Tour de Fleece 2015: Week 3 & Wrap-Up

This has been a big week in Chez Knitting Sarah and I have so much to share from outdoor adventures to knitting to spinning. I think the best place to start is the very beginning, with the end of the Tour de Fleece so that’s what I’ll tell you about today. I’m always a little sad and a little relieved to see the Tour end. I really love spending this time every year focused on my spinning, but since I do tend to push myself, by the end my body and mind are ready to shift back to more balanced days.

For me, like any good event, the third and final week of the Tour was filled with highs and lows. I’ll start with a huge high.

kai ranchThis little 124yd skein of 100% kid mohair from Kai Ranch may not look like anything to really get into a lather about aside from being a collection of really gorgeous blues, but this is my very first skein made completely with a spindle. I spun and plied it using my Snyder Spindles Turkish spindle.

kai ranch detDespite some reservations about plying from the inside & outside of the ‘turtle’, I really thought it was highly do-able — not as smooth as my tensioned lazy kate with my wheel, but really it wasn’t bad at all. I would definitely go this route again without hesitation. The only thing I might consider is getting a slightly heavier spindle for plying. My 1.3oz Turkish was a little light for the job and the very end was a little laborious. It got the job done, though, and the yarn turned out very lovely. My main hope was that I could develop some spindle skills so that my spinning would become a bit more mobile. I feel pretty confidant that I’ve got a strong start on that goal, not to mention a pretty little skein of beautiful blue mohair yarn.

Next up, I realized at the last minute that one of my goals was to spin at least 3 stand-alone singles and I had only spun 2, so on Saturday I whipped up a quick aran single in Spun Right Round Merino.

SRR Merino singleThis is a colorway called Color Play #83. I maybe got a little bit overzealous with the twist, but it’ll knit up just fine.

SRR Merisno single detAt about 164yds, I think this will make a fun, quick hat. I just love Spun Right Round’s palettes — they are always so bright and fun and just a total joy to spin. I have a couple knitting projects coming up with yarn from this shop, too, so I’m looking forward to lots of fun brights in my future.

And now, let’s talk about my low point of the TdF 2015.

I shared some photos on Instagram of spinning my Frabjous Fibers 3 Feet of Sheep Rainbow Merino…

IMG_0073After changing my mind multiple times on how to spin this fiber, I decided to spin one long single (connecting the singles on these two bobbins, of course), wind the singles into a center-pull ball, and ply them into a 2ply. I was thinking fun-giant-bright skein. I saved the plying for the final day of the Tour, letting the singles rest for a couple days in between, and planned to ply them in the morning and then my final skein in the afternoon. Well, the winding took some time and wasn’t what I’d call smooth. And then I started plying and it was going all right until this happened…

IMG_0153
(please note, this photo actually makes the issue look much smaller than it was)

I’ve learned that an episode of ‘yarn barf’ is bad when you are knitting, but it is a COMPLETE DISASTER when spinning. Not only do you have knots and messes, but the yarn is energized singles, so it is especially challenging to straighten out. Now I’m an extreme knot un-doer if ever there was one and I have what can only be described as superhuman patience for the task, but this was a total nightmare. The plying job that should have taken a few hours took me the entire day. The down side, of course, being that I didn’t get to plying my final skein until the following morning. The bright sides (yes, I’m counting 2 bright sides) being that 1) when all was said and done I only had to cut out about 5 or 6yards of unrecoverable yarn, and 2) this:

3ft sheep535yards of perfect fun/bright DK-ish weight yarn.

3ft sheep detThankfully, it’s not one of those skeins that I can’t see past the struggles to appreciate the beauty. This is one of those skeins that makes me feel like the time I put into making it work was all worth it.

 And last, but certainly not least, my yellow skein for the finish.

CL Elysium SW BFL wholeWhile it’s true that the plying of this skein took place the morning after the TdF was completed, in my mind I’m still counting it as part of the 2015 Tour de Fleece. The singles were spun during the TdF proper and — I don’t know — it just felt like my victory lap after the previous day’s plying debacle.

