Tour de Fleece
This year, I have trained, and trained hard, for the Tour de Fleece, the spinning equivalent of the Tour de France.
Every day those conditioned athletes ride in the Tour de France, we spin in the Tour de Fleece. If they climb hills, we pull out something challenging. Their days of rest are our days of rest.
The Tour started yesterday and already, I'm way back in the pack.
It has nothing to do with training or conditioning. This year, I've been spinning regularly and mentally preparing for the Tour.
But on day one, I had a setback. Faulty fleece.
At a recent fiber festival, I purchased some Bluefaced Leicester roving. I've never spun this type of wool before, but I do love to knit with it. I was excited to begin.
It looks pretty enough.
But I have been deceived by a pretty face.
As soon as I began to spin, I discovered all kinds of second cuts and other short pieces.
I HATE second cuts and short pieces. We spend hours skirting our fleeces to avoid this. When spun, they make for fuzzy yarn with sticky-out pieces. And yes, sticky-out pieces is the official term. Sticky-out pieces make your yarn itchy and unattractive.
So wheel and I are going to have to go back to the starting line and begin again.
I pulled out a bit of our own alpaca roving. You can see, it is not filled with second cuts and short pieces.
I pulled the Bluefaced off the wheel and will begin with the alpaca. The Bluefaced will take a couple of turns on the drum carder to see if the second cuts will come out in the re-carding process.
I have learned my lesson. Really, really, REALLY look at any roving you buy. I think I can salvage it, but it's going to take a bit of work.
But wheel and I are seasoned professionals. Like all highly trained athletes, we will look at this little obstacle as just a bump in the road on our way to spinning gold.
All good things must come to an end. This year's Tour de Fleece has ended and I must say that Wheel is quite proud of himself.
He was awarded a yellow jersey!
In cycling, the winner of the race receives the yellow jersey.
In spinning, any and all who complete the Tour are jersey worthy.
Wheel, while not the best spinner in the world, did his best to spin every day of the tour and to improve his skills.
This is the fiber that carried him across the finish line. But boy-oh-boy, Wheel had a tough time with this stuff. This is a blend of alpaca, silk and angora and it's the toughest thing Wheel has ever spun.
But he gave it the old college try and we now have two full bobbins are we are ready for plying.
However, now that the Tour is over, Wheel doesn't come out to spin as much. Wheel liked the pressure of having to spin every day.
Wheel is not internally motiviated. He needs artificial pressure in order to spin every day.
Quick, somebody give him a reason to spin before he loses all the momentum he built up during the Tour!
Today is the day. The mere thought of today has had me shaking in my sneakers.
For today, you see, is Challenge Day on the Tour de Fleece.
Today, I have to spin something hard, something that really challenges me. It's going to be an uphill-all-the-way kind of day, I know that already.
So I thought I'd pull out the big guns to help me through the challenge. I brought out the Strauch Fiber Equipment's Finest Drum Carder -- the flagship model, which produces fuller, loftier roving with less fly away fiber . . . at least that's the advertising wording that sold me!
I had some brown and tan alpaca roving, plus some white Merino/silk/mohair that I wanted to blend together and Mr. Strauch Drum Carder was just the guy to do it.
He did a wonderful job.
But now I have to do my part in this challenge. I have to spin this super fine roving into something lacey and fine and delicate -- all words that do not describe any work I've ever done, nor, come to think of it, do they describe me. I'm in trouble here folks, real trouble.
Plus I'm told that alpaca is hard to spin. So far, I've only spun nice stick-together sheep's wool but haven't ventured into alpaca because of the fear factor. But today, I'm facing my fears.
By golly, I'm going to spin alpaca!
It's going to be uphill all the way. Wish us luck.
There comes a time when every athlete hears the words he or she dreads. The words that mean the athlete has pushed it too hard, did not rest properly between workouts, and wasn't in the kind of shape needed for the long haul.
Wheel heard those words yesterday. Words that made his heart cry.
Over Use Injury.
After a solid two weeks of spinning hard to do well in the demanding Tour de Fleece, Wheel was tired. And sore.
Wheel needed a Sports Massage.
All the worries of two weeks on the Tour began to melt away.
Stress became a thing of the past.
Trouble spots and tension around the bobbin area melted away.
And then Wheel was back in the saddle and able to spin some Bluefaced Leicester from Briar Rose Fibers.
Plus, Wheel was mentally relieved to be spinning something other than a green/purple/blue mix.
Wheel's trainer likes, no, make that LOVES, chunky green/purple/blue mixes, so Wheel has been spinning nothing but that.
Lots of green/purple/blue mixes.
Earlier in the tour, Wheel's trainer made him spin the yarn for this little hat that the trainer then knit up. Surprise, surprise -- it, too, is in the green/purple/blue color palette.
And while Wheel didn't spin this Briar Rose yarn for a sweater work-in-progress,
it is still in the trainer's green/purple/blue range of colors and Wheel is getting tired of looking at it.
So Wheel has moved on to reds. He's healthy. He's relaxed. He's ready to conquer the rest of the Tour.
Spin on Wheel. Spin on.
For the record, I think Wheel is lazy.
