Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Tour de Fleece days 1 to 3

The Tour de France is an annual bicycle race held in France.

The Tour de Fleece is an annual event on Ravelry.com where participants spin-along during the Tour de France - they spin, we spin.

We join any one of the many teams - I'm in 3 for my first year - and post photos our fleece/fibre and finished yarn.  Oh, and have great fun while doing it.

So it started on Saturday  2 July.  I am of course still up in Orkney and on Saturday we were travelling from Flotta to North Ronaldsay - in a very tiny plane.  Not sure about how things would work out re TdF spinning I decided to crack off very early in the morning and get some spun.  So I worked through some of the Cheviot fleece I'd washed in Newcastle and managed to get just over 50 m of it spun and plied at about worsted weight.  I'd carded it into rolags the evening before.  Yes, this is what I look like very early in the morning before breakfast!

The travelling to North Ronaldsay went very smoothly despite my worries regarding the spinning wheel - I had to take the Sidekick so it would fit into a case - and the weight limit of 15kg each on the plane.  When we arrived Liz took us for a walk along the beach and that's when I had the mad/brilliant idea - take the sidekick down to the beach and spin there!  I'd spotted lots of bits of fleece lying on the ground so I decided to use that and just spin in the grease.  It was very easy carrying the sidekick back down to the beach and I found a suitable place to sit at the base of the wall surrounding the island that keeps the sheep on the beach.  Paul came with me and took some photos and then went back up to the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory where we were staying, leaving me to finish spinning my pile of fleece.

I was engrossed in the spinning but then must have heard a little sound off to my left that caused me to look up, and what I saw was unbelievable and amazing - some sheep had come round the corner and were just standing there watching me.  I knew that no one would believe this so I managed to get to my phone and quietly sneak some photos.

Then Paul came back and between us we managed to get some of this exciting event filmed.  I have to say that there is a lot that the sheep were doing that we didn't manage to film - like the single file rush past us when they decided they'd watched me long enough and really wanted to get to the beach on the other side.  Then I heard a lamb calling for his mum and spotted the little black lamb in the distance.  He looked at me, decided I was too scary and ran back.  Then he gathered up some courage and came back and crossed in front of me, pausing for a moment when just a few feet away before chasing off to catch up with his mum.

 When all the fleece had been spun I set off back to the Bird Observatory and that evening plied and washed the yarn in the bedroom sink.  It came up very nicely, although you can see the under-plied bits where I was trying to keep spinning but watch the sheep at the same time!


Day 2 and 3 of the TdF

I started with some nice hand painted Shetland Tops dyed by a friend, Sue, and spun the first half of it in the Bird Observatory bar, much to the interest of the other people.  After flying down from North Ronaldsay on Monday morning I then finished it off on day 3 back on Orkney Mainland in the hotel bedroom.  I ended up with 150m of a nice DK weight and was very pleased at my efforts to spin consistently and evenly.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Adventures with Lace

The two main things I told Liz that I'd like to work on during the week were learning to spin lace and to go further with knitting lace.  Now when I said this what I had in mind was lace weight yarn.  So it was a bit of a shock when Liz produced some cones of very nice ColourMart cashmere that was rather thinner - in fact it was cobweb weight.

However the shock was lessened by Liz's reassurance and the fact that I got to try a little sample first:

This is really thin stuff.  Next step, to make a small triangular shawl using a construction technique that involved knitting the centre triangle first, then picking up around 2 edges for the border and finally knitting a lace edging which would be knitted sideways along the edge of the border and joining by knitting in the edge stitches as the edging progressed.  It all sounded very complicated and this was what had put me off trying a shawl with any of these elements before.

Still, with Liz there to help I was up for the challenge and learning how to do all the techniques involved.  I'm not the fastest knitter though so it came back with me for evening 'homework', even if in practice this meant doing it in the morning before breakfast - memories of cramming on the bus to school!

Slowly the knitting progressed and grew.  First the centre triangle was finished, and then as I got more used to the yarn and reading from the charts the border and edging followed.  Lots of extra tips from Liz along the way which will really help me when I tackle a full size version in the future.

  The really clever thing was that in all of the moving from different sections I didn't need to break off the yarn once, it all just carried on through.  Finally this morning I finished and blocked the shawl which dried very quickly outside in the sun and wind so reveal the finished shawl - soft, gorgeous, feather light, and I can't wait to start a larger piece.

So that was the knitting side of my week.
At the very start of the week Liz had introduced us to the fun of dyeing yarn and fibre - a great way to break the ice and I really enjoyed myself.  I've not done much dying of fabric since I graduated in 2003, so it was really good to get back into the fun of creating with colour at the level of fleece and yarn.

Here are a couple of my experiments.

The green and pink fibre, once dry, I started spinning as fine as I could go, and was pretty pleased with this first attempt.

Then Liz started teaching me about how to knit lace weight and the need for good fibre preparation with a lot more twist in the spinning.  I combed the dyed fleece which was absolutely gorgeous - very fine lustrous Shetland.  I didn't realised that Shetland could have such lustre.

  Then came the spinning and I was thrilled with the results - a finer and more even yarn than I'd dreamed I could spin.

Before I knew it I'd spun all the dyed fleece so Liz went into her shed and came out with the most divine Shetland fleece I'd seen - and it was huge!  Gorgeous shades of grey and fawn.  Perfect to ply with the green and pink I'd already spun and a bag of it is tucked away to finish this project at home.

Then Jeannie came down the hill and into my life and the lace spinning got really exciting.  In just a couple of hours I progressed from this:

 to this - which is shown alongside the ColourMart cobweb for comparison - yes, Liz had not only got me knitting with cobweb, but spinning it as well.  I was over the moon!

Then to finish off today, my last day working with Liz on Flotta, she came up with something rather special, and initially very scary - qiviut Totally divine even in the raw state here, and if you can see past the not very good photo, you'll see how beautifully and finely it spun up.