Tour de Fleece 2014 Draws To A Close

I have officially completed my first Tour de Fleece.

I am pretty happy with how it went, overall.  I didn’t spin as much as I had hoped.  Actually that’s not true.  I spun more than I thought I would at the start, but after finishing a whole braid in my first 8 days, I had thought I’d get more done.

However, it seems that spinning progress got a lot slower in the second half.  Maybe because I spun less, time-wise…maybe because the fibre was different and it just took me longer.  I am still not sure.

In any case, I turned a 115 gram braid of merino bamboo into 300 yards of gorgeous yarn,

Colourway: “Cast On Couch”

and a 62 gram braid of merino cashmere into 230 yards of delightful squooshy-ness,

Colourway: Flamingoes Are Not Munitions Experts"

Colourway: “Flamingos Are Not Munitions Experts”

and I made some headway into a third braid of camel/silk.

Colourway: "I Am A Drinker With A Spinning Problem"

Colourway: “I Am A Drinker With A Spinning Problem”

I spun indigodragonfly only…being their team captain and all.  The only untouched indigodragonfly fibre I have left is some merino/seacell…but I have 300 grams of that so I am keeping that until I figure out what I want that to become.

I will keep on keeping on with the Humpspun…and maybe alternate that bobbin with some other fibre that has been languishing in my stash.  I am looking to learn some woolen techniques and I may have to break into some batts for that.

In which prayers are said…

Prayers that soaking/blocking really is magic for weaving, just like it is for knitting.

I started my first laceweight weaving project Friday night.  Shireen came over for a visit and offered to help me warp up my loom with some Malabrigo Silkpaca in “Archangel” she gave me.  Since I always find warping to be the most intimidating part of weaving, I took her up on her offer.  We moved some furniture and warped up a nice long, if narrow scarf-like piece.  It’s amazing how fast 440 yards goes!

warp

Since she gave me two skeins of this lovely stuff, we decided I would weft with the other skein.  This meant I was free to practice without fear of making any sort of colour choices/mistakes.  So I wound the entirety of the second skein onto the bobbins for my boat shuttle (Shireen brought with her the prototype of an amazing machine that Tito made to help with that most boring of tasks) and got ready to go.

bobbins

 

I got started with my leader yarn, and for some reason that seemed to take a LOT of yarn.  The gaps didn’t seem to want to close at all.  Once I did get them closed up, I started with my boat shuttle and words cannot express how much more enjoyable using that shuttle is, compared to the basic stick ones that come with the loom.  I had a problem with the left side of my shed…however I tied it, it seemed sorta loose and wimpy and there are a few inadvertent floats as a result.

But the bigger issue I encountered was not being able to get the weft to stay put.  I’d beat it down, and it would bounce back up.  I assumed either I was doing something wrong, or the silk in the yarn was rendering it so slippery that the threads just weren’t sticking together.  I messaged Shireen to ask her what I was doing wrong and her response was not to think of it as beating it down but rather “think of it as placing it on a line that is an equal distance from the one below it.”  I tried that, but I admit that I still wasn’t too successful.  That being said, I am fairly sure that the method I used to attach the warp to the apron bar rendered the start of the piece somewhat uneven.  I have already decided that even if it means less loom waste, I won’t be trying that method again.

3

So by the end of the weaving time on the weekend, this was what I had.  It’s way uneven (there are all sorts of gaps and you can see where the weft threads are actually wavy over on the right) and the edges are pretty ratty looking.  But, it’s also my first laceweight piece and I am hoping I (and it) will get better as the piece progresses.

Besides, that s$%# will totally block out, right?

Tour de Fleece: Rest Day 1

It popped up on my calendar today that this is the first of the two Tour “rest days”.  We don’t spin our wheels when the riders don’t, so to speak.  I had not planned to actually take a day off today, but I think I will because I am getting some aches and pains in my right hand.  Considering how much time I have spent at my wheel these past 10 days, I suppose that should not be surprising.

My current project is another indigodragonfly fibre.  This one is a camel/silk blend, creatively named Humpspun, in a colourway named, “I Am A Drinker With A Spinning Problem”.

Humpspun Fibre

Humpspun Fibre

This name might be more a propos than I care to admit. This yarn, when finished, is going to be a great many things.  It’s going to be ultra-soft, and very warm.  It’s also going to be very pretty, with some blue-green silky bits strewn in amongst natural/beige coloured camel fibres.

Know what it’s not going to be?  EVEN.

I have been spinning this fibre for a few nights and my relatively inexperienced hands just cannot get the hang of drafting this.  At.  All.

Single Progress after 3rd day

Single Progress after 3rd day

I am fairly certain this single runs the gamut from laceweight to worsted, depending on where you look.  I am not sure if this is just a “harder” fibre to spin, or if it’s different from the usual merino or BFL blends I am accustomed to.  But in any case, I suspect this is going to take the rest of the Tour to spin because I am spinning way more slowly than with the PandaBaa and I can’t spin as long because my hands hurt.

