Daily Archives: July 30, 2013

Spinning and the Tour de Fleece 2013

So there’s this spinning thing that runs concurrently with that big bike race in France. (They race on bicycles for about three weeks. There are mountains. I like my version better.) Basically, you spin every day the contenders cycle, and rest the days they rest. It is traditional to have some sort of personal challenge to echo the challenge days in the Tour de France.

This year, I chose two challenges: spinning silk hankies (basically an empty silk moth cocoon that’s been soaked and stretched out; the actual name is mawata), and spinning some big chunky yarn. Like so many other spinners, I lost the ability to do the latter once I’d gained the ability to spin very finely. Those plus trying to spin as often as I could would be more than enough, I figured. But to start with I rummaged through my fibre stash and pulled out what my fingers decided felt nicest that day, a 50-gram twist of green Fleece Artist Merino sliver. (Maybe I should have called that a challenge, too. I am terrible at deciding what to spin next, and this was akin to closing my eyes and choosing randomly.)

Well, I spun every single day during the three-week race. And I blew through my two challenges early on (and plied them together to boot), with the added bonuses of plying 1200 yards of luxury singles I’d spun earlier in the year for Mum’s yarn, spinning 50 g of Fleece Artist Merino, and getting halfway through 6 oz of batts I’d had in my stash for about three years. I spun and plied an awful lot of yarn.

Here’s my output:

Clockwise from top:

– Fleece Artist Merino sliver in Rainforest, spun worsted and chain-plied (239 yards)
– Spiral yarn made with my two challenges, a thread spun from silk hankies dyed by myself (also on the storage bobbin at the centre, about 7 g) and a Coopworth single (64 yards)
– Bobbin of 3 oz woollen-spun worsted weight single, from Spin Knit & Life batts (Falkland, mohair, domestic wool in blended blues and browns)
– In the bottom of the basket: the 1200 yards of plied luxury yarn, one ply of 50/50 silk/cashmere, one ply of 50/50 silk/Merino (8.5 oz, 1200 yards)

And in addition to this, I saw some fabulous yarns being made, interacted with awesome people, and made lots of notes on new indie dyers to check out and techniques to try. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience.

I spun the second half of the batts the day after the Tour finished. Here’s all 455 yards of worsted weight singles, ready to be knit into a shawl:

I need to crow a bit here. I was invited to enter my Fleece Artist skein into a draw for people who’d spun fibre from that dyer, and I won! So this pretty little green skein netted me a copy of Clara Parke’s The Knitter’s Book of Yarn:

(I really wish I had more of the fibre so I could spin enough for a pair of socks. Now that I know the colourway, I can order more sometime and do just that.)

In the past week I spun an ounce of honey-coloured silk to ply with the bobbin of green Merino singles that has been waiting patiently since January (Ashland Bay ‘Sage’, to be precise). That yarn is looking very pretty indeed so far:

And last on my list of spinning stuff to journal about, it turns out that my sample skeins lied as badly as gauge swatches do in knitting. I am about 500 yards short on Mum’s yarn. Fortunately I have found an online retailer who has both the silk/Merino and the silk/cashmere in stock and will sell me two ounces of each so I can spin up the rest. As cranky as I am about being wrong, it will be lovely to spin more of these fibre blends; it was dreamy to do, and plying was a real treat as well.