Tour de Fleece 2020

Lola during TdF 2019

I first joined in the fun that is the Tour de Fleece in 2014, spinning on a couple of drop spindles I had acquired. I’ve participated at least a little bit every year since, mostly as part of Team Sherlocked.

In 2018, I started taking a handspinning class through the Recreation & Parks Department, and I was able to borrow a wheel from my teacher. At the end of that year, I got my Kromski Sonata, and it was off to the races.

So to speak.

Gray yarn on spinning wheel bobbin in foreground, television screen showing a bike race in the background
“Cobble” merino and cobblestones

I’ve really enjoyed watching the Tour de France each summer. Last year, I sprang for the Cycling Pass, and I watched a few other races as well. The pass auto-renewed, but the 2020 Tour is another thing postponed due to COVID-19.

Yet, the Tour de Fleece goes on. A whole bunch of folks are spinning away on the original TdF 2020 schedule: June 27 to July 19. And NBC is airing memorable stages from past Tours for the Cycling Pass. Stage 12 from 2016 – probably the stage that stands out in my memory – is slated for Thursday, July 9.

This is the first year that I’ve been spinning as an official member of Team GLASG, since I finally joined the guild a couple of months ago. Between Saturday work shifts and The Kid’s piano lessons, I wasn’t able to attend the meetings before. I have to say, my yarn-oriented life has gotten a lot more social since we all settled in “Safer at Home”.

My main project for the first week of the Tour has been two braids of extrafine merino in “Cobble”, a gorgeous gray, from Stranded Dyeworks.

My goal was to spin it for a 2-ply fingering or lighter weight. It looks good; we’ll see how it turns out after a nice soak.

Spinning My (Borrowed) Wheels

(Really, that should be singular, but it didn’t look right.)

Years ago, I bought a drop spindle and set about learnning – with the aid of books, downloaded videos, blogs, and YouTube – to spin yarn. Spindles are fantastic. They can be very affordable: a Louet Beginner Top Whorl goes for less than $20, a Schacht Hi-Lo (“the best of both whorls”) is just under $25, and a full starter kit including a spindle, a yarn gauge, a niddy-noddy, and 4 oz. of fiber can be had for under $75. When it’s in stock, anyway.

All those links go to WEBS – I’m not an affiliate, I get nothing for sending you there; I’m just a happy yarn customer. I actually haven’t bought spindles or fiber from them myself, but I’ve bought yarn several times, and I like them.

I bought my first spindle, along with some mystery-wool fiber, from someone on Ravelry back in late 2007. I took it with me to a class with Merike Saarniit at Stitches West 2008:

Spindle for Stitches Class

Since then, I’ve acquired several spindles and a slightly alarming amount of fiber. You can spin quite a bit on a drop spindle – there was a time, of course, when all yarn was spindle-spun – but a wheel can really up your speed. At least, in the short-term. The portability of spindles means that while you generate yarn at a slower speed, you can spend more time actually spinning. You can spin while waiting just about anywhere, for anything.

All that said, I really wanted to learn to spin on a wheel. But the price point for wheels is considerably higher, and with so many kinds to choose from, it’s good to try before you buy. Fortunately for me, my local Parks and Recreation Department offers a class on handspinning, and it was offered late enough in the day that I could make it after work. The teacher has several Ashford Traditional wheels that students can borrow for the duration of the class, as well as rent in between class series. (Since there is only one class offered, and it’s small enough that the teacher is able to spend time individually with students, people simply repeat the class in different sessions.) I’ve just started my second session, so I’ve had this lovely wheel since the beginning of July.

It’s an Ashford Traditional; I estimate from Ashford’s timeline that it’s from the mid-to-late-1970s. I’m really enjoying it, and I definitely want to get a wheel of my own. I’d like something easier to move around, though. While the traddy does fit into the back seat of my car, it’s not ideal. I’m considering the Ashford Joy, which is designed to be a portable wheel, but I haven’t had a chance to spin on one yet.

Spinners, what wheel(s) do you have? Any tips for the first-time buyer?

Around and Around and Around

Look, I made yarn!

A Little Bit of Handspun

It’s about 10 yards, worsted to bulky weight, 2-ply Coopworth from that class I took at Stitches West.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it, though. Maybe a scarf for Lil Miss’ Addy doll.

We didn’t really cover finishing the yarn in class.  (I’m sure it’s in the notes packet we got.)  I soaked it in cold water, and now I’ve read that you’re supposed to dunk it in hot water to set the twist. Spinners out there: Do I need to soak it again?

I am finding spinning very satisfying (when it isn’t making me want to throw my spindle across the room in frustration). This is good, since I already seem to be building up a nice stash of roving.

Roving Stash

And I keep “window shopping” on etsy. Next thing you know, there’ll be a spinning wheel in my den. And possibly a sheep in my yard. At least then we wouldn’t have to worry about mowing the lawn, I guess.

At Least I Got *Something* Done

I finished off my homework for Stitches West while watching Big Love last night. That is some good television right there, I tell you. Although, a couple of weeks back, I thought there was an interesting compare/contrast thing developing with the young people on the Reservation turning to drugs and the “lost boys” of the UEB compound turning to crime, but it seems to have been dropped in favor of the insanity of La Familia Green.

I meant to get a few rows in on Mr. Greenjeans, but he just sat in my bag while I finished up the last three sets of swatches for Judy Pascale‘s Suitable Seams class. The swatches aren’t difficult in any way; I just seem to have some sort of issue with following instructions. It’s a good thing I didn’t have any homework for any of my other classes to do, too, is all I can say.

Once I finished my swatches, I went in search of a bag. Thanks to last year’s Tempted @ 3AM club shipments (and a few purchases on my own), I have a whole bunch of lovely project bags. One of the box-bags turned out to be just right for my swatches, the remainder of the ball of yarn, and the size US8 needles I used.

Stitches Homework

While I was at it, I cleared a languishing project out of another bag to make way for my drop spindle for Merike Saarniit‘s Spinning for Knitting class.

Spindle for Stitches Class

Here’s hoping I can spin something a little nicer after the class! I’m planning to visit Lisa Souza‘s booth for some of her gorgeous fibers, and I don’t want to end up having them sit around until I think I’m “good enough” to spin them. Franklin (you know Franklin, right?) took Merike’s class in 2006, and it sounds like it’s going to be absolutely fantastic. I’m hoping to get a chance to try a wheel sometime, too, either in that class or somewhere in the market.

I still need to pack up my bag of “Basics” (while looking for a bag for my swatches, I ran across the bag I bought in 2005 to carry my “Basics” to my first Stitches) as well as my clothes and such. Just a few more days!

Gone to the Faire

K and I spent yesterday at the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire. She’d been to it once before, but I’ve only ever been to the Bristol Faire, back when I lived in Illinois. There were noticeably fewer Klingons at this one, though there were lots of people in garb.

And I’m pretty sure the Aztec dancers are a Southern California thing.


I, of course, was drawn to the Guild of St. Cuthbert, where women were spinning and knitting in the guildyard.


And there were many lovely spindles on display.


Early in the day, I successfully spun a bit of yarn with the help of a woman who was walking with a distaff and drop spindle.

The Faire was fun. I also got to try my hand at archery, and we saw a couple of comedy shows, plus the final “Joust to the Death”. Less fun is the splitting headache and the sinus issues I’ve been having all day today, quite possibly from the bales of hay, dust, and pollen all around the Faire.