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Tour de Fleece 2011

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5th June 2011
Tour de Fleece

The 2011 Tour de France is coming up, which means the Tour de Fleece is also soon! I didn't do this in 2010, but I think it will be good to attempt this year. I have some gorgeous blue fibre on the wheel, and it would be nice to spin up some of the stash. Spinning time will likely occupy the space between coming home from work and when Hubby gets home, which means it will be all wheel spinning on my Majacraft Rose.

I'm setting these goals for myself:

  1. Spin every day
  2. Finish the blue fibre
  3. Sample some new fibre
  4. Prep and spin 3oz grey Polwarth locks

1. Spin every day
Even if it's just a little bit, 15 minutes a day adds up. If I cut down the mindless internet surfing time, I will have much more spinning time, though preparing for my green belt karate test will take some of that away again.

2. Finish the blue fibre
This has been on the wheel way too long, it's a gorgeous light blue shot through with white, with merino, silk, and bamboo. I'm hoping for a 2-ply fingering weight.

3. Sample some new fibre
I have some interesting stuff in the stash, like Babydoll Southdown, or angora, or Shetland. These might be small sample skeins just to get a feel for the fibre.

4. Prep and spin 3oz grey Polwarth locks
I'll be aiming for 2-ply sport weight yarn that could end up as a hat, or a small scarf if I blend it with the white Polwarth locks. Got the Polwarth from A Verb For Keeping Warm a while back, flick-carded enough to make a small coaster from the white, and haven't touched the grey. It is almost sticky with lanolin and smells fabulous, clean and not overly sheepy.

6th July 2011
And we're off!

I think this will be a wheel-only spinning tour, my Majacraft Rose is finally getting some love. I'm going to have a plying day soon but for now it's all singles all the time. I'm working on roving that's a blend of merino, silk, and bamboo that Laura brought back from Maryland Sheep and Wool for me, dyed light blue and shot through with white like a summer sky. I'm fitting spinning around my regular schedule plus extra karate practice for my upcoming green belt test.

Saturday 2nd July
Spun a little first thing, pre-drafted to get back into the swing of things. Using the blue merino/silk/bamboo Laura gave me. Hoping it will come out as a good 2-ply fingering weight yarn. I have a half bobbin spun already.

Sunday 3rd July
Four fuzz lumps to go on this bobbin, then I start the second bobbin. I'm hoping for a decent length of fingering weight or light fingering weight yarn. One fuzz lump is a section of undrafted roving around one and a half feet long. Spinning to the sound of rain and thunder, only one and a half fuzz lumps left when I stopped for the day.

Monday 4th July
Finished the first bobbin of blue fibre, 2.20z according to my not-very-accurate kitchen scale. Also found two bobbins with the leftovers from my red Falklands 3-ply. Those will become a 2-ply yarn when the blue is done and they look about even in the amount of singles on each.

Tour de Fleece 2011.

Tuesday 5th July
Started the next bobbin of blue singles after work but before karate, spun 1/8 of the second half of the fibre.

10th July 2011
Plying two skeins

My spinning is done on the futon sofa in the craft room, with my laptop on the nightstand playing a familiar movie or TV episode. I have natural light from a big bay window until the sun goes down and plenty of space for Quantum the cat to curl up next to me. There's a block of time available between when I get home from work but before when Hubby gets home from work, and first thing on the weekends because I'm an early bird. I get up at 5:20am on weekdays, and usually before 7am on weekends. Much later than that and Quantum comes to investigate why I haven't fed her yet.

Wednesday 6th July
Spun two fuzz lumps before Hubby got back from work, another two afterwards, so I'm over halfway through this bobbin in only two days. Three more fuzz lumps and I can ply! Sorted through the fibre stash and listed it ALL, with three candidates for what to spin next. Hoping to get two full 4oz skeins of yarn by the end of the Tour, one blue and one... ?

Thursday 7th July
Spun a half fuzz lump after work before Hubby got home to pick up the car and race to my karate lesson. Going to spin the 4oz red/pink Polwarth from Southern Cross Fibre next, fibre from Sydney Australia. Might Navajo ply it, I get more yarn that way.
Finished the fuzz lump and started the next after dinner while watching stuff on the laptop with Hubby. One and a bit lumps to go on this bobbin, I should be plying at the weekend.

Friday 8th July
Busy busy day, mail run and karate practice after work. Thinking about designating Wednesday evenings for spinning to continue working through the fibre stash. Working on the last fuzz lump of this fibre.

Saturday 9th July
Finished the second bobbin at 8:30am, a shade over 2oz on this one and really thin singles. I'm hoping they don't break while I'm plying. Put a fresh bobbin in, uncrossed the brake band, and plied the leftover red Falklands wool as practice, there was more there than I thought, though the singles broke three times. Started plying the blue and got about halfway through it.

Plied merino, plied Falklands.

Sunday 10th July
Finished plying the blue fibre, some left on one bobbin but the plying bobbin was very full. Put it on the niddy, got 450yds of shiny yarn! I've never spun a skein that long before. Also got 102yds of the red Falklands 2-ply. Washed both and put them up to dry.

16th July 2011
The next bobbin

Knitting goes by the wayside during the Tour de Fleece, restricted to lunchtimes at work and some time at the karate studio between and before classes. The knitted projects currently being neglected are an Aria Delicato lace scarf, and a hemp wash cloth using doubled laceweight yarn.

I'm trucking along with my New Zealand Polwarth this week, I got this in January 2009 as a custom order, the colourway is "Sunburnt Country" and I was expecting it to be a lot more orange and less pink from the pictures.

