Tour de Fleece 2014

The Tour de Fleece is a fun spinning thing that takes place concurrently with the Tour de France. The goal is to challenge yourself as a spinner.

While we have a cosy little spinning thread within my online mums group, I’m most active in the Kromski TdF team on Ravelry, as my wheel is a Kromski Symphony. And I (possibly foolishly) volunteered to co-captain this year, which consisted mostly of cheerleading, helping keep track of members, and prizes. We had over a hundred spinners on this team, and the photos being posted of in-progress work were so inspiring!

This year, my main goal was to try beaded yarn. My secondary goal was to try a 60/40 wool/flax blend, as I’d never spun flax in any form before. (This ended up being on a spindle, so it was even more of a challenge than I’d originally set for myself.)

I’d intended to finish the ‘Maid in Bedlam’ merino/silk before the TdF to free up my bobbins, but two back-to-back crazy projects for work meant I wasn’t even through the first half of it when the Tour began. (Worsted tends to be a more time-consuming technique; just for comparison, I spun the last two ounces of my merino/bamboo yarn below in less than a day.) So that became my first project, and I joined the very cheerful Daybreak Dyeworks team as well (the fibre had come from Daybreak Dyeworks, as part of their one-off Sip’n’Spin tea and fibre event). There’s no limit to the number of teams you can join, but each team might have different rules. For example, a dyer-hosted group may stipulate that only fibre produced by that dyer qualifies for a Tour project within their group. Team Kromski stipulates that your primary equipment for the Tour must be your Kromski wheel and that you must have fun, but other than that anything goes. So my Maid in Bedlam yarn qualified for both the Daybreak Dyeworks group and Team Kromski.

I finished the Maid in Bedlam fibre a week into the Tour. It felt like it was going to take forever, and with good reason: plied, it was about 20 WPI, or laceweight, and winding it off took a couple of evenings because it was about 680 yards long!

I know it looks like a gradient, but it isn’t! It just worked out that way. I separated the fiber halfway down and just spun each half across the top as it came. The plying did the rest. My friend Stephanie suggested that I knit the Bella Botanica shawl with it, and that sounds like a good idea. The pattern is charted, which is slightly eek-inducing for me, but the first part of the shawl is both written and charted to ease a first-timer into it.

In theory, up next was my attempt at beaded yarn, but I couldn’t face a second silky laceweight yarn; I needed a palate cleanser. So I brought out a braid of my friend Jenn’s alpaca and decided to do a fluffy three-ply yarn.

This was her ‘Nebula’ colourway (how could I pass that up?) and rather than being three solid strands of fibre braided together, each strand was actually made up of smaller pencil roving. The brown strand was all brown, the blue strand had minor variegation, and the multicolour strand was blues and purples and greens and creams and oranges. I ended up doing a bit of each separate colour at a time so there were a lot of colour changes instead of one long strip of yellow, one long strip of lavender, and so forth. I think how Jenn assembled it is really cool; it’s something I never would have thought of doing, and it challenged my colour sense. I decided to spin each one as its own single then ply them together for a three-ply yarn, because I really liked the effect in the braid and I wanted to preserve it. While plying, I ran out of brown single, quickly spun up some more from a brown alpaca sample I had buried in my stash from somewhere else, then ran out of it *again*. I chain-plied the last bit of blue then the multicolour single.

I ended up with 204 yards of three-ply yarn, plus 12 yards of chain-plied leftovers. All so soft! I want fingerless gloves made out of this.

Just before the Tour began I dyed some merino/bamboo fibre in a pretty pewter/pearly silver colour:

I also picked up some beads from Michael’s, and a beading needle. I wanted to actually spin the beads into the singles, not string them on a thread and ply the beads on. (That sounds a bit like cheating to me.) In the mornings before taking Owlet to daycare I’d make little tufts of merino/bamboo and thread tiny clear beads onto them. I wanted a pile at hand so I could grab one, lay it over the single I was spinning, and spin the tuft and the bead right into the single. I also made fauxlags (rolags made from commercial top instead of hand cards), because I wanted as lofty a yarn as possible. I am aiming for about a DK weight or slightly lighter, with an eye to having the yarn for Swinging Triangles shawl.

It all went splendidly for the first bobbin, which is where I had to stop before our trip to Ontario. The tiny beads are clear and don’t show up in photos very well, which is a bit disappointing. But it’s also good, because I wanted to overall effect to be subtle in the final yarn and the shawl it will be knit from.

I’m a little cross that you can’t see the beads, but as I chose clear ones to be really subtle in the final yarn, and ultimately in the shawl when it’s knitted, well… I guess this means it worked?

As a challenge, I took my Kundert spindle and two ounces of 60/40 wool/flax blend on our trip. I’m rather meh about the blend. I couldn’t quite get a handle on it, which is probably the flax, but is very possibly my paucity of spindle experience. When I got home I plied what I had on the spindle and ended up with 22 yards of yarn. It improved considerably the more I handled it, which is in line (heh, see what I did there? no? never mind) with what I know of flax.

I also got to spin the second half of the merino/bamboo with beads, then ply the two bobbins together. Ta-da! 501 yards of beautifully soft and silky beaded yarn! I am short about 150 yards for the shawl I want to knit with it, but the beauty of dyeing my own is that I can just make more.

I am very, very happy with my performance this Tour.

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