Saddle Sore

I’m not really saddle sore – I don’t think I actually did any cycling while participating in the Tour de Fleece at all.  But the tour has ended and now it’s time to look back and review the experience.  Before the tour started I set out some aims:

Spin everyday!

I did this!  I managed to do some spinning (or spinning preparation) everyday that there was a cycling stage in the Tour de France, and I even spun a little on one of the rest days!  Sometimes it was just a few minutes before bed, but sometimes I did a few hours.

Do some spinning on all of my wheels!

I also managed this.  I started the tour with six wheels and acquired a new one somewhere in the middle – which did complicate things a little.  I’ve spun a lot on some wheels (my oldest Ashford with both jumbo and standard sliding hook flyer has seen a lot of use) and just a little on others (both Haldanes have only been used a little, which is a shame as I like both wheels).  Here’s what’s on, or been on, my wheels during the tour.

Completing the singles of the Soybean and Sheltand on my Traditional with lace flyer:


And starting to ply on my oldest Traditional:


Juno dyed Falkland fibre on my Dryad:


BFL dyed with food colour on my Queen Bee:


Continuing to spin some unspun yarn on my Hebridean:


Making singles for the middle of the bowties on my Lewis:


Learning to core-spin on my oldest Traditional with jumbo flyer and on my Pipy Poly:


Spin a fun Doctor Who inspired art yarn.

When I put this as an aim I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do.  Part way through the tour I started playing with core-spun yarns.  Then I started to think that the structure of the core-spun (with the fibres wrapping around rather than running along the length of the yarn) was a bit like the Time Vortex, add in some bowties…

I decided to make bowties with felt, and wrap singles around the middle to turn the rectangles of felt into bows.  I wanted two colours of bowtie, blue and aubergine.  Sadly, the first blue felt piece I made didn’t work for two reasons.  The Angelina didn’t bond into the wool properly and then when I rolled it, the colour of the Angelina wore off and I was left with bronze and silver sparkle instead of just the bronze.  I successfully redid the blue with smaller amounts of pink sparkle (which is the same colour I used in the aubergine felt and looks much better anyway).

I had a very late night on Saturday cutting up felt and then making up bowties.



On Sunday morning I prepared some core yarn by spinning it anti-clockwise to reduce the amount of unbalancing twist there would be in the finished yarn. I then packed everything up and took it to an open farm day, where I spun on the Poly wheel, which I’ve only used once before, using a technique I am still learning and adding the bows to the yarn in a way I’ve never attempted before. I even had to make up more bows using fairly active singles as I’d only had time to make aubergine bows the night before.


I spun some more when I got home and ended up with 80 yarns on the biggest bobbin of yarn I’ve ever spun:


Wound into a skein, washed and tied with yellow ribbons:


I still have about two-thirds of the batts left over so I hope to make another skein with the same number of bowties and a final skein with just a few bowties.

Finish off any languishing projects.

I have not finished any projects that I did not start during the tour, though I have made progress on some.  I’m particularly pleased to be finally plying the Soybean and Shetland!

Overall I’ve really enjoyed the experience of participating in the Tour de Fleece.  I’ve loved the focus on the spinning, the chance it’s given me to explore new techniques and the opportunity to share with other spinners in the UK and abroad.  I will definitely do this again!

Day, ermmm… not sure… of the TdF

What I do know is that there are just two days and a few hours left, and I’ve got a lot of work still to do if I’m going to hit all my aims.  Actually, if I’m honest here I’m not going to manage everything at this point.  What I want to do now is identify my main focus and concentrate on that.

Well there are two things, firstly I said I wanted to spin on all my wheels.  Well, at the start of the tour I had six wheels.  I’ve spun on six wheels.  However, I now have seven wheels and my Haldane Lewis is feeling neglected!

The second thing I really want to do is make the “bowties are cool” yarn.  I have a plan that if I make enough yarn I could make a nice shawl, with bows along the lower edges.  I suspect I won’t have the length of yarn for that, but I won’t know until I try.  Anyway, to make the yarn I really need some bowties.  I’m making them out of felt and spinning short coordinating lengths of yarn (I’ll spin these on the Lewis) to finish them off and attach them to the core-spun yarn.

