Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tour de Fleece rides again!

I am participating once again in the Tour de Fleece, a group of international spinners who form teams and spin daily during the Tour de France. Last year I began working on my 50 Breeds Fleece study, and while I had hoped to continue this study over the winter, it has languished since the end of the 2011 tour.

So I am back at it, and we will see how much progress I can make in these three weeks. This is particularly challenging as I often work 7 days a week in the summer months, but I have managed to fit at least a little spinning in every day and have been pleased with what I accomplished during the last two Tours.

So, I pulled down the box of fleece samples and took stock. I washed all 46 of the original samples last year, along with 4 or 5 that I added to the original Fleece Study kit from Jackie Bland. This is a 50 Breed study much in the spirit of the 4 member Dixie Power Trio. It's a good title and I'm sticking with it.

Last year I spun up 10 sample skeins - Brecknock Hill, California Red, Cheviot, North Country Cheviot, Clun Forest, Columbia, Coopworth, Cormo, CVM. I had the Debouillet started on a spindle at the end of the tour, and I know I finished plying it while teaching a workshop in October. I found the Corriedale and Cotswold picked and ready to card and all other samples clean in their labeled bags.

Day 1: I spun and plied the Corriedale and the Cotswold.

Day 2: I spent two hours looking for the paper copy of my spreadsheet with all the notes from last year. I found lots of other things and tidied up a very messy corner of the den, but no spreadsheet. Yet.

I made a space for the drum carder, brought it in and got it set up, then ran out of time before work.

Work on this day was helping run an outdoor concert. In spite of the 100 degrees F and about 85% humidity, everything went smoothly except for the power supply. I spun a little on some silk/merino that I already had going on a spindle but my hands were really too sticky for spinning.

Day 3: a wee skein of Horned Dorset carded, spun and plied after a long workday. I also carded the Polled Dorset and picked & carded Finn and Gulf Coast Native. Picked a tiny sample of brown Finn and some grey Gotland, but I have decided to card my way through the white samples before turning the drum carder over to colored fleece. Or possibly hand card them, depending on logistics.

Day 4: I spun and plied the Polled Dorset and Gulf Coast Native. Two very different types of wool, the Dorset is a down type, short and springy. I much preferred spinning the Polled Doset sample, it was easier to draft but both had lots of second cuts. The GCN is a longer stapled wool with a light crimp and more sheen. It carded to a light, fluffy batt and drafted very smoothly in a long draw. I look forward to seeing the skein after washing!

Day 5: I went to Gretchen's and got her started on a suspended spindle - a Bosworth Midi to be precise! I spun a little on the white Finn and she gave me some Solitude Cotswold lamb top to try, so I started that on the wheel when I got home, after spinning up the tiny sample of Brown Finn. Gretchen said that the mill found the top spun up thick and thin, and I am finding it very slick and quite a challenge to draft smoothly.

I also picked the Hampshire, Hog Island, Blue Faced Leicester and Masham samples, and I sorted the bags of fleece into those for combing and those for carding. Once I got to I for Icelandic, there is a whole group of long wools and primitive double coated fleeces that will be better combed than carded. So here is where I gave up working in alphabetical order.

So - it's still a big project, but it's also still very interesting! I will try to blog every few days to keep up with all the action here at the Burrow. I am going to be very busy this weekend as I am performing with the Flaming Shillelaghs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, but I will try to get a little spinning in.

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