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Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Tour de Fleece 2015 - Week Two

We had a pretty busy week music-wise last week, so not much in the way of spinning got done.  I managed to do something most days towards the TdF, but not always spinning. The week's jobs were all about the preparation for making a boucle yarn which is one of the challenges for week 3.

I managed to spin the rest of the madder-dyed alpaca.  This was spun in the "S" (anti-clockwise) direction and I think it's the first time I've ever spun that way.  I normally spin "Z" and ply "S".  One of our challenges for this week though was to spin "backwards", i.e. in the opposite direction to normal.  Making a boucle yarn demands a core thread that is spun "S", so this was my challenge for the week.  It's also spun with as little twist as I could manage (and that wasn't easy because the thread kept drifting apart) because it's going to be plied in the same direction as it was spun and so will gain more twist.

The next job was rather a challenge in itself.  I wanted the whole thing to be "DIY and Dye" (that's the name of our TdF team on Ravelry), which meant preparing, dyeing and spinning everything from the raw materials.  I decided the final ply of the boucle (the binding thread which keeps all the loops in order and stops them from sliding around on the core) should be silk.  I didn't think it was right to use commercially prepared silk as I hadn't started at the beginning with it, so out came my silk cocoons which have been in the freezer for a couple of years.  I've never de-gummed silk cocoons before so spent a while on the internet researching how to do it.  First I slit them along the side and removed the contents (didn't want dead things floating around in there!), then put them in a pan with some wool wash.  I didn't use washing up liquid because detergents can damage the silk.

They were simmered gently for about an hour, maybe a bit longer.  Here they are almost done, you can still see a bit of yellow in the cocoons (that's the sericin - the glue that holds the cocoon together) so they needed a bit longer :-

and all finished, soaking in a bowl of clear water :-

I thought when they were finished that I'd be able to separate them into individual cocoons, but the fibres tended to stick together.  By the time they were dyed (acid dye done in the microwave), they were one big unidentifiable mass :-

This colour was incredibly difficult to photograph.  It's supposed to be violet, but I think I'll call it violent instead!

It was incredibly easy to spin - I just fluffed it up into a cloud and spun.  This is spun "Z" and is going to be plied "Z", so again, I tried not to put too much twist into it.

At this point we'd come to the end of week 2, so I'll show you the result next week when it's all finished.  During week 3 we only have one band rehearsal and no gigs (week 2 was one 4 hour rehearsal, one 5 hour rehearsal, and 3 gigs - which always end up being ultra-late nights, pretty tiring) so I'll have no excuse for not spinning every day!


  1. That colour is absolutely fantastic!

    1. The purple? Yes I think so too, but it was much stronger than I anticipated. Silk does take dye well.