Last night I checked out some potential colours for the bowties:


Then I had a go at the felting.  I really don’t have any skill at making felt.  Usually when handling wool I’m treating it very gently so as not to make it felt.  But when I try and make felt, I find it takes quite a lot of effort.  Last night’s attempt was not 100% successful – the Angelina (sparkly nylon) I added formed a resist layer between two felted layers of wool.  I’m hoping that once I’ve rolled the felt it’ll be ok.  But I want to make a second piece in different colours and roll them at the same time.  So, I’m going to go and do that now otherwise this yarn isn’t going to be spun this weekend!

Time Travel on Days 13 to 15 of the TdF

Today’s lesson – when grabbing my camera from the desk in my study, make sure it’s got the memory card in it and I’ve not left it in the card reader slot in my computer. So some of the photos on here are from the camera on my phone (which fortunately goes everywhere with me).  But before I talk about today I need to catch up on the TdF.

On Thursday (day 13) I continued with plying the Shetland/Soybean blend. It’s not finished yet but I did make some progress. Yesterday (day 14) I managed to get to 11pm without doing any spinning. In the end I fancied something calming and soothing so sat at my Dryad and continued spinning the Falkland tops.

Today is day 15 and was Creating Space.  I took spinning, drum-carding and felting to do. I’m not sure why I thought I would manage to do all of these things in about 6 hours (with time for lunch) but I’ve always been an optimist.

I wanted to make a start on the “Bowties are cool” yarn. My plan is to have felted bowties and the yarn itself to be core-spun. I started work on making some batts. Initially I fished out the colours and fibres I wanted to use and put them together and looked for some pictures of the Time Vortex from the new Doctor Who series (I personally like the vortex for the 10th Doctor, so this is where I concentrated my efforts). Then, uncertain of what I was going to do. I drank some tea and did some spinning:


I then had another look at the pictures and my fibre and made some decisions, which resulted in four piles of fibre:

piles of fibre

I drum carded each of these.  I didn’t manage to cram all the fibre onto the carder, so I now have a pile of left-overs.  After a single pass I was starting to doubt my plan:


So I split each of the batts into four and recarded into four new batts (thus combining the first batts).  The result is four Time-Vortex batts:


Next step – felted bowties.

Omelettes on Day 12 of the TdF

I decided on a 3 ply.  And I think you’ll agree that this looks like a nice even, round yarn.


I would have plied a bit more but I ran into a little problem.


I swear that this bobbin is filled with a single that has no beginning or end.  It is one continuous loop that goes round and round.  I’ve spent a good half an hour this evening hunting for the end and generally making a mess of the single on this bobbin.  I’ve still not found it.  I decided to find a bobbin that did have an end and use that instead.

So, in order to make an omelette you need to break a few eggs and if you spin enough there will come a time when you lose an end.

Days 10 and 11 of the TdF

I was relieved that day 10 of the TdF was a rest day, not least because it was the day some plumbing decided to start leaking.  I spent most of the afternoon and evening worrying about the leak, if it would turn from a trickle into a gush or if indeed it wasn’t a leak at all but some other highly unlikely problem (like condensation).  This morning I found the source of the leak and a kind friend came and fixed it (and is returning tomorrow for preventative plumbing maintenance!)  Before the leak, and despite it being a rest day, I found myself sat at one of my wheels spinning a little, while my daughter played at “spinning” on another wheel which currently doesn’t have a project on it.

Today (day 11) I decided to make some headway on the Soybean/Shetland blend.  This I’m spinning longdraw – which always feels like a little bit of magic is being performed when the thread forms as I pull back the fibre.  At the beginning it feels like I’m stretching out something like chewing-gum or blue-tack.  The initial thread is lumpy and bumpy, but as the twist enters the fibre and stabilises the thinner sections and I continue to pull back, the lumps disappear like magic.  My longdraw spinning isn’t perfect – though I think if I used freshly carded rolags my results would be much more consistent.

I really wanted to finish spinning the singles and found myself cramming every last ounce of fibre onto the bobbins (I even swapped bobbins to get more on one that I’d previously decided was full).


And I did it!  I’ve used up all the Soybean and Shetland blend:


I haven’t yet decided how to ply these, whether to make a 2 or 3 ply.  I’d initially intended a 2 ply, but I think a 3 ply would give a rounder more consistent yarn.

