Tour de Fleece, stage 9

The problem with sticking to one big project through an event is that the photos are much the same. I've tried a different angle here, showing the fleece.

I'm pulling locks from the raw, dirty, greasy fleece and dog-combing both ends of each, for a well-separated, parallel handful of fibres. This is a technique I was shown on my very first spinning lesson, and one I find more therapeutic than using the big combs, with much the same result.

The fleece isn't so dirty, my hands and wheel are staying pretty clean, and I'm sure the lanolin is doing my skin some good. I can't wait to see whether the colour lightens when the yarn is finally washed.

One interesting thing is the variation in shade from light to dark. I'm now planning to 3-ply the very fine singles, a true 3-ply rather than navajo, so that might blend that variation a bit.

I'm enjoying this so much, it was difficult to take a rest day yesterday (Monday) but today's stage (10) is 'hilly' so I'll start a new bobbin, put in a bit of effort later today and make some more progress.

Tour de Fleece 2016 day 5

Here we are at day 5 already. There doesn't look much on this bobbin but it's drawing out very fine. Not what I intended but I'm going with it - it may be the finest I've spun. And it's fun.
I decided to use the Tour de Fleece spinning time to spin this fleece. It came from Fibre East last year. A Shetland fleece in a nice colour, good locks, still in grease but very clean.

 I decided to use a technique I was taught on my first spinning lesson. It involves holding each lock, combing with a dog-comb, turning the lock around and combing the other end. I prefer the dog-comb to a flick-carder. The result is a well-separated and parallel lock.
It's not fast work, I'm combing as I go, but this isn't a race!!



Blanket scarf in real Shetland

 The idea for this came partly during team HSN's visit to Haworth Scouring earlier in the year. I must also give credit to Knitbug Valérie and aureliantownsend for inspiration.

The real Shetland fibre is a delight to spin, I spun some during last year's Spinzilla for my Ardelise and some more in April for my Riddari. Previously I'd spun from the end of the top (after splitting and pre-drafting) and from the fold. Here I tried making 'fauxlags', which turned out to be very quick, and spinning those unsupported longdraw with the high-speed kit on the wheel was some of the fastest spinning I've done.
The yarn was 2-ply, perhaps a little thinner than DK.

I wanted to use mostly natural colours; white, fawn and a little dark grey. With a little dyed colour. This is white shetland dyed with Ashford acid dyes; blue with a small amount of yellow for a 'peacock' blue. Not as blue as it looks in this picture.
 Before warping I sampled with some similar handspun yarn, and settled on 6 ends per inch.

On the computer I'd mocked up a more symmetrical plaid pattern, and a more random pattern, which I settled on.  I used the same sequence in the warp as for the weft, for a certain symmetry.




Finished Riddari

I enjoyed every minute of making this jumper, and it's one of my favourite handspun / hand knit projects ever.
It's the most ambitious colourwork I've tackled so far (3 colours to some rows). A friend suggested that I try 'pick and throw', one colour in each hand. That worked well, and getting pretty proficient by the end of this.

The pattern is Riddari by Védís Jónsdóttir, my Ravelry project is here.

I'm very grateful to Adam of The Real Shetland Company for sorting me out with real Shetland combed top.

Fixing messed-up sweater cast-on

I'm really enjoying making my Riddari (Lopi book 28).

This is the first time I've seen this 'rolled' edge. I wasn't keen, some knitters have knitted ribbing instead, but I went with it. Unfortunately I messed up.
I used the larger needle size by mistake, and somehow I managed to flip things around during the ribbing, so the first few rows are purl-side-out and curl the wrong way (my excuse is that I took the project out with me, so it went in and out of a project bag a couple of times in the early stages).

I did wonder whether to just make sure that the cuffs and neck match, but I wasn't happy with it. It would have annoyed me for ever afterwards.

Removing those first few rows was much easier than I expected. It was like removing a provisional cast-on.
I caught the live stitches on the smaller, correct needle, so it was easy to begin knitting with the black yarn and knit those 4 rows the correct way round.
The only thing that's wrong now is that the stitches are the wrong way round (they're knitted towards the bottom and cast off, rather than being knit bottom-up). But that's not noticeable, especially as the curl is working as it should.
Now I really like this edge. It looks a bit like an iCord bind-off.

More dog spinning

Previously for the same owner I spun this light fur. From the darker dog is this extremely downy fluff, not hairy at all.

I found that it made good punis using regular carders and a dowel. Using unsupported longdraw (with a good 'pinch'!) worked very well, and made quite an even yarn. 


 The smell was very doggy while spinning, but washing in a delicate wash gave the finished yarn a very pleasant scent.
 These are the very dogs.




Spinzilla Team HSN UK Visit to wool processing mill

From a crafter's perspective, it's fascinating to see the familiar scouring and combing processes happen on an industrial scale. It's also heartening to see a large business working so ethically. They're proud of their environmental credentials, with all waste (dirt, grease, noils) going off to serve useful purposes elsewhere.


Friday's visit to Haworth Scouring Co was a 'spin-off' event from last year's Spinzilla.

The first year that the yardage competition was open worldwide (2014) I spun 'rogue' because there was no UK team. For 2015's event I registered a UK team linked to Hand Spinning News. What happened next blew me away. The team filled up within a couple of days (25 spinners max). There was such a spirit between team members during a gruelling week's spinning (the most active team forum by a long margin) and we ended up coming seventh out of around 70 teams worldwide, all of us meeting the 'monster mile' and a grand total of 146,336 yards or 83.15 miles.

Martin Curtis of Curtis Wools Direct / Haworth Scouring Co sponsored our effort by providing real Shetland top for us to spin,


He very kindly also offered us a tour of his mill. Besides being a fascinating day, it was the first time that many team members had met in person!


We saw fleeces being opened up, shaken out and then being passed through a number of tanks of detergent.


The mill also has a combing plant, turning the snowy-clean fleece into beautiful squishy top for spinning. I gather that most of this goes to the carpet industry; wool carpet being more environmentally-friendly, healthy, comfortable, non-compacting and not necesarily more expensive than synthetic fibres. Some of the wool goes to make garments and the noils (shorter fibres) into bedding.



Longdrawjames and Freyalyn testing the wool by twisting small amounts between their fingers. There was a funny moment when Martin did the same and looked around expectantly. "Usually when I do this, people are impressed", he said "...but you lot being hand spinners, I can see that you're not...."


potamousse's other half took this excellent picture of the team, or most of those that were present, with our Spinzilla team pinnies.


We had the opportunity to buy some real Shetland top and other fibres. I'd gone intending to buy more of the white to spin, dye and weave into a tartan blanket-scarf. However, after seeing how the natural fibres look when woven, I chose a selection of natural colours.


For the genuine 'real Shetland', contact Martin's son Adam of the Real Shetland Company. They're not really geared up to supply smaller amounts for hand spinning, but depending on what you want, Adam may be able to help or to pass you onto a retailer.