I am still loving working on it though, now that I have decided to let it be what it wants to be, and I think the yarn is going to be lovely and original when I am done.

Which is to say, “lovely and original” sounded much nicer than saying “it will look like it was spun by an untrained four year old who drafted with her left foot”.

Spinning FO: Indigodragonfly PandaBaa

Two years ago, I started Tour de Fleece, armed with nothing more than a few braids of fibre and my Houndesign spindle.  I got about 9 days in, and a few things came up, and that, as they say, was that.

Two years later, with my trusty Lenrdum wheel, I decided to give it another go, and while I was at it, I thought I’d head up the indigodragonfly TdF team.  I had a single braid of PandaBaa (merino/bamboo) and if I managed to finish that one, I figured, I had another couple I could work on.  Truthfully, I was not really expecting that to happen, but a girl can hope.

PandaBaa in "Cast-On Couch"

PandaBaa in “Cast-On Couch”

I had not at all figured on the addiction-inducing properties of this fibre.  So soft, so lustrous and it, as I have said before, drafts like butter.  I had half the braid done in the first weekend, and then spun the other half over the next four days.  Plying always takes longer than I think it will (this is in no way aided by the fact that I have had to ply my last two skeins twice) so I saved it for a peaceful Sunday morning activity.

Finished Single

Finished Single

There’s a saying…”Man Plans.  God Laughs.”  I am guessing he had a mighty chuckle at me yesterday morning.

After the recent success of plying from both ends of a centre-pull ball, that seemed like the most reasonable way to go.  I wound the single off the bobbin and settled in, not knowing the horror that awaited me.

Ready To Ply!

Ready To Ply!

This time, something went horribly awry, and even now I can’t say what exactly.  The strands doubled back on themselves and each other.  They got twisted and tangled, and the strands were almost sticky….keeping them apart proved to be impossible and in one case, no matter how hard I tried, scissors were required.   The air was positively blue from the language that erupted as I’d untangle one bit, only to hit two more.

The only thing we could see that would work would be to have the ball spin so that the strand on the outside never had a chance to wind itself around the middle one.  My darling husband was good enough to hold the ball, slowly turning it to keep the strands apart while I plied.  (As I write this, he is busily trying to invent/MacGyver something to help me with this in future.  If he fails this will NOT be a method I am idiotic enough to try again.  Fool me once….)

90 or so minutes later, the yarn was plied, but I could see, like last time, that it was too loose for me to be happy with.  So after some coffee and pancakes (yes, I was also stupid enough to try this un-caffeinated) I settled in with the plied bobbin and ran it through the wheel again.  I mutter as I do this, but I have to say, for the second time now, the second pass made all the difference in the world.  Actually, since the last skein had already alerted me to the fact that I ply loosely, I suspect that this one would have been tight enough the first time if not for the unanticipated snags I hit, as the closer I got to the end, the more nicely plied the yarn was already.

finished1

In the end…just barely shy of 300 yards.  It looks like fingering weight but might be sport – I haven’t had a chance to do a WPI test on it yet.  But no matter what, I absolutely love it.  So soft and squishy and such lovely colour.  I am seriously contemplating using it to warp my loom and then wefting with just a plain natural colour lace or fingering weight to keep the colours from being obscured.

finished2And now back to the Humpspun I started last week.

Canada Day Weekend FO: Spinning Edition

Some evenings, spinning is a lovely, relaxing way to wind down after a long day. Since I picked it up again in May, I have been finding knitting time dwindling and spinning time increasing…which is a bit of a problem since really, I am just creating more yarn. But I digress.

Since May, I have spun up three separate braids, and this one is the first that I would consider luxury, ie that is something other than straight merino or BFL. This braid of 80% BFL and 20% silk from Friends in Fibre has been calling to me with its lovely blues and purples for a while now, and I thought it was time to spin up something truly yummy.

Friends In Fiber BFL/Silk in "Blue Moon"

Friends In Fiber BFL/Silk in “Blue Moon”

After watching Felicia Lo’s Craftsy class called “Spinning Dyed Fibres” and discovering that the braid had lovely long runs of colour, I decided on a fractal spin. This is a process whereby you split the braid lengthwise down the middle, and then spin one half as is to get the afore mentioned long stretches of single colour. The other half is then split lengthwise as many times as possible and spun up one after the other. This creates shorter runs of colour, and then the two are plied together. Real results are only visible once the piece is knit up and I haven’t gotten that far yet.

