Tour de Fleece Spinning

Valentina spun this!

You know, there are a lot of things I love about spinning.

I love the fiber. Simply adore the concept of choosing a specific fiber, and spinning it in a specific way to create a yarn that I can do something beautiful with.

I am really happy that I am not a process spinner, or a product spinner – I am a little of both.  That whole process: playing with fiber to make choices, working with fiber to make yarn, and then using the yarn to create something ELSE really works for me!

The feel of my tools – I enjoy that most of my fiber tools are handmade, made of wood, and are pretty to touch and to look at.

And how can you not appreciate the amazing history of spinning – the shoulders, of the shoulders, of the shoulders of the women I stand on whenever I spin fibers together just gives me chills.

All of this is lovely, and seriously is my favorite thing about my life.

But my favorite thing about spinning?

Easy.

This is Iona. She made a video to teach us how to ply on the fly!

It’s the people.

I can honestly say that I can count on ONE hand the number of fiber people who are out and out nasty.

We don’t always agree completely with other people’s opinions or their choices, but one of the magic things when people start talking about spinning (unlike politics or religion) is that we all seem to grow and expand and accept that we are all different – and that IT IS FINE that way.

Melissa spun this!

Some spinners swear by a particular wheel, others by a favorite fiber.  Some spinners cant’ get enough of Navajo plying, others think it’s a waste of time.  Many spinners love hand spindles, while other would much prefer a wheel.  Some like it short, or soft, or purple, or birdseye maple – All of us are NOT LIKE THE OTHERS and yet we still enjoy spending time together.

I have yet to see anyone scratch someone’s eyes out because they didn’t like to spin with Dorset.  Never seen anyone punch a spinner because they love to spin with a charkha. I have never heard of anyone refusing to speak to someone EVER AGAIN because they prefer a Magicraft over a Hanson, or an Ashford over a Loet.

I really think it’s magic.

Kristin spun this!

And for me, this is the start of the most magical time of the year. Yes, there are more fiber events which is marvelous, and yes, it’s shearing season so there is new fiber in my basement which is wondrous. But the really MAGICAL thing about this time of year is that I start to get ready for the Tour de Fleece.

What is the Tour de Fleece?

If you haven’t been reading my blog for long then you might not know what the Tour is, and you can get a basic run down here.  But what is it REALLY?

Casey spun this from fiber she won!

It’s a whole month of fiber comes first.  It’s months of being able to talk about, show pictures of, complain about, be ecstatic about, and SHARE my love of fiber. Which could be amazing on it’s own, but I get to do all of this in the company of LOTS of people who feel exactly the same way about fiber.

Last year we had 149 people on our Tour de Fleece team, and I admit that I was worried.  So many people, I thought, there is bound to be a rotten egg in there somewhere. Nope.  There must be someone who doesn’t get it, who will not be supportive of others or who will not get along with people or push their own agendas. Nope. There has to be someone who I will wish wasn’t on the team. Double Nope.

They were universally lovely, warm, sharing, giving, supportive and caring.

Like I said. magical.

Helen spun this!

Tour de Fleece 2017

This year I asked the whole team to re-sign up (after three years I like to refresh the list) and I was worried. What if no one came back?  More than half the team from last year signed up for the new list in less than two days. Just wow.

Sometimes, when I am tired and there is still a lot to do, I wonder if it’s really worth it. I don’t get paid to run a team. I do a lot of extra things for the team that other teams don’t do, and it takes a lot of time. So, yes, I do wonder sometimes if it’s a good idea. I mean, it happens in July, and I start working on it in FEBRUARY!

It’s worth it.

Here are some of the comments I got from people from last year’s team:

  • You have revolutionized my wheel spinning for life!! 
  • This was an excellent experience, so much advice and inspiration and sharing, thank you!
  • I would like to thank you all for the support, encouragement and inspiration you provided, it’s been a pleasure to be part of this team. 
  • The Tour de Fleece  has the built in challenge days but this Team has the attitude and sets the constructive, supportive tone.
  • I have gotten to understand my wheel so much more during this Tour and have accessed so many helpful online resources. 
  • This team is super friendly, helpful, and positive. It was nicely varied in experiences and approach and the camaraderie was lovely!
  • I love the social contact with other spinners. It is so lovely to have a group with whom one can be gushingly enthusiastic without their eyes glazing over followed by a sudden change of topic…and I love how engaged the team captain was!
  • I truly enjoy Spinfoolish’s writing style. She is funny, educational and keeps my interest, the daily encouragement was one of my favorite things about the Tour de Fleece.

Anna spun this!

And suddenly, it’s very clear that it’s TOTALLY and COMPLETELY worth it!!

So here we go – three months of planning, scheduling, organizing, and creating – which turns into 23 days of pure bliss.  I am already thinking about NEXT year!

(Are you a spinner? Join us! It’s free, low stress, and a HUGE amount of fun!)

What’s in your knitting bag? Notions bags!