CL Elysium SW BFLThis skein was spun from Cloudlover SW BFL in the Elysium colorway and I managed about 290yds of a sport weight yarn. It has epic drape and just a truly beautiful, rich yellow/gold hue. I can’t wait to hunt up the perfect quick little pattern for this skein. I am pretty happy to have spun a number of skeins with BFL this Tour because it reminds me what a fantastic fiber it is to spin. This SW BFL from Cloudlover is definitely as fine as they come, too.

So, that is how my Tour de Fleece 2015 ended. I managed to achieve my goals — my girl got a little spindling in, I spindled a bit daily (and even finished that skein!), and I managed 3 stand-alone singles. I never really pay attention to big picture yardage or number of skeins while I’m spinning because my focus remains wholly on making each skein the best I can, but because I’m a nerd I did some tallying this morning.

For the 2015 Tour de Fleece I spun:

– 54oz of fiber –

– roughly 6395 yards of singles –

 – 3263 yards of finished yarn –

 – which take the form of 13 new skeins of handspun –

allskeins23I’m pretty happy with that.

Many thanks to Cloudlover for hosting the team and my insanely talented teammates!

So long TdF 2015, here’s to TdF 2016!

TdF Week 2, Recap (belated)

I’m officially a whole week late posting these photos, but that’s life sometimes isn’t it? Especially in summer things get so busy and I’m of the school of thought that sometimes it’s good to just be busy doing stuff, living life. A big reason I love my blog is that I don’t punch a clock here — I try very hard to be timely with posts and keep fresh writing & photographs coming, but I can also let life unfold and enjoy experiences that come my way and while I do the blog can wait a bit. And I thank all of you for hanging with me through it all!

So at long last, I’m sitting down to share my week two skeins from the Tour de Fleece — I won’t beat around the bush, but let me just take you right into introductions with my four new handspun skeins.

First up was a gradient from Northbound Knitting. This BFL/Silk top was named Moonlight.

nbkmoonlight I spun and n-plied it into about 170yds of roughly sport weight yarn. I LOVE the cool blues and greys and purples.

nbkmoonlightdetThis was the first NorthBound Knitting fiber I’ve ever spun and I really could not tell from the braid exactly how this would turn out, but I really adore this yarn. It is gorgeous and I’m forever assured that Lisa at NorthBound Knitting dyes amazing fiber (not that I ever doubted it). My only regret is that I didn’t manage to eek out a little more yardage in the spinning process, but considering the yardage I’ve got this skein will undoubtedly make a lovely Zuzu’s Petals  one day.

My next skein I spun from a couple batts from Classy Squid Fiber Co. I caught wind of this shop via Handmade by Stefanie and grabbed a little over 4oz (2 batts of 2+oz) of the Cloudy with a Chance of BFL colorway.

CSFC wholeI’m relatively new to handling batts and this project was a real treat. The rich mix of black, grey, and navy with little punches of color were really inspiring.

CSFC detIt’s not the most even yarn I’ve spun and I only produced about 275yds of a 2-ply heavy sport weight yarn with these batts, but they are so very special for how unique they turned out.

CSFO detI just love how different this skein is from all my other skeins and I’m really, really, really looking forward to grabbing another couple batts from this shop when the ‘ol budget allows.

Next, I have another gradient from Northbound Knitting. This time the colorway Stormy Skies was dyed on llama top. It was another that I didn’t quite get how it’d look when I spun it, especially since I’d only spun once before with llama.

nbkllamadet

As with the skein of NBK that I mentioned earlier in this post, I’m ready to blindly trust Lisa from Northbound Knitting with her dyeing inspirations. This colorway is a neutral that is 100% to-die-for.

nbkllama

It turned out to be a DK-ish weight and I got about 144yards of n-plied yarn. It feels substantial in my hand so it’s kind of hard to believe it’s only 144yards, but I counted the yardage twice and that’s all she wrote. I’m afraid it might make finding the “right” pattern a little difficult, but I’m confident it’s out there and I’ll find it. Eventually.

And last, but certainly not least, I have something completely different. After spinning a fair bit of neutral & tonal fibers, my June Fiber Club installment arrived from Cloudlover.

IMG_9964And I knew I had to spin it immediately.

cloudlover O'ahudetAnd I did.

