Tour de Fleece 2018

I haven’t forgotten entirely about this blog; since paying for the domain it’s been weighing on me because I haven’t been using it. It reminds me of the time my parents paid out of pocket for a season’s ski pass at our local ski area (out of pocket because in previous years my Dad worked there on weekends and I got his free season pass) and I used it three times that winter. The winter before I broke my leg skiing, so I guess that helps explain it. Well, I didn’t break my fingers (or my brain, though a few times I’ve wondered), and I just finished Tour de Fleece, so let me tell you about that.

I joined two teams on Ravelry this year but I spent my time on Instagram looking at one team’s pics and the general TdF hashtags. My favorite part of participating is getting to see what everyone else is doing and I’ve become so acclimated to Instagram that Ravelry seems tedious to scroll through now. Maybe next year I’ll be better, or maybe next year I’ll be a rebel and just participate on Instagram? Or start my own team that communicates mainly on IG? That’s certainly something to think about.

My goal this year was to spin 15 minutes a day for each day of the tour, knowing that I would take non-standard rest days due to a weekend trip to Norfolk, VA. I actually ended up taking three rest days instead of two (there are two, right?); the Saturday and Sunday of the Norfolk trip I didn’t spin, and this Saturday I didn’t spin. But I honestly am not too upset about this. Last year I stopped not too far into the Tour to knit a commissioned shawl for an old friend, so I’m happy I was able to stick with it this year.

I haven’t tallied up my yardage or checked WPI on these, but here’s my yarn family photo from Tour de Fleece 2018.

Tour de Fleece 2018

From red to purple:

  1. Three Waters Farm Fall Folderol (40% merino, 40% superwash merino, 20% Silk – Tussah). I’ve been puzzling over why one would want both merino and superwash merino in the same top, but that’s a question to investigate another day.
  2. Pigeon Roof Studios (who’s no longer dyeing) Land and Sky OOAK (100% extra fine merino). I spun this thicker than my usual, so it’s a heavy worsted or aran and super bouffy.
  3. Spunky Eclectic Joshua Tree (65% Wool – Polwarth, 25% Goat – Mohair, 10% Silk). This goes perfectly with my next spin, which I acquired 6 months after this one.
  4. The Fiberists Specimen 209 (85% BFL, 15% Silk – Tussah). I know Reggie and Spencer personally and was thrilled to find two braids of this in my Shrödinger’s bag (their version of a grab bag). You should check them out; they just got a line of enamal pins that are really, really cute and I want them all but I really need Dr. Mori.
  5. The purples are both 4 oz braids of Targhee that I’ve had in my stash since 2010. It was time to take the plunge and dye them and spin them.

So that’s 28 ounces of wool that I spun for TdF! Huzzah!

More on those bumps I dyed myself … My Mom’s birthday is August 1 and she like purple, so I thought I’d dye and spin these braids for her – she knits and crochets. The first skein I spun almost like a fractal; I divided the roving into 3 lengths. I spun the first one end to end, the second one end to end but the opposite ends of the first (if that makes sense), and the third I divided into as many strips as possible. The resulting yarn varies pleasingly in color, but I spun it short forward draw (my go-to) and I don’t think the yarn really takes advantage of the bounce and crimp in the fiber.

So I divided the second bump into three equal portions based on color: red, white, blue. (How patriotic!) I carded each color, made rolags, and spun this one (mostly) long backward draw. The resulting yarn is squishy and bouncy, but the color is on par with butcher’s twine for me – it just looks really boring. So as I type this, it’s cooling off in a dye pot because I overdyed it with violet.

Phew. Now I need to count yardarge and update my stash on Ravelry with everything. That may be a good task for tomorrow since (hey!) I actually wrote a blog post! I hope that if you did the Tour, you had fun!

Addendum to Tour of My Tour de Fleece

It’s already been too long since TdF ended and I got my projects mixed up in my last post. I did just finish spinning a batt of merino naturally dyed with indigo and butterfly bush, but I started that after TdF. I forget about two other yarns that I spun between the last part of my TdF and the blue-green batt: two batts that I got last spring as part of a fiber exchange.

The first batt had my favorite colors: blue and green. The maker also included brown, and lots of different fibers and textures that were quite an adventure to spin. I started spinning the batt on my wheel from the brown side in May and then paused, taking it back up at the end of the tour. During Tdf, I split the batt into roving (not dizzed, just torn/split) roughly along color lines, brown to green to blue, to make it easier to spin and to preserve the striping in the final yarn, which I chain plied. Regrets: not taking a picture before spinning (I promise, it was a beautiful batt), not weighing it. The finishing yarn is 46g and 90yds.

The second batt was brown and very obviously hand processed by the maker from a specific sheep breed. What was the breed? Did she really prepare it, taking it from fleece to batt? I don’t know – she hasn’t been on Facebook since I posted in the group about my finished yarns. I was hoping she would remember the breed and maybe have pictures of the batts, but alas, it’s ultimately my bad for waiting so long to spin them and not keeping her letter with them. You may think my memory is really bad (it probably is) but she also sent chocolates and I still remember how delicious those were.