After plying on Saturday, I Tweeted this picture:

First run at plying

First run at plying

One of my followers, an avid spinner, commented that it was pretty and I asked her if perhaps the plying was too loose. I have a tendency to overspin my singles with the knowledge that the plying will take some of it away, but it seems I am a bit overcautious with the plying. “Fluffykira” kindly suggested that I run it back through the wheel – something I wasn’t actually sure I could do – if I felt it wasn’t plied tightly enough.  She assured me it would be fine and that I could just soak it again afterwards and all would be well!  I can’t say how grateful I am to her. After 45 minutes or so, and an episode of Battlestar Galactica…this was the result.

And after a second ply...

After a second ply…

Next time I will know not to be quite so judicious with the amount of twist I am adding.  Because frankly, having to re-do all this a second time was a bit of a pain, even if it was totally worth it in retrospect.

Finished skein

Finished skein

Next up…indigodragonfly PandaBaa in “Cast On Couch”.  This gorgeous red-purple colourway in merino/bamboo will be going on my wheel for Tour de Fleece!  In fact, indigodragonfly has entered a team into the festivities.  Come join us on Ravelry!

Canada Day Weekend FO: Weaving Edition

I decided to take Monday off work this week and give myself a four day weekend. I figured I’d relax a little, maybe do some crafting. I had some kettle dyeing I wanted to do and I was looking to clear my wheel in anticipation of the start of Tour de Fleece this weekend. I had also hoped to work on my OTN sock design.  (See where that whole relaxing plan went a bit off the rails?)

I had not really planned on weaving this weekend at all. I warped up my loom over a month ago, using my 7.5 dpi heddle and some worsted weight yarn, but had done precious little work on it, to be honest. The reason? I was using yarn I hated and had little use for, because I was “learning/practicing”.  I had a ball of Berroco Remix that was given to me as part of a much larger group of items, and I disliked it enough that I had even had it in my destash until that day.  So I went ahead and warped up the 216 yards (grossly underestimating how many warp threads I’d actually get from it – ergo the lopsided warping!) and once the leader had been woven in, I had really gotten no further.

project2-warp

 

I mentioned to Shireen on Monday that I had not touched my loom and that my disinterest in the yarn/project was the likely reason.  She encouraged me to go home and cut the whole thing off the loom, and toss it, echoing my friend Val’s advice, some time ago, that life was too short to spend time working with fibres you don’t like. (Val’s advice pertained to spinning fibre when I was learning to spin; the message was the same in both cases!)

So I dragged out the loom and got myself set up.  I had my hands on the Cascade 220 I had planned to use as weft and wound some onto the shuttle, all the while thinking, “I’ll just do a few passes to get myself used to it again.” Well, that didn’t work half as well as you might think. First, I hated to waste the yarn, even if it was yarn I didn’t like. Worse, I had forgotten just how terrible I was at weaving. This was only my second project and the edges were awful – to use Shireen’s expression, “they looked like the cats chewed on them”. And I could not bear to warp up the loom using something pretty, only to waste it. So I forged ahead and completed the piece. It really only was a few hours at that point.

project2-bowl

The thing that amazes me the most: soaking is to weaving as blocking is to knitting.  It’s quite surprising to see the threads fluff up and the gaps fill in…and to see so much of the unevenness disappear.

project2-table

I did discover one thing.  There is a reason that you overlap weft threads when ending one and starting a new one – if you don’t, you get holes/gaps in the fabric.  Oops.  Lesson learned.  Better to learn that on this piece than on something that I’ll be sad about having that sort of flaw.

Overall, it actually came out fine.  51.5″ long without the fringe by not quite 12″ wide.  I told Chase it might make a nice coffee table runner, or at least I now knew how to go about making one and about how much yarn I’d need.

Next onto the loom….a toss up between some Malabrigo sock, a skein of Tanis Fiber Arts laceweight and some Malabrigo Silkpaca lace in Archangel.

Spinning FO: Blooming Bougainvilla

Remember this?

Last week I decided that the spindle spin I had started during Tour de Fleece two years ago was never going to get finished unless my Lendrum got involved.

I am pleased to report it’s all done!  And it turned out remarkably well, all things considered, although it’s not as even as my most recent spinning.

The Woolee Winder I purchased is a miracle worker.  I easily got the single onto a single bobbin.

The Finished Single

The Finished Single

Then on Monday evening, I “Shireen-plyed” my yarn.  This is a name I have given to a faux-Andean plying method that Shireen came up with last week.  4 oz of single is a bit hard to Andean ply without cutting off circulation to your fingers, so Shireen wound it into a centre-pull ball, and then plied the two ends of the ball together.  A small downfall to this method: towards the very end, the ball collapses and gets a bit tangly.  The up side?  You never have mismatched single from having two bobbins that don’t quite match.  In this case, I did it to ply older, thicker, spindle spun yarn with newer wheel spun yarn in an attempt at consistency.

IMG_0626

Certainly not perfect, but I am actually pleased with the result, regardless of the thick and thin quality.

IMG_1016

Next up…the second half of my Friends in Fiber BFL/Silk fractal spin!  Have to clear my bobbins for next week’s Tour de Fleece!