I got about 345 yards of a roughly sport weight (maybe DK, I haven’t checked since washing) yarn in this BFL wool. It’s probably one of the most even, professional looking skeins I’ve ever spun and I’m most definitely going to go for socks with this yarn.

Cloudlover O'ahuIt’s so bright and fun. I foresee this yarn and the future socks I intend to make as a major pick-me-up in the dead of winter.

As you might expect, I’m going to be a little behind in sharing my week 3 spins, too, but they’ll be worth the wait. Some fun brights and firsts are in the works and I could not be happier with the progress I’ve made as a spinner during this Tour. Here’s the the Tour de Fleece for getting me inspired and motivated to finish strong!

Knitting, Spinning, and Beating the Heat

The past few days I’ve spent a fair bit of time in and around the house hiding from or cursing at the blazing sun and checking in with the radar to see if any of the ‘tornadic signatures’ are headed our way. When not busy with those worthwhile & necessary activities (especially the cursing at the sun part), the kids and I have been working hard to beat the heat. These activities — like making a “theater” and watching movies in the living room — for the most part actually go great with spinning. So I’ve been doing just that. I even squeezed in some time for knitting.

I actually have 4 fresh skeins of handspun, but they just need a couple more hours in the sun to dry completely so for today I’ll just share what I’ll be working on today in between making up chores that I skipped in the heat & storms of the last couple days.

First, the knitting. Part of me wanted to cast on something really heavy — like a bulky sweater just to shake my fist at Mother Nature a little bit and give myself hope that autumn would someday arrive, but instead I kept it together and worked on my shorties for the Summer Sock KAL. I finished the first sock for July in SilverSpun Sock dyed in the ‘Nectarine Dream’ colorway.

IMG_0043The photos is dark, but I’ve gone back to knitting on them a bit in the morning and evening and finished them right up early Friday morning. This dimly lit photo just doesn’t do the color justice though.

IMG_0046The lighting at the pool is much better! I let the kiddos swim their hearts out Friday for the duration of the open pool hours. I probably should have been swimming with them this time because the cool water would have felt great, but my brain needed a little (mostly) uninterrupted alone time, so I sat the swimming out and knit away.

I took a couple days off from my Turkish spindle for no good reason, but went back at it yesterday with vigor.

IMG_0057The great news is that I am nearing the finish line of this 2oz of kid mohair and the spinning is really getting so much easier. The bad news is that I managed to drop my brand new, beloved narwhal spindle and chipped a bit off one of its corners. I’m still a bit fumbly with the spindle and drop it from time to time. It’s definitely all my fault and not at all indicative of the craftsmanship of the spindle, but all the same it makes me kind of sad. So along with cursing the sun & the heat, there was a little cursing at myself, too.

In any case, I went rifling through my fiber stash yesterday after getting my most recent handspun yarns washed and set, trying to find my next spin. I had everything selected and organized and lined up and at the last minute I totally changed plans and decided to spin up my Frabjous Fibers Rainbow 3 Feet of Sheep that I picked up last month at Northwind Book & Fiber on the way home from Minnesota.

IMG_9748Honestly, I’m spinning it because I’m sick of dealing with the packaging. It’s clever and cute and I bought it because I know it’s good quality fiber, but I just can’t take this yard-long baggy flopping all over my little fiber area anymore. This is ridiculous and 100% true, but really I thought it’d be fun to spin up this bright & cheery fiber pack, too.

IMG_0059Originally I had dreamt of spinning all the colors in order and navajo plying them together for a long rainbow gradient. But when I started prepping the fiber I found that the colors were really kind of uneven and because of how they were uneven I was a little unsure with how that plan would look. In the 11th hour, I prepped all the fiber into random sized small pieces, separated the colors into baggies, and I’m now making a totally randomly selected rainbow colored skein. And I thought I’d navajo ply this yarn, but now I’m thinking I’ll wind a center-pull ball and do a 2ply. I just think it’ll be more of a carnival of color that way.

Only a week left in the Tour de Fleece, so I’ve got to get spinning and — you know — all the actual chores and work on my to-do list today, but I’ll leave you with this…

IMG_0064

Moose knows how to do Sunday mornings right.