So the second batt I also split lengthwise into a continuous strip of roving-like wool. I also chain plied it to use up all the singles at once, and ended up with 30g, 66 yards yards of fingering weight yarn. It seems I can only spin fingering; I need to try spinning larger, which is at odds with my deep-seated desire to get the most out of the fiber by spinning it thick enough for the singles not to break easily but thin enough for me to feel like I’m stretching it.

last of the TdF yarn
The Real TdF yarn (left) and it’s buddy

Well. I can’t let that inaccurate information in my last post stand, so feel free to check out the new updated version (probably with lots of strike through) if you haven’t already.

Belated Tour of My Tour de Fleece 2017

Before we get much further into August, I thought I’d write post about Tour de Fleece before I forget everything. I’m pretending the Tour just ended along with July for as long as I can before my middle son heads to college and my oldest returns to college. Anyway…

I joined a sort of familiar team on Ravelry, Team Fibernate and Solitude Wool. I’ve known the Solitude Wool women for a few years and I knew a few of the team members, like The Fiberists, but I wasn’t familiar with Fibernate. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend all of the in-person meet-ups and missed out on the neat passport system the team started – attend an event, get a stamp, and at the end of the TdF, the people with the most stamps are entered into a prize drawing. Next year, next year – the events all looked fun and interesting and online encouragement & camaraderie are great, but nothing beats both in person. But I didn’t participate in TdF at all in 2016, so I’m just happy I spun this year and had a team to keep up with in terms of pretty yarn making pictures.

I didn’t have any specific goals in mind this year other than to spin each day, which was easy until I got the Wonder Woman Shawl commission. I began the Tour spinning a braid of Spunky Eclectic BFL on my spindles since I was out of town that first weekend. I initially just split the braid in half and started, but I decided I didn’t want to do a 2 ply or chain ply it – I wanted to break the colors up more and try fractal spinning. So when I got home, I guestimated how much I’d already spun (not much) and split the remaining fiber into thirds. I continued to spin the first third as it was dyed, with the color sequence pink, teal, pink, teal, pink (or something like that). The second third I broke in half, then in half again so I had 4 thin strips of roving: (pink, teal, pink, teal, pink) x 4. And the last third, I broke into 8 even thinner strips of (pink,teal, pink,teal, pink). In theory, this breaks the color up enough so that when plied the resulting yarn is less likely to be a solid color.

Spunky Eclectic BFL in Ballroom Dancing
Starting Braid – Spunky Eclectic BFL in Ballroom Dancing

The yarn I ended up with is mostly the classic barber pole look that results from a fractal spin, but I think a fractal spin is more suited to 3 or more colors because there were a few spots where I ended up with a solid strand, though some of the plies varied tonally.

The other thing that I didn’t even think about was the visual blending of the colors – the resulting skein is much more purple than what I anticipated. When the braid was dyed, the pink and teal mixed in a few places to make purple (or perhaps Amy dabbed some purple in a few spots), but I didn’t think the final skein would have the overall purple tone it does – it’s kind of magical. Caveat: color theory is a weak point for me. I did take a color theory class at one of my local yarn stores with an indie dyer who shall remain nameless because instead of starting with the color wheel and jumping into actual theory, she started and ended with colors in nature, which is more color inspiration than theory. I know there are resources online for studying color theory, I just haven’t gotten around to using them after than expensive and deflating experience.

Final yarn: 254yds 3 ply fingering, 49 yds 2 ply light fingering, 24yds single ply laceweight

Technique-wise, I spun all of the singles on spindles, winding off the finished singles into a plying ball, my first time using one. I used my center pull winder to make a 2 ply ball and then made a 3 ply ball using that and the singles right off a spindle. I didn’t account for the difference in tension between two plies coming from a ball and one being pulled from a spindle, so my plying ball was kind of doomed from the start to be wonky. The final 3 ply yarn shows this in spots where I was unable to correct the mismatch in ply length that resulted from the tension problems while winding. I think it’ll be a while before I try another plying ball.

When I finished the Spunky Eclectic braid, I decided to spin the batts detailed in the Addendum to this post. Do blog posts have addendums? Well, this one does. After I spun those batts, I started in on:

A batt of merino (not cormo – whoops) that I dyed all the way back in 2011 using indigo and butterfly bush. The batt was 1.8 oz (53g) and semi-felted in places. I decided to chain ply the final yarn (no more plying balls, thanks!) and began spinning straight from the batt, which was semi-felted in places. Rather than stopping and running the whole thing back through my drum carder, which would make more neps than what I was already encountering, I just tore the batt into one continuous strip 1-2″ wide.

Forest merino batt; mordanted with alum, partially dyed with butterfly bush, overdyed with indigo

I didn’t finish spinning this batt until yesterday, long after the tour ended. I chain plied it on the porch in the afternoon since it was so nice out (in the upper 70s, low 80s), and then washed and whacked it and this morning it’s dry. It did turn out a little more neppy than I thought it would; I ended each spinning sessions with neps that I had picked out surrounding me on the floor and thought I got them all, but the final yarn shows more. Anyway, I’m happy with it and I think I’ll continue to spin down my fiber stash even though Tour de Fleece is over. In the spirit of my Monday lists, Done!

Forest green merino (not cormo)
Forest green merino, which is a bit less vibrant in person; 240 yds