Monday 11th July
Official rest day for both Tour de France and Tour de Fleece, but my goal was to spin every day, even if only for 15 minutes. Working on the red/pink Polwarth from Southern Cross Fibres, I'm liking the colours more as I see them up close, I'm aiming this to be a little thicker than I spun the blue fibre, but not much. Blue and red skeins are almost dry.

Tuesday 12th July
Taking this as my rest day from yesterday, exhausted after an hour of karate class and an hour of sparring.

Wednesday 13th July
Accidentally destroyed my blog and spent two hours of spinning time doing low level repairs in the database to restore it. And yes, it is now thoroughly backed up and repaired. Spun some polwarth, but not near as much as I'd hoped to get done. Finished the first quarter of the first bobbin, started on the next fuzz lump.

Thursday 14th July
Spun for 10 minutes before work, liking the colours more as I see them spun up. Did some more after karate practice at home, while watching old episodes of Doctor Who, have just over a quarter left to go on this bobbin. The fibre spins better from one direction than the other.

Two skeins and a bobbin.

Friday 15th July
Spun between work and the karate group class at 4:30pm, and again after dinner. Finished the first bobbin and started the second.

20th July 2011
Approaching the finish line

This Tour de Fleece is the most spinning I've done in months, and I want to keep up the momentum. One thing I learned from National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is that a deadline has magical motivating power. I will aim to spin three more skeins in 2011, using fibre from the stash and taking November off to write a novel. I definitely want to spin up my 75/25 merino/possum fibre as one of the skeins.

Saturday 17th July
Spun a little before knitting group, I'm wondering how the yarn will look when it's plied, and also what to spin next. I much prefer shaded solids to variegateds, so it might be a braid of green/grey BFL from my friend Amy, who has an Etsy store called Fibercycle that returns September 1st.

Sunday 17th July
Spun after karate practice in the basement, got one sixth of the way through the second bobbin. This half of the fibre seems to have more orange pink sections than the other half. Hoping to finish the bobbin this week and ply it before the end of the tour next Sunday. Did some more spinning after escaping the evil afternoon heat, one quarter complete and counting.

Monday 18th July
The second official rest day, but I'll spin today and rest tomorrow. Made it over the halfway point with the second bobbin after an exhausting (but good) karate lesson. Hoping this yarn turns out to be another light fingering weight yarn.

Tuesday 19th July
Spun after work but before karate, 2/3 through the bobbin now. I have two kitchen towels I use as lap-cloths, one white (for dark fibres), the other dyed black (for light fibres). In theory they keep the fibre off my clothes. I drape one over the spinning wheel when I leave to hide the fibre from inquisitive cats.

NZ Polwarth.

Wednesday 20th July
Spun when I got home, after karate practice. Made it past the ¾ mark on the bobbin, hoping to finish it tomorrow or Friday, then ply at the weekend. I'm about ready for this yarn to be done.

25th July 2011
And we're done

The final days of the 2011 Tour de Fleece! Pictures when the skeins are all dry.

Thursday 21st July
Working from home, so I spun for a half hour at lunchtime. Finished the second bobbin after work! Reset the wheel for plying, put the bobbins in the Majacraft bobbin box, will work on it tomorrow. Wound the leftovers from one blue bobbin to Andean ply into a small skein.

Friday 22nd July
Started plying, showed Bella how it's done. Like the thickness of the emerging yarn, but I have a long way to go before it's finished.

Saturday 23rd July
Did some more plying, I think this will be quite a lot of yarn. Hard to tell which bobbin has more singles on, they are never exactly the same.

Sunday 24th July
The final day! Finished plying everything, leaving five clean bobbins. The final tally is:

Today's three skeins are all drying in the bathroom. I have spun real laceweight yarn! This is the best spinning I've managed yet. Need to slow down while plying a bit, and probably put less plying twist in the yarn, but I'm really pleased with the results.

26th July 2011
Final wrap up

I'm calling this a win even though I deviated from my goals. My original Tour de Fleece goals were:

Spin every day
Almost achieved. I skipped a Tuesday, but I spun on both official rest days. I could rearrange my mornings and spin a little first thing before work in front of my light box.

Finish the blue fibre
Achieved! 450yds of light fingering weight or heavy laceweight yarn spun, plied, washed and ready to be knitted. This was the best yardage I've ever managed.

Sample some new fibre
Not done, New Zealand polwarth was new to me, but I've spun polwarth before.

Prep and spin 3oz grey Polwarth locks
Didn't even try to meet this goal, I got distracted with the thought of two usable skeins of yarn. I don't think I'm much of a fibre preparing person, I prefer to work with roving or top.

I did achieve two personal bests though, the longest skein I've ever spun (450yds light fingering weight 2-ply), immediately superseded by the longest and thinnest skein I've ever spun (638yds laceweight 2-ply). I think I need to try spinning some sport weight yarn, just to make sure I still can. I also spun almost all of two 4oz chunks of fibre (I had a half bobbin of the blue when I started the Tour), which makes a little extra room in the fibre box.

Tour de Fleece 2011.

From left to right this is the blue merino/bamboo/silk light fingering weight, the Sunburnt Country polwarth laceweight, the Falklands leftovers, the laceweight mini skein, and the blue leftovers.

I ended the Tour with all five bobbins empty and no leftover singles. It's time for a stash diving expedition to find what to spin next. Cream Cormo is a possibility, dark brown CVM would be a new fibre to try, or maybe pink/grey/blue merino. I'll see what speaks loudest to me.

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