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Thursday, 26 July 2012

Buds of May

A wee posting to show you that I can knit as well as spin.  The Buds of May shawl (using the Falkland wool) is coming on a little bit slowly for various reasons, but here's a little glimpse.

It's growing a little each day as I snatch a bit of time to sit down with it, but the main thing that is slowing me down is the way the pattern is written.  It's a chart.  With lots of squares containing little symbols.  Like a crossword puzzle with squiggles instead of letters.  I think I'm chart-dyslexic.  Help!

The only way I can cope with this pattern is by sitting down with a pen and paper and "translating/transcribing" each row into written knitting instructions.  This takes a while. So far I have four A4 sheets of instructions.  These will probably get me a quarter of the way through.  On the other hand, maybe that's why it's written as a chart - imagine the size of the pattern otherwise!

Here's another photo, just to prove it's grown a bit more, which also happens to be the final line-up of spinning achieved during the Tour de Fleece.

It doesn't look an awful lot for three weeks of spinning.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Finish Line

Yesterday, both the Tour de France and the Tour de Fleece came to an end.  The former ended in Paris, no doubt in a blaze of glory, the latter ended in our garden . . . at least for me!

It was touch and go whether I would manage to get everything spun.  I pedalled on all afternoon and finished just in time (we were going out to a barbecue in the evening, so a definite cut-off point).

The last bit of wool, waiting to be skeined :-

The finish line :-

with the final skein.

Now I'm looking forward to next year!!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Challenging Cotton

The 18th July was challenge day for the Tour de France riders as they had a gruelling climb through the Pyrenees.  So participants in the Tour de Fleece also had a challenge day.  We had to spin something difficult - perhaps a new type of fibre, or a different method of spinning, or learning a new plying technique - usually something we hadn't done before.

As I am hoping to harvest my own cotton later in the year (fingers crossed!) I thought it might be a good idea to have a trial run; so for my challenge day I spun some cotton.

The preparation started a few days before when I dismantled some cotton bolls which had been sitting on the windowsill in a vase for quite a long time.

Top right are the cotton bolls with their stalk, lower right is the waste, and left is a lovely pile of cotton, still attached to its seeds.

Each individual cotton seed is surrounded by its own fluffy bit of cotton, and the next stage was to comb the cotton out from the sides of the seed so it looked like a round, flat disc.  I used the metal teeth of Jak's cat brush for this.  I don't have a photo of that stage, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Next comes the spinning.  I had to alter the set-up of my spinning wheel first because cotton needs a lot of twist to hold the fibre together in a strand (the fibres are very short). Normally I have the drive band set up on the largest whorl of the flyer - the band goes around this and the wheel itself - but to get enough twist in there I'd have been pedalling for ever!  So I put the drive band on the smallest whorl which decreased the length of the drive band (a bit like gears on a bicycle).

Each cotton seed is spun in turn by working around the seed in a circle until each bit of fibre has been sucked off the seed and into the thread.  It was quite difficult at first because the thread kept breaking (not enough twist to hold the strand together), but I soon got the hang of it.  Here's what I spun on the 18th :-

I know, it doesn't look a lot does it?  But it took me about an hour and a half to do that. In this photo you can see the drive band going around the wheel, and then around the smallest whorl - it's usually on the biggest.

I finished the spinning yesterday morning :-

It's a bit over-twisted, but hopefully some of that will be absorbed in the plying which I plan to do this morning.

Just out of interest, I used eight bolls for this spinning, and here are the seeds I was left with afterwards:-

268 fluffy little seeds.  How do I know how many there are?  Well, I have this very annoying (to me) habit of counting things.  If I'm climbing steps, I count them; if I'm peeling prawns, I count them; if I'm shelling peas - well, you get the idea!  It drives me nuts at times.

