The Tour de Fleece Begins!

Silk Hankies

It’s time! It’s time! I’m so excited! For my first challenge in the Tour de Fleece, I’m going to be working on these silk hankies. They are absolutely impossible to photograph well, they always look too bright. In reality, they’re a lovely deep, slightly electric (but not neon), greeny-blue. I had to dye them in two batches and they came out slightly different colors, so I’ll have to make sure I blend the two halves together well. Honestly, I have no real idea how to spin silk hankies – I have tried them once before, many years ago when I was still a very new and curious spinner, but I didn’t do them much justice. Thick and lumpy, plied too tightly, very dense. I’m looking forward to giving it another go now that I know more about spinning. Today I’ll just start with prepping them – I’m going to try the poke-a-hole-and-make-a-big-ring method as well as the pull-on-opposite-corners method of pre-drafting and see how they work out for me. With my limited experience spinning silk, I know that my previous attempts have failed because I didn’t put enough twist in, resulting in a fuzzy yarn rather than a shiny and smooth yarn. I’m going to be aiming for laceweight or fingering weight singles, but I’ll mostly just be happy if it’s pretty! So off I go – wheee!

Fibre-East 2012: the countdown begins now

Fibre East shopping fund

Yesterday I mentioned Fibre-East, and how it happens to time really well for the Tour de Fleece. Fibre-East is an almost-new woolly event near-ish to Bedford (UK), where there happens to be no nearby fiber fair. As far as I know, every other UK wool event is quite a hefty trip away, definitely not do-able from here as a day trip. Lucky for us, Fibre-East started up last year and was enough of a success, they’re doing it again in 2012 – woohoo!

My lovely lovely Thursday Night Pub Knitting group (who I usually just call The Knitters, it’s simpler) took a group outing to the first Fibre-East last year and had an awesome time. It’s still a relatively small event, but was such a lovely afternoon. We found some really gorgeous pretties, all got ourselves little treats, saw sheeps and spinners and wools we’d never felt before, and just generally had such a relaxing woolly day. This year, the event will be a third bigger, and we’ve got a bigger group to make the outing with. At the beginning of the year, I decided I’d make a Fibre-East shopping fund by saving spare change until July. Last year I got a lovely little bag of loots for under £30, so I know I can enjoy myself without a huge budget. I even wrapped some lace around my change jar to make it a little prettier, and stick notes in the jar when I think of anything specific I might look for and don’t want to forget. I’ll share what my change totals up to when I take it to the change counting machine thimagy in a few weeks!

I absolutely don’t need anything, but there some things I might like to look for: some sparkly undyed yarn, batts (always batts – they’re my favorite thing to spin and not always easy to get pretty ones in the UK), something really interesting to try for the Tour de Fleece, laceweight in general (recently realizing there’s a lot of laceweight patterns in my Ravelry queue / favorites, but not much in my stash), maybe enough undyed fingering or laceweight for a cardigan. Before we go, I’ll also go through my queue and stuff to see if there’s any specific projects I’d like to find yarns for. I tend to get flustered when it’s so exciting, and could easily end up just roaming around aimlessly, skittering from one pretty to another. I like to have some ideas jotted down with yardage needed, etc, just in case I panic.

Of course, I could go home with none of these things and a bagful of woolly delights that I haven’t even dreamt up yet!

Preparing for the Tour de Fleece!

During the long Jubilee weekend, I had a huuuuge list of crafty things I wanted to do – nothing that was an obligation to anyone, no working on patterns I’d sell in any way – just stuff that was for fun. I did some quilting on my Mod Sampler, started the Magrathea shawl I showed the other day, started a little crocheted handbag to use up some stubborn stash yarn (would you like to see that? I wasn’t planning on blogging it, but maybe you’d be interested?), and was determined to do a little spinning as well.

In the middle of spinning up some fiber I’d been hoarding for something really special, I got a cold. Literally. I was fine when I started; by the middle, I was sneezing out of control. I’ll be honest and say that it wasn’t really that fun, and I’m a little disappointed in myself that I kept at it when I really should’ve just set it aside and curled up with some tissues and tea. I shouldn’t have wasted it. Dumbass. Luckily, it came out beautifully anyway – the fiber came from Katie at HilltopCloud, a blend of Teeswater, Kid Mohair, and nylon sparklies. I meant to spin it for the Cloud Illusions shawl, a project I’ve been dreaming about for ages.

Handspun - Mirror of Erised

Which I was all excited about except … I spun it too thickly and am nearly 100 meters too short. It’s actually a lovely weight, kind of a light fingering, but too short on yardage for what I wanted. Dammit! This is why you don’t keep spinning when you feel sick – you’ll just rush through it and screw up your exciting shawl plan. (It was a double-stab in the gut too, because I also realized that my handspun Ravenclaw’s Diadem is 200 meters too short for Cnidaria, after I’d thought I found the most perfect yarn / pattern pairing ever. Sigh.)

Handspun - Mirror of Erised

Oh well. I may have already found some replacement pattern choices that could work: Darling Darling Stay With Me Shawlette or Beautiful Cobweb. I like the latter because it’s very simple and understated, which will make the yarn really be the focus, but I’m not sure. It also seems like it’ll work well for whatever amount of yarn you have, which would be very handy in this case. Any thoughts? Or better suggestions? I have 330 meters of the above yarn, looking for a light drapey-type neck dressing of some type. More for decoration than cuddling, I’m sure yet if this is a snuggling-your-face-in-it type of yarn.