Happy Sunday to each and every one of you!

9 Random Things on a Tuesday

Since not all of you are necessarily all that interested in my obsession with the Tour de Fleece, I thought today I share a bit more of an all-inclusive post of random happenings in list form from my little corner of the world. You know, to catch up and what not. Those are always fun, I think.

1. We have a big bed of lilies that my hubby & his parents planted one of the first years we were at our house and they bloomed last week.

IMG_9846They used to be lilies & daisies, but the lilies took over and I’ve since moved the daisies so the entire width of our house lights up with these beautiful flowers. It always makes me thankful that they took the time to plant these flowers and I always think of my in-laws when they bloom.

2. This week Moose finally got a couple of his chew toys back. With his allergies, we had to take them away to rule out their being part of his allergy issues and now that he’s finally in a stable place (knock on wood), I thought it was time to reintroduce a couple toys. He carries them all over, so proud and happy.

IMG_0012I don’t have a photo of him with his toys, so I’m sharing this post-morning belly rub one instead. I might be biased, but he’s such a handsome guy!

3. Although I’ve been spending most of my time spinning, I have been sneaking in moments here and there with my July sock for the Summer Sock KAL.IMG_0010I’m about halfway through the foot or thereabouts. I’m using the super easy Rose City Rollers pattern. It’s just perfect for summer knitting.

4. A week or so ago I tried to teach my daughter how to spin with a spindle. It was literally the day I figured it out myself and I really did not have the language or skills necessary to teach another person, especially a 7-year-old with a limited attention span. Inspired by TdF teammate Jennie, from Kitchen Counter Crafter, teaching her similarly aged daughter, we tried again.

IMG_9997It’s still a little tough for her on her own — the whole when to draft, when to stop drafting and let twist up is not quite clicking all the time, but we’re getting there. For now we’re doing some ‘doubles spinning’, taking turns as a team so she can watch as well as try on her own without feeling like it’s all up to her. Plus, it’s good one-on-one time together. I call that a win-win!

5. We’ve had a bit of heartbreak in the garden this year — just like last year our cherry bushes started showing signs of disease about a month ago. A friend who has some connections managed to get an expert’s opinion who thinks it’s most likely a soil virus for which there really isn’t anything we can do. We let the cherries go while they produced fruit and this week I took the step that I did last year that seemed to help, cutting the diseased branches. It’s a lot of work and really very sad to do, especially since they were bad enough that I literally did not prune in any way for beauty, but just took the diseased branches and left the healthy so they all look like a spastic Edward Scissorhands was set loose to take care of them. Hopefully it helps the plants rally.

6. On the bright side, in a different area of the yard we have a black raspberry patch that has been slowly taking over and the berries started to become ripe about a week ago. The beauty of this patch is that we have ripe berries for a few weeks solid.IMG_9994This is a 3quart contained I picked the other morning — in addition to this, the kids and I probably ate 2pints and we gave a couple cups to our neighbors. Pretty much every meal I just go out and pick a cup or two for dessert. I send a little container in Mr Knitting Sarah’s lunches. My kids run and play outside a lot and I catch them popping over to the berry patch to snag a couple berries in between games. What a treat for us all!

7.  Our air conditioner seems to have met its maker, so we’re going attempt to make it through the summer a/c-less. There will be days that will be uncomfortably hot to be sure, but the vast majority of summer days here are pretty comfortable. We shall see how it goes. A local shop had all their water toys and pools on sale last week so I grabbed a cheap, but effective kiddie pool for about $8 (for which I also went back and got a backup) and a couple slip n’ slides for $3. Oh, and a great blow-up beach ball for $0.59.  The cheap water toys will definitely help!

8. On the topic of weather, I was awakened Monday morning around 2:30 with the first of a serious of alarms from our emergency weather radio including flash flood warnings and severe thunderstorm warnings culminating in tornado sirens going off at 4am. Thankfully we are all safe and unharmed (including the house), but the town just south of us was not as lucky taking a heavy hit from 70+mph straight-line winds. It must be summer in the middle west — wild, unpredictable weather abounds!

