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Hand me that jersey

Earlier this year (July, actually) (shut up, I’ve been busy) I strapped on a helmet and clippy shoes, slotted water bottles everywhere and grabbed some snazzy wraparound sunnies so as to take part in that most noble fibre-based event: the Tour de Fleece!
For those who haven’t been paying attention, the Tour De Fleece is a predominantly online event wherein handspinners elect to spin every day of the Tour de France. You can set yourself targets like “spin my entire stash”, or “spin half an hour per day” or “spin until Australia makes same-sex marriage legal” (although that last one would obviously go far, far past the deadline of the Tour). Since it’s only my first year—I only started spinning in May—I kept my goals simple and elected to spin on my spindle every day, even if it was only for a few minutes. Some days I racked up an hour or so, others I only just squeezed in ten minutes, and every day was worth it.

I’m not going to give you a blow-by-blow account of every day, but here’s my highlights reel!

Fibre stash in anticipation of the Tour de Fleece

Where we started!

This was my modest fibre stash at the start of the TdF. I assumed, since I was spinning at such a fast rate, that this would barely be enough to see me through to the end of the three weeks. You may laugh. The two drawstring bags (50g each) are corriedale, drum-carded by my LYS owner into pretty rolags. The three plastic bags (100g each) are Ashford fibre packs: the top, dark purple one is correidale and the other two are gorgeous merino/alpaca blends.

The first day's spinning from the TdF

And we’re off!

My first day’s spinning was a scanty ten minutes or so, squeezed in hastily around other commitments, and altogether it felt a bit anticlimatic: but this was the baby steps on my first stretch goal, too. Having only spun small bundles in the past, I set myself the goal of spinning a whole 100g of fibre consistently.

A full cop of purple yarn

My first personal best!

And I did it! It was the finest, longest skein I’d spun up to that point! It took a whole evening of hanging out with indulgent friends who didn’t mind my conversation was carried out with a spindle, but I did it! And it was the finest I’d spun yet.

A sample of spun merino/alpaca on the spindle

Experiments in sheeps

Now onto trying something different and novel: everything I’d spun so far was corriedale, because that’s what was in the bags at the shop. Now: a merino/alpaca blend. I’m calling it Skwisgaar. It was creamy and slippery, and I found it extremely hard to keep it consistent. You can see in the pic above the variations of thickness. Still, pretty stuff!

Spinning from a rolag

Rolags!

Another new thing! Spinning from a rolag! I chose this one because, well, it was there, but I wasn’t in love with it…until I started spinning with it. Holy cow, rolags are fun to spin! I was really into this: I just wanted to spin from it all day. So I did.

A sample of handspun to show the fineness

So fine!

Here’s a closeup of what I was getting out of the rolag—my finest yarn yet! I think the rolag was called Sunset or something? I’m calling it Poison Frog.

Two handpainted braids of fibre.

Oooh, pretty.

And then the local markets had a wool day. The markets themselves were completely unenjoyable—a victim of their own success, as you could barely move for people. I dived into the closest fibre stall that wasn’t groaning full, and snatched up the first two pretties I saw. I decided to get something a bit out of the ordinary for me: the one on the right has patches of mustard, green and pink, none of which are really my colours. But the rolags had shown me that the fibre you buy doesn’t predict the yarn you get, so here goes nothing!

A close-up of handspun to show how fine it is becoming

Fox in spring handspun!

And hot damn is it pretty. This is the braid on the right, spun into a fine single I’m calling Fox in Spring. It’s blue-faced leicester and it was a joy to work with.

Two skeins and one half-filled spindle of handspun

Two and a half skeins of Fox in Spring

I completely love Fox in Spring. I just wanted to spin it forever. But all good things come to an end, and this end was three skeins’ worth! (“Skeinsworth! Prepare the luncheon table, the Buttmichaels are coming for tea!”) I feel like this picture can’t do it justice: the pops of pink and green, and the shades of mustard, are so, so pretty.

A spindle of merino/alpaca

The final challenge!

My last bag of fibre from before the Tour started: another merino/alpaca blend, I wasn’t particularly excited about it, but I thought I should finish it before I started the second braid from the markets day. Skwisgaar, above, had been a bit challenging to spin, but whoa: if I had any doubts about whether the Tour had improved my spinning, they were gone. This time around, the exact same blend was so fine, so precise, and so strong. It was—is, as I’m spinning my second skein and here we are past August—a beauty.

I am blown away by how much I improved just by spinning every day, even only a little bit. I shouldn’t be. I’ve been a musician since I was a kid, and ‘practice makes perfect’ ain’t just a cliché. But there we have it! Another of life’s lessons that I’ll just keep on learnin’.

Watching the Tour itself was not required for participation, but I gave it a red hot go all the same. And I found it far too stressful: how do they ride so close together without falling over? How do they go so fast without devastating crashes? Answer: they fall over and they have devastating crashes! I did not find watching the Tour relaxing! But I did find spinning very, very soothing.

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