The Tour de France (and thus, the Tour de Fleece) finished yesterday! Thus, it’s high time for a wrap-up.
So in just enough time to spare last week, I figured out my challenge day spinning. Uncreatively, I decided to just spin thick like last year. Since I’m quite bad at spinning thick, this is still a significant challenge for me! I decided to use some cranberry-red wool that I received when a lady in one of my spinning circles was de-stashing.
That’s, uh, that’s a lot of roving. At least I’d get a lot of thick yarn out of it, right? Well, there’s one problem — let me show you the length of the fibers:
I added a penny for scale, because do you see how short that is? I couldn’t even pull out one distinct strand, it was so short and kinky. If I had been able to, you can bet that it wouldn’t be much longer than the penny is wide, even when stretched.
Now, before I go on, you must know that there’s two ways to spin fiber (or, rather, two termini on the spectrum of ways to spin fiber): worsted and woolen. Don’t confused the spinning-style worsted with the yarn weight — only the name’s the same (I’m sure there’s some sort of historical relation between the shared name, but we’ll save that for another day). When you’re spinning worsted, you draft so that the fibers are aligned. My gradient braid was spun worsted. I’m a worsted spinner — I like to make order from chaos. Woolen, on the other hand, embraces the chaos, feeding the fibers into the yarn higgledy-piggledy (aaaaagh).
(Drafting, by the way, is just pulling the fibers out from the cleaned wool and letting the spindle twist them into yarn. How I’ve described woolen vs. worsted above is a vast simplification of the drafting process — the actual hand movements required for woolen and worsted are somewhat different, and there’s things going on with twist and spinning speed that I won’t get into. The most important thing for us, here, is how the fibers are arranged).
See, the problem with such short, kinky fiber is that there was no way I could align the fibers to make a woolen yarn. I realized very, very quickly that if I wanted to spin this roving — and I did — then I had to spin woolen (le gasp!) . Thus, my Tour de Fleece challenge went from “challenging but doable” to “completely new technique that goes against everything I love”, all because of my choice in roving.
I have no one to blame but myself. And you know what?
It was awesome! Yes, that’s three spindles’ worth that you see, because I got so into it that I continued spinning on it for the last stretch of the Tour. No, the yarn is not even (not by any stretch of the imagination!) but this fiber was prepared perfectly for woolen spinning. I already liked spinning because it’s a very freeing hobby — a repetitive motion that’s almost meditative. Spinning woolen took that to the next level — letting the twist run up into the wool, gently pulling the fiber with minimal guidance and maximum spin to create yarn.
It was quick, it was fast, it was fun. I’m converted to woolen!
That said, I’m not going to be giving up my worsted spinning any time soon. The only reason I didn’t guilt myself (too) much over abandoning my Shetland spinning to play with the new technique was because I’d already gotten quite far along with it. When I first bought the Shetland, I bought five small balls of the roving. Before the Tour, I had spun about one-and-a-half. My goal for the Tour was to spin at least one more ball.
I spun almost two. That round of fluff in the bottom right corner is the remaining ball, the wandering fluff is the pre-drafted remainder of the penultimate ball, the cop on the spindle is getting almost too big to manage, and the cake of singles is almost too big for the spindle’s storage container. The cake, by the way, was maybe one-third that size before the Tour de Fleece — that’s how much I’ve spun!
So all in all, this Tour de Fleece was a good one — I got more than my goals done, finished one skein (gradient!), almost finished the Shetland singles, ended up with a true challenge, and to my surprise discovered that I enjoy woolen spinning! (I really shouldn’t be surprised about liking woolen — every time I’ve tried something I thought I would hate with spinning, I’ve ended up loving it).
Finally, let me just show off that gradient again — I’m too proud.