Spinning Longdraw on Day 9 of the TdF

Yesterday I was creating large and fluffy yarn on a wheel with a ratio of 3:1.  Today I decided I needed to make progress on something that’s been hanging around for a long time.  So I switched to my Ashford Traditional with a lace flyer set at 40:1 and got on with spinning my Shetland and soybean fibre blend.  I did a little in the afternoon and this evening after the children were in bed I took the wheel out onto the patio to spin.


The garden’s fairly unkempt, but there are some lovely plants on the patio including this pot containing three fuchsias (it wasn’t as dark as this – the flash has just made it look darker).  There’s a huge jasmine halfway down the garden, and the scent from the flowers was filling the air (I’ve now learnt that when the label of a plant says it’ll grow to 4m by 4m, I need to think very hard about how big that actually is, and not kid myself that I’ll manage to keep it to 2m by 2m by pruning!)

Anyway, I sat down with my tea and my wheel and pulled handfuls of fibre from the blended batt and spun longdraw from the fold.


This is a wobbly one handed photo, taken on my phone.  You can see the fibre batt on my lap, and a spun thread (going off to the left) just before it gets wound onto the bobbin.

I managed about 40 minutes spinning outside before it got too dark to see how thick a thread I was making.  It was a lovely way to fit some spinning into my day.

Days 5 (continued), 6 and 7 of the Tour de Fleece

When I left you last on day 5 of the TdF I was off to do some spinning.  I did (sort of).  I prepared some mill-spun yarn for core-spinning by running it through the wheel to put some S-twist in, prior to my using it to core-spin Z-twist.

Yesterday was day 6 and I carded up a batt with a variety of wool and trilobal nylon and then core-spun it.  I also added an auto-wrap thread.  Here it is this morning, finished and tied with some matching ribbon:


The yarn is both heavier and shorter than the previous one I core-spun.  The batt I used was thicker but less fluffy, so I think I applied the fibre more heavily to the core.  I shall have to experiment until I’m able to consistently get the results I want.

Today has been a busy day with the children, and being a Friday I’m quite tired.  However, this evening I’ve carded up another batt.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to core-spin this tomorrow.  Here it is in a deep hat-box, which is just the right size (I’ve had to re-home the fabric scraps I was storing in here):


So, that’s the first week of the TdF completed.  I’ve thought constantly about spinning, fibre, and things I can add to the spinning.  Earlier this week I went shopping for a curtain pole.  I managed to find one but I also came back with these beads, perfect in their own little storage boxes and ideal to add to my spinning!


The fabric scraps from the hat-box?  I found myself wondering if they could be spun into a yarn or added to some yarn.  So, what will week 2 of the TdF bring and how much further am I going to stray from my original goals?

Tour de Fleece: days 3, 4 and 5

Days three and four of the tour have gone well.  Monday was a busy day with all the usual grocery shopping and other general Monday shenanigans.  When time allowed I continued with the spindling and in the evening I made a little more progress on the lovely Juno fibre.

Yesterday (day four) turned into a bit of a bumper spinning day.  In the morning was my son’s sports day.  I took the “fruit salad” spindle spinning and between cheering him on and taking photos I was able to do quite a bit of spindling.  My spinning did get a few enquiring looks from other mums and some questions from one of the older children who was helping with the sports day organisation.  I think I may need to put together a short one page introduction that can be given out at similar events if people are interested.


Also in the morning a new spinning book arrived.  I spent the day flicking through it and in the evening I had to have a go at core spinning.  I carded up a batt with natural white Shetland, a little commercially dyed Shetland, some food-colour dyed Jacob and some sparkly trilobal.


I enjoyed the spinning and ended up with a very light and airy yarn.  In fact I found the lightness compared to the bulk of the yarn really surprising.  I’ll be interested to see how it wears.


This morning I wound it into a ball.  Normally I use a ball-winder – but large yarns don’t work on a standard sized ball-winder, so I had to use a makeshift nostepinne.


Yes, it’s an almost empty kitchen roll.  I’m going to Fibre-East in a few weeks.  I must remember to look out for a proper nostepinne while I’m there.

I’ve knitted all 31 yards up into a small Mobius cowl using 20mm needles.  I just need to graft it and it’ll be complete.  As yet though, I haven’t managed any actual spinning today. So please excuse me stopping here as I must now go and do at least a few minutes!