Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tour de Fears 2013

I live with two spinning wheels, but I live with them in the way that I once lived with an empty-headed, perky-nippled go-go boy. He had his space, I had mine. No touching.

The difference is that I would like to spend more time with the wheels. I have spun on them and enjoyed it. I was given some merino roving and turned it, ultimately, into a decent hat. Here's what I did: I spun one bobbin of singles and chain-plied it. Chain plying allows you to turn one spun strand into a three-ply yarn. I was too lazy to spin two more bobbins to get a three-ply. I didn't know at the time that chain plying is supposed to be scary and difficult, so it wasn't.

Then came a dormant period, during which work picked up and spinning receded to the deep background. People would ask, as they do in this business, whether I was a spinner. "Yeah," I would say. "Kinda."

I became kinda a spinner the way I am kinda a go-go boy, which is to say not at all any more.

Then along came the Tour de Fleece, one of those lovely grass-roots events that has become possible in our electronically interconnected age. The idea is this: You set yourself a spinning goal, and you spin every day that the Tour de France bicycle race is racing. When the cyclists have a day off, so do you. You don't have to spin during every minute of the race, just every day. What you try to do with your tour is up to you. You could aim for endurance, production, skill building–it matters not. It's a self-guided tour.

I "did" the Tour de Fleece a couple of years ago. Kinda. What I did was decide that the partial bobbin on the wheel, which had been sitting there for eighteen months, was bugging me. So I took it off the flyer and stuck it on the bobbin rack. Then I had a glass of champagne.

Even without the half-empty bobbin the wheel continued to bug me. It sits in the dining room, and I pass it many times a day.

Then my friend greensideknits sent me note via Twitter (hi, I'm @franklinhabit) that the Ravelry fan group devoted to the BBC radio serial The Archers was forming a Tour de Fleece team. This is the team badge.


I never miss The Archers and I love that badge. The Latin motto translates to "Yeah, whatevs." Which has basically my attitude to spinning during the recent fallow period.

So I signed up.

The Tour started yesterday. I was ready. I had procured a batt of Corriedale from one of my favorite dyers, Lunabudknits. It's from her "Smoothie" line.


Unfurled it looked even better. Almost too pretty to tamper with.


But I tampered.

I began spinning it the only way I know how: with a worsted short draw. I made a sample, as Judith MacKenzie McCuin (in The Intentional Spinner) advises. I was not pleased with the results. Wiry, hard. Nasty to touch. Off the bobbin they came.


There is no point in spending a month spinning yarn you don't like.

So after Day One of the tour, I have changed course. I have decided that rather than the ho-hum goal of taking something pretty that is not yarn and making it into pretty yarn, I will instead pursue what is, to me, the frightening goal of using very, very good fiber to learn a new technique: woolen long draw.

In one day, this has unearthed a small mountain of deep-seated issues related to feelings of guilt, anxiety, unworthiness, inhibition, and perfectionism. If that sounds highly unpleasant, it is. But I'm staying on the wheel, because I think I may end up getting far more out of Tour de Fleece 2013 than I bargained for. Even if I don't end up with any yarn.

More about that tomorrow. Gotta spin.

Wait...One More Thing

Brief bathing drawers update. I found the perfect yarn and it's on the way. More on that when it arrives.

Wait...One Other Thing

Spinning celeb Jacey Boggs has launched a new magazine, Ply. The first issue is just out and is apparently selling like mad. It's an awfully good magazine. I have a regular cartoon feature in it.

We call this "irony."


Unknown said...

Go Team Ambridge!

Seanna Lea said...

I would be afraid of spinning that fiber too. It looks too pretty and I'd be afraid of messing it up!

Spinfoolish said...

Spinning long draw is not hard, like anything new it just takes practice. It's a lot of fun, and goes a lot faster than short draw once you get practiced at it! Learning a new skill is intimidating, but you will LOVE what comes out of this one!

...e... said...

you did better than me, i got my traddy all cleaned up on the first day! second day begins a sheep-to-shawl class, which is now become my goal...

Peacecat said...

Long draw is wonderful!
You'll do just fine. Imagine your grandmother, lovingly instructing you. Don't worry 'bout perfection. Just play! As beautiful as your fiber is...there is more where that comes from.
Have fun!

Andrea said...

You are wise. Enjoy the journey.

Liz said...