9. Of course, a July post wouldn’t be a July post without a little Tour de Fleece spinning. I got my June installment of the Cloudlover Fiber Club in the mail at the end of last week and I started spinning it just as soon as I finished my current spin-in-progress.

IMG_0005It’s called O’ahu and it was love at first sight for me. I split it in 3 equal parts and will do a traditional 3-ply with it.

Yesterday was a rest day, but I spun anyway. I finished up my 8oz of O’ahu and started in on a couple batts from Classy Squid Fiber Co. I heard about this relatively new dyer from the Handmade by Stefanie blog or Instagram account — I can’t remember which.

IMG_0007This is Cloudy with a Chance of BFL. It’s always an adjustment when going from spinning top to spinning batts and after getting going a bit, I’ve gone back and prepped this batt a little differently to really get the most out of it. You can see though, it’s a serious treat to spin. I love the mix of grey, navy, and black with splashes of color.

I hope your week is off to a great start!

TdF: Week 1 Recap

The first week of the Tour de Fleece has absolutely flown by. Way back the on the 4th I actually started the Tour at home and then traveled up to my parents’ house for a couple days of fireworks & fishing. Of course, I brought my wheel and more fiber than I had any hope of spinning. I don’t often travel with my wheel, but when I do I tend to fuss about it more than I would a newborn baby. Is it getting jostled too much? Is it packed well enough that it can’t slide around? Is that hinge stressed? One day I will just suck it up and purchase the nice carrying case from The Woolery, but I don’t because it always seems like a lot to spend unless I traveled with it more. The irony being, of course, that I would travel more with it if I had the case, but whatever — I’ll just be a nervous nelly for the foreseeable future and that’s that.

In any case, I spun a lot this week. I am the first to admit that I make a lot of time for spinning during the TdF and I’m thankful that my family takes it in stride. I don’t ask for much time away or time to myself, so I appreciate that during these weeks they let me spin my little heart out. So, would you like to see what I’ve been spinning? I just took the beauty shots of my finished skeins, so here we go!

Since I’m co-captaining Team Cloudlover this year, I thought it only fitting that I start with a braid of Cloudlover fiber.

ariadne This is 100% Targhee in the Ariadne colorway.

ariadne detIt’s about 140yards of worsted/aran singles which I felted lightly when I washed and set it. One of my goals was to spin more singles this TdF and I have to say that I’m already definitely gaining confidence in that realm. I still spin them painfully slow, but I like how they’re turning out so I’ll be patient on the speed front there.

Next, I started a braid of Malabrigo Nube, but had to press pause for the travels up to my parents’ house — it was a plying head vs regular head situation because I didn’t want to travel with both. So I started in on a braid of Cloudlover Apple Picking in Rambouillet.

apple picking detI did a standard 2-ply and it turned out really, just lovely.

apple pickingI used an Andean plying bracelet to use every last bit of the singles and wound up with about 335yards of a heavy fingering or sport weight yarn.

Next, I wanted something nice and quick, so I grabbed a braid of merino from Spun Right Round in the Rock Lobster colorway.

rock lobsterAnd I spun it into about 72yards of a chunky standard 2-ply that is the bright, squishy, soft skein I’ve come to love making with Spun Right Round merino.

All the while, of course, I’ve been spinning bits and bobs with my spindles.

spindlesI have so much to learn, but the spindle is definitely growing on me. I do finally have the hang of my my very basic Schacht — after only 3 or 4 years — lol! And I really love my new Turkish Spindle from Snyder Spindles, as well.

Taking s bit of s break this morning to play with this new tool that arrived yesterday. #snyderspindles #narwhal #narhwalspindle #handspinning #spinnersofinstagram #spinstagram #TDF2015

