Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tour de Fleece Time

It's July, and that can only mean one thing. It's one of the highlights of my TV-viewing year. The spectacular Tour de France bicycle race. Three solid weeks on the edge of my seat, especially now that Lance Armstrong is back in the saddle -- hooray!

Last year, I discovered the spinners' companion event, the Tour de Fleece, and that just added to the fun. So Rastro and I are off again and running. Now that we have another year of experience under our belts, the spinning doesn't take as much concentration, so I think it's going to be an easier three weeks this year. And no tendinitis this time, I hope! Once again, my spinning challenge goals are a little loose and slapdash, but who cares, as long as I'm spinning every day and enjoying it?

For the first few Tour de France stages (days of racing), I'm spinning this lovely stuff. It's merino and alpaca that I brought back from New Zealand. Can you tell how soft and lovely it is?

It's actually the first spinning fiber I bought, other than a little Brillo pad of coarse fiber for learning with my spindle. A little later on, there was the practice Coopworth wool (that eventually became the Cannonball sweater) and a sweater's quantity of Finn wool (still waiting for me to feel I'm ready) that I bought right along with my spinning wheel. And later still came the excitement of all the amazing fibers to be found at the festivals. But when I wandered into this shop, I was still just getting the hang of the spindle and only beginning to dream of having a wheel. It was very novel then, when I came across a bin of spinning fiber in a yarn shop, to think, "Wait a minute; this is not something only for other people. It's something I can buy, because I'm learning how to spin!"

Feeling ready to actually spin it was another matter. I didn't feel worthy of such nice fiber for a long time. Now that I'm confident that I can do a decent job with a soft, pretty fiber and not risk botching it, it's a real pleasure to dive in and play with it.

I've also started a sock. Because I've gotten over a recent spell of being kind of tired of sock-knitting. And because a sock on the needles is just generally a good thing to have. This is Socks That Rock lightweight, in the Scottish Highlands colorway. In the skein, it's really beautiful. But in the wound-up ball, it got a little circus-clown looking, I thought. I wasn't at all sure what to expect when the knitting started. It's working out to be a hearty, regular stripe, with no pooling. Not a subtle look, but pleasant, and entertaining to knit.

The pattern is Dublin Bay (available free on-line from Mossy Cottage Knits, here.) It's a nice pattern, mostly plain, but with a simple lace pattern down the sides to give me something to do every couple of rows. The lace doesn't really show up as openwork against the bold stripes, but it does create a visual break. So, full speed ahead.

Yes, I am also still working toward starting on the Chanel-ish jacket with my 3-ply handspun. I haven't abandoned it; I'm not that fickle! Besides, it's the Tour de Fleece yarn I spun last year, so it seems entirely appropriate to get it started now. I'm hard at work with sharp pencil and graph paper, mapping out the pattern stitchcount by rowcount, plotting increases and bind-offs, so that I can recalculate all those little counts for much bulkier yarn. This is not a particularly photogenic process, though. And somehow, it always seems to go so much faster when they do it on TV.

Good thing I have the Tour de Fleece spinning and the new sock, for when I need a break. :)

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