Even though the venture wasn’t a total success, taking the time to do some spinning reminded me, as it always does when I finally get to it, of how much I absolutely love it. Just the action of it, it’s so satisfying. And I love knitting with handspun so so SO much. But it’s always the thing I never get around to. I think probably just because the result of spinning is more yarn, and I can barely wade through my stash as it is. As fun as it is, it’s a low priority.

Even so, I was sniffing around the various Ravelry spinning boards, admiring all the pretty, when I noticed that the Tour de Fleece 2012 starts up very soon! Every year, I realize about halfway through that I’ve missed it, again, and vow to join the next year. I’m finally on time! For those who don’t already know, the Tour de Fleece is basically a spin-a-long, starting and beginning as the Tour de France does. You can join various groups, set challenges or goals, and even win some prizes! (Check out the Ravelry group here for more info.) The tour starts on the 30th of June and ends, I think, around the 22nd of July. You’ve got to try to spin every day, meet whatever your goal is, and take part in sharing photos and updates on Ravelry (and, of course, on here as well).

I decided to join the Climbers group, which is all about tackling personal challenges. I would love to learn new stuff, but don’t want to just pile up yarn I’ll never get around to knitting, so I’m going to focus on trying new fibers. My goal is to try at least 5 new-to-me fibers. I had a dig through my stash, both dyed and undyed, and came up with a little pile to start with:

Preparing for the Tour de Fleece

(Please excuse the crummy it’s-been-raining-since-the-dawn-of-time photo, nothing will ever get done if we wait for it to stop.) From the purple, going clockwise, we’ve got: kid mohair, alpaca, bamboo, undyed angora, and undyed tussah silk. Not pictured is a stack of silk hankies that I already have soaking to dye tomorrow. I’ll dye the tussah silk and angora as well, sometime over the next week or so. I’m going to Amsterdam (my old ‘hood, whutwhut, I can’t wait!) at the end of next week and the tour starts right after I get back, so I’ve got to have everything prepared before I go. I’m almost out-of-proportionally excited about joining the 2012 tour – it’s a great excuse to spend some time with my wheel, but it’s also just nice to be involved. I swear I’ve been in my shell so long, I forgot I was in there! It’s so nice to climb out and take part in stuff like this, meet new people, hopefully make new friends, and just get myself out there. I have a tendency to be sheepish (no pun intended, baaa) and, I guess, just kind of quietly hope people will notice me. Turns out, it’s ok to just jump in and join the fun!

So anyway, that’s 6 fibers there that I’ve never tried, which is more than my goal, but it’ll be nice to have a choice – and, who knows, maybe I’ll actually get through all of them. I will also look for one last something really unusual or special at Fibre-East when I go with my awesome knitting group next month, but more about that tomorrow!

Handspun Cladonia Shawl

Cladonia Shawl

Finally! I’m so pleased with how she came out – isn’t she pretty? To be honest, I wasn’t totally crazy about this shawl while everyone else was knitting it. I think the colors the sample was knit in just aren’t for me and sometimes that clouds your judgement of the pattern as a whole. It shouldn’t, we knitters should be able to look past the sample yarn and just see the design, but sometimes it’s hard! I’m sure it works the other way too – a design you might not have liked otherwise looks better to you if it’s shown in a color or yarn you love.

Cladonia Shawl

Anyway, I was on the fence about Cladonia until I saw the amazing version knit by Monika of Smoking Hot Needles. Monika’s an amazing knitter, only in part because she has such a beautiful way with pairing yarns to patterns, and I was smitten with her version. Introducing a new high-contrast color into the lace border was genius, and popping in just a touch of a bright color (her green) was even better. Her color arrangement made all the sections of the shawl really work perfectly together.

Cladonia Shawl

So what better way to show my appreciation of Monika’s knitting than to shamelessly copy her?! (If you see this, Monika, sorry about that, I hope you know it’s a compliment!) In a mad fit of spinning mojo, I gathered up a pile of batts I’d bought from different people (I’m sorry I don’t have the labels anymore, so I can’t give credit to the lovely batt-makers) at different events only to discover that they looked perfect together. I still needed a fourth yarn for those eyelet rows so I actually just took the leftovers of the lighter purple (from the stripey section) and over-dyed it! I figured that if I kept within the purple family, an over-dyed version of one of the yarns already used would have to match. So I dumped some magenta over it and hoped for the best.

Cladonia Shawl

I’m so in love with it, I can’t wait to wear it somewhere! And because I’m not really the best spinner in terms of getting the yarn weight I was aiming for (it’s always thinner than I intended), my yarns were more like a very heavy laceweight (maybe ever so slightly heavier than Malabrigo lace) and the shawl came out very airy and drapey. Funny how Cladonia started off as a shawl I was just so-so about when now I could knit a million of ’em!

Now you see it…


One of my post-Christmas-gifts holiday knitting projects was a handspun version of the Cladonia shawl. I actually spun the yarn specifically for this pattern months ago, but only got to it now. I reached the lace portion a few days ago and was so excited to knit it, I actually saved it for the perfect cozy time. Luckily, I really enjoyed knitting it, because I’ll get to start it all over again tonight. My Cladonia plan involved introducing new colors in the border, one in the little eyelet rows that begin and close the lace section, another in the lace itself. After I finished knitting the final row of the lace last night, I suddenly realised I hadn’t switched colors in the right place, way back before starting the lace. I tried to pretend it wouldn’t bother me, but deep down, we knitters know those kind of mistakes will make us crazy. Sigh.

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