A sometime series on What is in Your Knitting Bag? This one is about Notions Bags

So once you have chosen a knitting bag that matches you and your current project you need to think about what to keep in that bag on a day to day basis.  You need a knitting notions bag.

A Slight Obsession

Obviously, you must have your project in there, but just as no woman is an island, no knitting project can stand alone without those delicious accouterments that make our lives so much more fun and pleasant. And I say a big Alleluia to that!

And, of course all those lovely little toys must be containerized! Or is that just my obsession talking?

It’s true. You don’t ALWAYS need a notions bag – sometimes the knitting bag of choice has a notions bag built in, or a pocket that will work. But often it’s just easier to have a notions bag (or in my case, multiple notions bags…I did mention that this was an obsession, right?) that I can toss in any knitting bag and out the door I go – knowing I have everything I need at my fingertips!

I have notions bags specifically for sock projects, one specially built for sweater sized projects, some specifically for when I travel, and one that is suppose to sit beside my chair at home so I always know where it is.  To be honest, it sometimes ends up going with me anyway.  I get worried I will have forgotten something and I KNOW it’s all in that one!

Many of my notions bags are old makeup bags. I don’t wear makeup, so it’s amazing how many of them I have!!  But they definitely come in handy to corral ALL THE TOOLS!  Some are pretty small, some are kind of big for notions bags – here are some of my personal favorites.

Knitting Notions Bags

I have had the lavender notions bag since I was about 12, no idea where it came from but the long handle on the zipper pull made it so easy to find in my knitting bag that I used it for ages.

The black one has clear sides and top, so I can easily see what I am looking for before I unzip it – but the drawback with this one is that the zipper goes ALL around the top, so the opportunity to spill stuff when it is unzippered is HUGE so I only use this one as a back up.

 

These three are the current favorites.  The one you can see into is supposed to be used for camping but it works fine when NOT camping, too!  This one also has a zipper that goes all the way around, which is not my favorite, but it feels nice and the bright colored bottom (which you can’t see in the picture) makes it easy to find in a knitting bag.

The purple suede one feels good, had a great zipper and is just the right size.  It also has two smaller little side pockets inside that are great for organizing the tools. It came from Walmart years and years ago but has held up really well. I use it a lot!

The orange one is my stay-at-home notions bag because I am always afraid I will lose some of the buttons (the other size has even more!) Honestly, orange is one of my least favorite colors so my love for this one comes as a surprise. It’s older, so the cloth is very soft, I can stick my pins in it without damage to the bag.  The zipper pull is a wraps per inch counter in a lovely wood which I adore, it has a square bottom so it sits up nicely if I want it to, it’s the right size…really, it just works great.

Bottom Line

The bottom line about notions bags for me are:

  • Small enough to not take over the project bag.
  • Big enough to hold all the toys.
  • Bright colors help.
  • Smaller zipper helps.
  • Light interior color or clear top helps.

Show us yours!

Really, in the end it’s all about what works for you.  I always seem to be gifted with old makeup bags, but I am sure there are millions more options.  What are you using?  Do you have a favorite or unique notions bag (or container?)  Share your image in comments or leave it on the Spinfoolish Facebook page.

Click here to learn more about What is in MY knitting bag.

Here are some pictures of Linda’s favorite notions bag! (See her comment below!) Click to see them full size.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some pictures of Valentina’s favorite notions bag! (see her comment below! Click to see them full size.

Spinning Terms: Buying Processed Fibers

This is part of a sometime series that defines terms and ideas related to spinning. This one is about buying processed fibers.

Many spinners find that buying processed fibers is the easiest way to get fiber to spin with. After all, there are only a few ways you can get good fiber to spin with.  Either you start with the raw fiber and do it all yourself, or you send that marvelous raw fiber to a mill for processing, or you buy beautiful fibers already processed for spinners.

In any event, if you want to spin you need fiber, and the most common way, for most people, most of the time, is to buy fibers that have already been processed, and maybe even dyed, by someone other than themselves.

Buying Processed Fibers

buying processed fibersNow this is the fun part!

All those beautiful colors, and the crazy stuff they blend together!  This is what going to fiber festivals is all about! You can buy batts, top, or roving. There are single breed fibers, or lovely exotic fibers blended together. You can take it home and dye it, or find it dyed in a plethora of to-die-for colors.  Or buy a plethora of solid colors and take it home and blend it yourself!  The choices are quite literally endless.

But as in any other part of life there are things you need to be aware of, and things you need to be careful of when you buy processed fibers.

Trust

I hold a view (that may or may not be fair) that fiber people are the most honest, decent, loving, supporting, caring, and amazing people on earth.  There are always exceptions, but so far in my experience they are the EXCEPTION, and so trust for me is something I give freely, until I am proven wrong.  Other people have to earn my trust, fiber people have to do something to lose it.

But a little common sense comes in handy here.  If it’s a shop on Etsy selling fiber, and the picture is not clear, the fiber looks a bit messy, and there have been no sales…I admit I will be doubtful.  You have to find the level of trust you are comfortable with.