Wow. OK... As your team cap'n, I'll remind you of the "yeah, whatevs" motto. But it's the Tour, so maybe scaring yourself is a good thing... Just don't scare yourself into immobility!

(Validation code semper yheatm).

Babs Ausherman said...

Long draw is a wonderful way to spin and what I learned to do a number of years ago when I had carpal tunnel surgery. Learning anything new in spinning or knitting should be done with something that is lovely and keeps us wanting to try.

Miss Babs :)

Emm said...

It's gonna be fun to accompany you on your long-draw-woolen journey. However, I will not, I will not, allow you to tempt me into trying spinning, whether you have perky nipples or not. I have enough expensive hobbies as it is...

Ginger said...

As I tell my students when teaching basic spinning: YOU are in control no matter what little voices you hear! Do not pet, do not pamper! Do not clutch your fiber! Remember it is like a little bird and needs to be held gently. Pay attention to your drafting triangle and stay ahead of it. And finally, DO NOT listen to the little voices! They are wrong! You CAN do this! All joking aside, long draw is easy, just timing and practice. You will do great!

Unknown said...

I think you are so brave to undertake spinning.
Can't wait to see the yarn for the "drawers"

Rachel said...

Long draw is lovely. I learned it unwittingly when I bought hand cards and a fleece, and more purposefully when I took a class on supported spindling. You just have to let the wool do its own thing and get your hands out of the way.

Will it be lumpy? At first, yes, but really mainly if the prep is neppy or uneven. Your batt looks deliciously easy to spin.

Mathilde de Metteneye said...

Good luck on your long-draw quest. I'm on Le Tour as well, working with a rather rustic great wheel and doing a sort of park-and-draft approach to woolen spinning. Whatever works, right?

Rachelle said...

I don't know why we don't all learn to spin with beautiful fibre, but most of us seem to choose something that we won't mind if we kill it (and I did kill my first one). I think learning on something beautiful may well be the way to go, it makes you want to spin it better and do justice to it. You probably won't hold it in the deathgrip that nasty fibre requires and even if it ends up thick'n'thin (which it probably will) it'll still be beautiful.

poodletail said...

How we hatessss to be the beginner at a thing. Go, Franklin. You'll master this in no time.

Kate (KnitsInClass) said...

That fiber is unreal - so, so gorgeous! I would probably just sit and stare at it instead of spin it - you know, saving it for that perfect project.

Denise said...

It's nice to see you posting more often! My long draw is so-so, but I can tell you that it will be a more pleasant experience if you select a fiber preparation that drafts very easily so you don't get "hiccups" in your feed...

inklenaomi said...

you make me smile, Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Give short backward draw a try may find you then slink into long draw without even thinking about it! :D


Deborah in CA said...

My very good spinning teacher says good worsted spinning is easier to learn first. I remember my first TdF. I was spinning wire at the beginning, but by spinning every day, I was much better by the end. Spinning well is a physical motor skill - practice every day (even as little as 15 minutes) will show good results in as little as a week. Use your beautiful batt, split it lengthwise and predraft it a little to make sure it drafts smoothly. Then get out there and practice. You shouldn't get discouraged if your first few efforts are a little sub-par, it takes time to learn. just like knitting and photography.

Pam Sykes (aka Pretty Knitty) said...

My goal (though I am sure I will not get to spin every day of the tour) is to learn woolen long-draw, too! Can I be on the Franklin team? =P

Anonymous said...

That fibre is gorgeous! And your reactions sound like those of any really self reflective learner :-) Enjoy the tour. I'm loving it so far myself...

Anonymous said...

Shoot. Now I have to decide if I jump in late on the Tour, pedal madly and haul the wheel to the cabin. It is tempting.

Anonymous said...

Work it. Long draw can be quite fun! Yep, there is a learning curve. But hey, if you can tailor an Icelandic sweater to your personal curves, you can surmount this learning curve.


Anonymous said...

I can see that you are very busy for now, but thought that if/when things ever get quieter, you may be interested in this article on sling shots and coptic socks. ... and possibly the archaeological knitting competition!...

Yvonne said...

:-) Don't forget to breathe, and don't expect perfection immediately. It'll come.

Leigh in Portland (we are not burning down) said...

I subscribe to PLY!! The first issue was awesome! How did I miss your cartoon???? Goin gback RIGHT NOW to look.

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