one last skein of handspun. Malabrigo Nube has been at the top of my spinning list since the Bearded One gave me a bump of Arco Iris for our anniversary. It’s hard to resist soft merino and beautiful colors. But how to spin it? Should it be a fat single or 2-ply? Maybe fractal spun or chain-plied? Only way to decide was to unbraid the bump and get a better look. The colors were mottled and fairly random without a discernible repeat. Fractal was definitely out. 


Since the dye job was so wild and all over the place, I’m going to keep things simple and spin a 2-ply. I split the roving in half lengthwise with the idea of spinning the singles from opposite directions. Aiming for maximum barber pole action here. Because the colors are so mottled, I’m going to spin a thicker yarn than usual and attempt a worsted or aran weight. If the diameter gets any smaller than worsted, the colors might turn to mud during drafting.


Now that all the pesky details are decided and the fiber is prepped, it’s time to start spinning. Pretty sure I can finish before Tour de Fleece starts.