I often take cards from people at fiber festivals, or take pictures of cards of fiber I see in shops if I think the fiber feels good and looks good but I don’t actually buy at that moment.  That way I can feel more trust in them if/when I buy over the internet later.

Buying fiber is not like buying pencils.  A simple #2 lead pencil is very like a thousand other simple #2 lead pencils.  It’s unlikely that you will go wrong when buying one. But each sheep on each farm in each town has different fiber. So just because you love the breed doesn’t mean you will love THAT bag of fiber – but if you can trust who sells it then you have a better chance of being happy. Learn who you like, and learn how to tell why you like them and it will help with your trust of others.

WYSIWYG

buying processed fibers - CotswoldWhen buying fiber keep in mind: What You See Is What You Get.  If the fiber looks felted, or the colors look uneven, or there might be some kemp – it’s not going to suddenly get better when you bring it home.

If you think there might be problems, then there might be problems – and problems don’t usually magically disappear.  It’s not going to get less kempy if you wash it, and the colors will not even out if you spin it worsted instead of woolen.  If it’s a problem then it’s a problem.

What you see is what you get. Make decisions based on what you see rather than what you want to see. This is sometimes hard when you are overcome withe intoxicating “yarn fumes,” but do the best you can!  And remember, even our mistakes can teach us a lot! (Ha! Ask me how I know that!!)

Quantity

When buying yarn for a sweater I always do my math to decide how many skeins I need.  Then I buy another one, just in case. This is common sense. Yarn is sold by dye lots, and not all dye lots are the same (no matter what Walmart might tell you!).  This is especially true of fiber!  So much fiber that we purchase online or at a festival comes from “indie” dyers – non-commercial independent dyers who dye in relatively smaller batches of wool. If you want to spin a sweater, and all you get is 4 ounces you will be extremely unsatisfied with your results.

You also can’t think that because the fiber is “undyed” or “natural” then that won’t be a problem.  Even if you process fleeces from the same sheep they will vary in color and hand (how the fiber feels) from year to year.  Don’t expect to buy more later. If you want a sweater’s worth get it all at once.  If you buy it undyed, buy and spin it over time and then dye the yarn you might be OK, but you will STILL have differences in hand. Maybe it won’t be enough for you to really worry about, but it might be enough to drive you crazy.  Just keep it in mind.

Exotics

One really great reason to purchase commercially processed fibers is that the manufacturer probably has better access to exotic fibers than you do.  I know people who raise sheep and some who raise alpaca, but I don’t personally know anyone who raises angora, or yaks, or silkworms.

If you want to play with fibers that are processed from fibers that are exotic to you, then buying it pre-processed is the way to go!  I don’t have enough time to spin as it is, I certainly won’t have time to spin if I am trying to raise silkworms at home!!!

Stowaways

As with any fiber purchase you must be aware of the possibility that worms – evil wool eating worms – can infiltrate your innocent fiber and be transported into your safe and worm-free home.  It’s a very sad thing.  It’s a heartbreaking thing. But, it is nevertheless, a THING. And you MUST be aware and act accordingly.

I don’t care how much you love, honor, and trust the person you buy your fiber from you must treat it like an enemy combatant as soon as you get it home.  I coo over it at the fair, snuggle with it in the car, but as soon as I get it home it goes into the freezer.  It stays there for no less than three days, then it comes out and sits in the garage for a few days, then back into the freezer for a few days…or weeks.  Then it gets double bagged (with a dryer sheet in both bags and it placed in my storage area with lots of light, and frequent checks for stowaways.

There is nothing sadder than seeing the first sign of a cocoon or the flutter of wings against the plastic.  But the devastation of losing ONE bag of fiber is nothing to the horror and soul wrenching depression of knowing your whole stash is infected. It happened to me once. It generally happens at least once to most spinners.  After that you are so paranoid so it’s unlikely to happen again, but please, be ever vigilant.

Support Crafters

buying processed fibers - my booth at a fairSomething that I try to always think about when I buy fiber is where is it coming from.  If I have a choice between a large multinational company that also sells wheels, looms, and yarn and a small local farm that is raising their own flock of sheep and trying to sell fiber to support themselves, I will go with the local crafter every time.

Obviously, I don’t buy fiber from local peeps just cause they are local – the fiber has to be good quality and what I am looking for, first.

My point is that big companies sell fiber as an “also” but small independent dyers or farmers sell it cause that’s what they have to sell.  My small purchase means nothing to the larger company but might mean a HUGE amount to the farmer.

I like my purchases to mean as much to who sold it as it does to who bought it.  I have bought some really lovely fiber on Etsy from people I had never met, and some rather questionable stuff from people I see frequently – but I still prefer to support the little guys.

What do you buy?

Do you buy the fleece, and deal with it from there or buy the fiber and get right to the wheel?  What are some tips you have for buying from fiber fairs or online? Share your wisdom!!