 It feels very well balanced and I just love the narwhal motif. I must say, I can sense a slippery slope with spindles. I find myself really interested in trying a Turtle Made spindle, too. They are very popular in my TdF team and have very good word of mouth. I think the reason I’m most intrigued is they are made with a 3D printer. Normally I am one to stick with non-plastics, but I’m really interested in seeing how they feel in comparison to wood. Plus, you can pick from a wide variety of colors which is great fun.
That is for another day, though, as I had to spend a bit for some oil for my wheel. I have done shockingly little as far as maintenance goes with my wheel, but it’s been squeaking a bit lately so I called the folks at The Woolery for advice on routine maintenance. They were incredibly nice and helpful in describing exactly what I needed to do and the oil they recommended using. While I was at it, I ordered some new drive bands, too. I’ve been using the same ones since I purchased my wheel and I think it’s about time to change them out. Yes, a new spindle is going to have to wait, but it’ll be worth it to have my wheel back in top-notch shape.
Back to the yarn though, right?
queensteaI got about 250yards of roughly sport weight yarn.
queenstea detI highly recommend the fawn shetland base for this colorway. I think it lends itself very nicely to the blacks and browns that make up Queen’s Tea. I don’t do a ton with Earth tones usually, but this skein has made it clear that I definitely need to incorporate more of these browns and blacks and greys into my spinning.
And last but not least, that Malabrigo Nube in the Archangel colorway. Credit where credit is due, I completely copy-catted Lolly of lollyknits here. I was so captivated by her handspun Hitchhiker (which you can see and read all about here) that I decided to try my hand at spinning up a lightweight single. Even though I’m so not great with the lightweight singles, she had done such a lovely job that I just had to try.
archangel not detI am really, really, really happy with the results — about 490yards of heavy fingering weight yarn. In the past I’d really had a rough time with some Malabrigo Nube I purchased when it first came out. I was gifted another braid and kind of avoided it for a while because of the first encounter. After some research and discussion in a couple forums, though, I learned that the first batches of Nube wound up getting really compressed and many spinners had a rough time with them, so I was not alone. Clearly I’m very spoiled with the dyers that I use because this braid still required more pre-drafting than I’m used to, but it was much easier than my first foray in spinning this fiber and I’m very happy about that. I would definitely spin with Malabrigo Nube again after this experience — music to my ears because as we all know Malabrigo does amazing things with color.
archangelAnyhoo, as with my heavier singles yarn, I lightly felted this skein when I set it and the resulting yarn is really beautiful. I am so very pleased. Mine will most likely not be a Hitchhiker like Lolly’s, but I’m so grateful to her for the inspiration. Honestly, I didn’t know I could spin a lightweight singles yarn. It goes to show, you really never know unless you try!
I’m already back at filling my bobbins — I can’t wait to see what inspirations and lessons await in week 2 of the Tour de Fleece!

Spin!

My daughter woke up this morning and went on to explain that during the Tour de Fleece I really should start waking up a couple hours earlier than normal so that I can get in extra spinning time. She was very matter-of-fact about it, as if I hadn’t thought of that and I really needed some provocation and coaching. Of course, she knows as well as anyone in my family that I’m not exactly a morning person. I’m also not a night owl. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find me rather ornery upon waking and just being falling asleep. My husband is fond of saying, “You’re more of a middle-of-the-day kind of person, especially if you get a nap.” All joking aside, I do function in better spirits on a solid night’s sleep and although the idea of waking early to start the Tour de Fleece did cross my mind, I awoke at the respectable yet not crazy hour of 6am and got straight to it (after 10minutes of Moose snuggles).

As I said yesterday, I started with some Cloudlover Targhee in the Ariadne colorway.

IMG_9871I finished in a couple hours and I’m happy to say that so far it was the easiest time I’ve had spinning a single

With one project resting, but complete and feeling a wee bit empowered by how the Cloudlover single turned out, I opted to go straight into another single…

IMG_9874With a braid of Malabrigo Nube in the Archangel colorway. Totally inspired by Lolly of the lollyknits blog, I am attempting to do a lightweight single. I’ve never done a single lighter than worsted weight, so this is a bit of a leap of faith for me. I figure if it doesn’t work out, I can probably always ply it.

Unfortunately I’m starting this Tour off with already very dry hands. I’ve no shortage of lotion bars, thank goodness, and yesterday in the mail I got a brand new one for review…

IMG_9869I’ll be taking this lavender & rosemary Love + Leche bar through its paces. I’ll report back with my thought in a week or so.

Well, that’s the start of my Tour de Fleece — back to the wheel before some family holiday celebrations later this evening!