Monday, 21 July 2014

Tour de Fleece 2014 - Skein 1

You know how when I went on holiday in June, I wrote blog posts in advance so you wouldn't even notice I was gone? Well I should have done the same for the last week. I didn't think I needed to, because I wasn't going anywhere. However, as it turns out when my Other Half is on holiday and we don't plan to go anywhere, I still don't blog! After having such a lovely time in Suffolk, we decided that this week at home could be much more fun if we actually went somewhere! So we went places we wouldn't normally go to and I got as tired and sore as if we had gone on an actual holiday. But it was worth it because we had a lovely time. He's got another week's stay at home holiday planned for August. I need to plan in advance for that one so I can have at least one blog post scheduled for the week he is at home! I'm pretty sure none of you mind when I don't post for 10 days, but it does get me behind in my crafting updates!

One of my main occupations of the last 10 days has been my spinning for the Tour de Fleece 2014. If you've never heard of this marvellous event, you weren't reading my blog this time last year! Essentially, it's an event for spinners to follow along with the Tour de France and challenge themselves to try and push themselves a little further than they would usually go. It's our small tribute to the incredible feats of the cyclists in the Tour de France. This year I decided I wanted to make sock yarn, that I could actually be made into socks. I chose some fibre from Hilltop Cloud, that was designed to make good sock yarn, 70% Superwash Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) and 30% nylon. It was dyed in the Hipster Rainbow colour and I was really hopeful that with my Spanish Peacock Tibetan spindle I could achieve sock weight in a three ply without too many problems.

As the nylon content is 30% I was surprised that I couldn't really feel it in the fibre. I think it was slightly more sticky than it would be spin to BFL alone, but it was still really smooth. I'm not surprised as all of Katie's fibre is beautifully prepared for spinners.

With such a jumble of colours, I knew that unless I wanted to spend a very long time sorting fibre I would just spin a mixed variegated yarn. I decided to make it easier on myself and spent some time making little strips of pre-drafted fibre into small nests, before weighing out three separate bags of the nests to form equal amounts for each ply. I tried to make the colour distribution as even as possible.

Pre-Drafted Nests

I then proceeded to spin up three singles and wind them into three plying balls over the course of the week.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 02

I loved spinning this fibre, as the colours were like jewels and the pre-drafted nests made the process much quicker than if it had been spun from the end of the braid. The singles were worsted spun, in what, if it were spun on a wheel, would be a short forward draw. I put quite a lot of twist into the singles as I wanted the yarn to be for knitting socks, so I wanted the yarn to have no chance of fibre escaping to pill!

When I had three plying balls I wound them into one large plying ball by winding all three singles together onto the ball. I then plyed the singles, again adding a decent amount of twist. This means that the fibre is dense, but I think very sturdy, and balanced.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 03

I really love how the finished skein looks. I think it will knit into really lovely socks, provided I have enough meterage.  I only managed to spin this 120g braid into 272m, and whilst it is a heavy sock weight yarn, I'm not sure if I'll have enough to knit my usual 5" leg and 2" cuff. The last socks I knit used 317m, but the ones before that only used 249m, so I could be ok, especially if I do a shorter leg. I shall have to swatch and see what gauge I get.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 04

I was a bit scared that my tight spinning was going to make the yarn too dense and that the socks would probably stand up on their own, but I think there is enough softness in it, from the BFL, to make the socks ok to wear.

Hilltop Cloud BFL Nylon 05

I think knitting with this yarn will be a real pleasure and an education. I love the subtle shifting of the colours through the yarn and I think it will knit up to create a lovely effect.

I'm itching to wind this into a cake of yarn and start knitting straight away, but as I already have two pairs of socks on my needles already, I think this will have to wait until I've finished at least one pair! Spinning the yarn has excited me about knitting lots of handspun socks, but I think I should wait until I've finished the first pair before I decide to carry on with that excitement! I might find I need to put less twist in next time!


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