Today is Day 21 of the Tour de Fleece.  The final day is Sunday 22nd.  Only 3 more days to finish my selected spinning.  Not sure if I'll have enough time, but I'll give it a go.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Real TdF

Guess where we went this afternoon?  Here they come :-

The Peloton :-

and one straggler, all by himself :-

It's the first time I've ever seen the Tour de France live.  To be honest, we don't watch it on TV either!  But this year it was passing very close to us, only about 20 minutes drive away, so we thought we'd go along and support them.  It was actually very exciting when the riders finally arrived.  There were about eight helicopters overhead circling, and I've never seen so many support cars, team cars, TV vehicles, etc.  There was quite a bit of money on that road today!

Oh, and Eric managed to find himself a woman :-

which didn't please the Gendarme - think he fancied her himself!

In the meantime, this is what I've been doing for the other TdF :-

and this morning the two bobbins above became another skein.

So I think tonight I'd better get carding some more batts (I've run out).  Although tomorrow's a rest day, so maybe I can do some then.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Still Pedalling

Yesterday was day 13 of the Tour de Fleece (it feels like it was today actually, but it is after midnight now).  On day 12 I finished the first bobbin of this :-

. . . Hey!  Come back with that, it's not for you!

Ah, that's better . . .

On Day 13 I made more batts, and started spinning the 2nd bobbin.

This one is being spun a little differently.  For the first bobbin, the batts were split lengthwise into their individual colours (more or less), then each strip was halved and the colours spun in turn.  For this bobbin, each individual colour strip will be split into 4 and then spun.  This should give a bit of variation when the two bobbins are plied together and, hopefully, add interest.

Last night I also started knitting this wool :-

into a shawl for my friend, May.  Haven't taken any photos, because there's not a lot to show yet.  I'll post a photo in a day or two when it's grown.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Day 11 - Rest Day

Today is a rest day for all the Tour de France cyclists - they don't ride today, so neither do we in the Tour de Fleece.

Yesterday my two skeins of Falkland changed colour a wee bit . . .

Haven't worked out the yardage yet, but I'm pretty sure there'll be enough for the shawl I want to knit.

Also made more of these

and carried on spinning them.

This afternoon Eric has a band rehearsal.  They're trying out a new singer (Steve has left the band - the Steve Walton Band is no more!  Sad day) and Eric wants me to go and listen and see what I think.  I'll probably take some fleece with me and carry on carding for the colour batts in the photo above.  I find it very difficult to sit and do nothing, so that's a nice little project to take with me.

Monday, 9 July 2012

TdF Days 8 and 9

I finally finished spinning the white Falkland and then plied it.

The two skeins are now soaking in water ready for tomorrow's (Monday) dyeing session.

Then I started carding up batts with a selection of naturally dyed fleece.

These are the ones I chose - there are two types of fleece here, British Friesland and Merino.  The dyes I used were nettles, lichen, madder and apricot bark, and lastly I added some banana fibre.

I then split the batt lengthwise into the different colours, halved them, and spun them in turn.
The finished yarn should make stripes when it's knit.

Not a very good photograph - it had gone dark by this time.  I prefer to photograph things in natural light, the colours don't show up very well here.

Friday, 6 July 2012

TdF Day 6

Yesterday's progress : another bobbin of the Falkland completed.  Only one more to go.

Spinning in the sun, taken by Caroline on Day 1 of the Tour :-

and then she sketched me (from the side - big mistake!)  Look at that double chin!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Day 5

Today was day 5 of the Tour de Fleece.  I know I haven't posted every day, but I think if I had it would have been pretty boring reading.  Today I reached the milestone of finishing my first skein of the Falkland fleece.

I've ended up with 80g, and approximately 332 yards.  I need to spin another skein similar to this one to have enough for the shawl I want to knit.

Also today I've mordanted some merino fleece, and have some black beans and some madder root soaking in water to extract the dye.  The black beans normally give a lovely blue colour, but sometimes violet, and the madder gives a range of reds/oranges.  I want to blend some of these colours with the fleece I have dyed already, and then spin something colourful.  The Falkland has left me yearning for colour!