Here we are in the beginning stages of the Tour de Fleece and Wheel wants a day off to head to the beach.
Sure, it's a beautiful day but we have plying to do here people!
We don't have time to go hanging out with all those non-spinning type people. I've told Wheel that if we hope to finish the Tour, we have to spin, spin, spin.
I promised Wheel a Popsicle if he comes home and puts the treadle to the metal and gets to spinning.
Wheel is on his way.
It's been a hot and grueling tour so far. But Wheel and I are giving it our all, trying to keep up with the veteran spinners.
The main thing is for Wheel to stay hydrated.
This is a well organized tour. Officials are right there, handing out Gatorade when the going gets tough. Even though we're rookies, with support like this, Wheel and I will continue to spin on.
Day 6 brought the completion of two bobbins of Mountain Colors "Wilderness" roving. Tonight, I ply!
Earlier in the tour I finished some un-named roving and am now knitting it up into a hat.
However, I have figured out I'm a blue/green/purple kinda gal.
I MUST change color paletts! I have some wonderful Briar Rose red that I will spin next. My goal is to finish the tour with more than one color!
Happy post-July 4th.
The farm hosted a small holiday party yesterday for about 75 or so family and friends. That sure makes it hard to get back at it today. So we sort-of eased back into the work week.
Farmer Gal had a little heart-to-heart chat with Dewey while Mr. Big listened in.
Bug and Dottie Biscotti enjoyed a spirited game of chase.
And slowly, oh so slowly, we moved out to the gardens to pull weeds.
I did not abandon Wheel or the Tour de Fleece. We were up early to do a bit of spinning -- some nice Bluefaced Leicester top from Mountain Colors in the "Wilderness" colorway. I couldn't pass up a color called Wilderness. It had my name written all over it.
On Sunday, I finished up some other spinning for the Tour.
Certainly not the most even yarn in the entire world, but I like it. I think it is begging to be knit into a pair of fingerless mitts.
But not today. Today feels like a Monday and fingerless gloves are way too ambitious for a Monday.
Happy Independence Day America.
I hope you are all enjoying a picnic with family and friends today, followed by fireworks.
Wheel and I have been busy spinning our little hearts out in the Tour de Fleece.
After a brief spin this morning, Wheel is going to be kicking back and enjoying the holiday.
I hope you will be doing the same.
Today is the day for which Wheel and I have been training. The memory of sore fingers, strained shoulder muscles and an aching treadle foot will soon be behind me as I spin my way through The Tour.
We were up with the birds so we could get a good position at the starting line -- Wheel does not like to jostled about in the back of the pack.
However, Wheel did have to be restrained by tour officials for trying to start too early -- what can I say, it's the Tour de Fleece and emotions got the better of Wheel. But I had a little chat with Wheel and reminded him that we did not want to be disqualified for a false start. (Wheel's doping scandal was bad enough. You might as well know right now that Wheel was accused of using extra oil to keep everything moving during a Spin-Off. Wheel was cleared of all charges, but the hint of inpropriety still lingers.)
My little tete-a-tete with Wheel must have worked because we finally got into a nice spinning rhythm and did what we set out to do on day one of the tour -- actually spin something!
We will spin again later today and perhaps do a bit of plying. Wheel and I are off to a good start and have high hopes of going the distance.
Welcome July! I don't know how you got here already, but you are here and we welcome you. July means fireworks, ice cream, cheesy beach reads, fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes and corn-on-the-cob. It's a good month.
July also means the Tour de Fleece, where spinners across the county commit to a demanding schedule of spinning each and every day of the Tour de France.
My roving is ready to roll. The bobbins are empty in anticipation. The drum carder is on stand-by in case more roving is needed.
And Wheel, well, Wheel is on its way to the starting line.
Wheel, being a new wheel, wasn't exactly sure where to go but luckily there were signs along the way. So now Wheel is at the line, carbo-loading, waiting for the Grand Start tomorrow morning.
It's going to be a punishing month, but Wheel and I are conditioned athletes. We can handle the challenge.
I'm in training folks. This is serious business.
Throughout my life, I've "dabbled" in various sports. Tennis, hiking, cycling, skiing -- I enjoy them all. But I've never trained for anything like the adventure on which I am about to embark.
I have entered the grueling, month-long Tour de Fleece. And no, I did NOT mean to say Tour de France. That's for light weights (and I mean that literally. Those guys are skinny!). This is something at which Lance, seasoned pro that he is, would shutter.
This is the Tour de Fleece and I am on the Ravelry team Super Fleece. Our lofty goal is to spin (on a spinning wheel, not a bicycle) every day the cyclists are spinning their little legs off in France. They spin, we spin. Simple.
The Tour starts July 2 and runs through July 24th -- same as that silly little French cycling tour. We have days of rest just like they do (July 11th and the 18th). And on their hill climbing days, we have to spin something challenging.
You can understand why I am in training. Nobody wants to be embarrassed at the Tour. I will keep you updated on my daily progress. But right now, I've got to work on my upper-wheel strength, which should help with my endurance.
A couple more reps and I should be in fine shape for the starting gun on July 2nd!