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Tour de Fleece 2021

It’s ON!! Flying Goat Farm will have another TdF team this year. And I thought I should put out an invitation to my readers. Tour de Fleece has been running for many years. I’ve had a team for the past 6 years, I think.

Here’s what it is….. This is a spinning event that runs concurrently with the Tour de France. Participants are to spin all the days that the cyclists are racing on the tour. You can rest on their rest days too. The days that are mountain stages, each participant will determine a spinning challenge for themselves. This year the tour runs from 6/26 to 7/18. The rest days are 7/5 and 7/12. The mountain stages are July 4, 5,7, 11, 14 and 15. Whew! That’s a lot of mountain stages.

Why do it? Well since my first year, I have found that this 21 day spinning event has done so much to improve my spinning skills. Just the act of sitting and spinning each and every day for 21 days builds my confidence and builds my skills.

For the FGF team, here’s my suggestions (not rules): First of all spin each of the race days. Spin for at least 10 minutes. If you can spin more, do that. Make a goal for yourself for those 21 days. In the past, I have challenged myself to make yarn for a handspun sweater or picking several art yarns and practicing spinning those each of the challenge days. Or last year my main goals was to spin fibers I hadn’t tried before like linen and faux cashmere.

So this year, I haven’t yet picked my overall challenge. I am taking some spinning classes with Jillian Moreno during MD Sheep and Wool in a couple of weeks and I think that will inform my decision.

If you are interested in going our group your can do that on Ravelry here. Or you can join us within Facebook here.

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FO Friday–Rhinebeck Style

So yes! This is the fastest sweater I’ve ever knitted. And I owed it to all the accountability partners that I had. But sharing my progress on my Facebook Live Thursday shows (1pm), really helped. I had to show you progress. That means I had to make progress. So you know what? It got done.

Iounn Pattern from Knitty. Made with handspun handdyed 3 ply lambswool yarn

I’m ready to cast on another one!! I’ll be swatching with some naturally colored yarns and the Shifty sweater pattern. I want to steek it and of course my yarns are thicker than what is called for… I simply can not do something by the actual recipe. I’m looking forward to more accountability too.

Do you need an accountability partner? Call on me. I’ll show up for you!!

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WIP Wednesday–No Rhinebeck Sweater

Iounn Sweater from Knitting

Well the knitting is done. Now on to the blocking and then the steeking. I will block this afternoon and it will take some time to dry. It’s a pretty dense fabric. I got some grosgrain ribbon and you all voted on the leather buttons. Well not all of you…but the consensus was the leather buttons. I have 4 of them. I intend to just put them on the top half of the sweater. I’m leaning towards the brick red ribbon. I have 10 days until Saturday…. I think I can…I think I CAN!!

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you asked for it

Hey spinners, I heard from a couple of people that they wanted my viral colorways on roving. So I did it. I have the full set on Polwarth Silk Roving. Each portion is 3oz. I love spinning with this fiber. It is so luxurious. The polwarth is a fine wool breed. So the top is really soft. And the silk is so lustrous. It makes an absolutely lovely yarn. It would also be great for felting. I can see these as a nuno scarf.

If you aren’t familiar with my colorway, the Corona colorway is based on the electron microscopic image that we are seeing everywhere.

The Vaccine colorway was invented because vaccines are made of parts the the virus. So I used deeper, richer colors in the same family.

Finally Antibody is what your body makes to fight the virus. So I used the complementary colors to the virus. I’m expressing my colorful, biology nerd self out here. I hope you like them. You can grab them here.

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working the nightshift with synergy yarn

Nightshift is another one of Andrea Mowry’s innovative shawls. It is worked with a XXX stitch that leaves floats of contrasting colors. It is a triangular shawl that has icord edging for a really stable edge. Our Synergy yarn is perfect for this shawl. It is a DK weight merino yarn that has a tweedy handspun look. Within each skein there are subtle color changes. For the shawl you can choose anywhere from 4-8 skeins. The shawl calls for 7 different colors, but everyone’s aesthetic and knitting style is different. I’m happy to help you pick out great colors to work with. Here is a photo of a customer’s shawl that she made with Synergy.

Nightshift by Andrea Mowry

Here are some of the awesome colors available. To pick your own, join our email list to hear about when we will be in your area at a fiber show.

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Stash Appreciation–Spinning with Alpaca Fiber

Spinning Alpaca

How do I get alpaca fiber? Alpaca is available as a commercial top for spinning or you can go to your local alpaca farm and buy fleeces. Fleeces are sheared from the animals once a year. They are usually graded at the time of shearing into 3 to 7 grades. The prized fleece is called the “blanket”. This is the fleece that is on the body of the animal. In the best animals, this blanket fleece is even with very little medulated fiber. The seconds and even the thirds come from the neck, legs and bellies of the animal. This fleece has more medulated* fiber and it ¬†is also of more variable lengths. This fiber can be harder to spin, but it can be blended with wool to make a lovely, more elastic yarn. Be sure to ask the fiber farmer about their grading practices and know what you are getting. If you are buying at a festival fleece sale, you cannot usually lay out the fleeces to look at it. In that case, put your hand in a different parts of the fleece and feel. You can take a small pinch of the fleece to see what the staple length is. Do this sparingly, no one wants a fleece that is all torn apart. There is an etiquette to this at a fiber show. You can ask the fleece show volunteers to help you determine a good fleece if you are new to alpaca fleece buying.

Handspun Alpaca--one ply is solid blue and the other is hand dyed blues and golds. This really makes the golds pop!
Handspun Alpaca–one ply is solid blue and the other is hand dyed blues and golds. This really makes the golds pop!

How do you clean and prepare an alpaca fleece? Alpaca does not have any lanolin or grease in their fleeces. But the animals do like to give themselves dust baths. So there is dirt and dust in the fleeces, generally. You can wash the fiber before or after you make it into yarn. I would test a small amount of the fleece to find out the level of dirt. If it is very dirty, then wash it before you spin it. If it isn’t very dirty, then you can spin it first and then wash the yarn. Care must be taken to wash the fleece carefully so that you don’t felt or just knot up the fleece. Fill a basin with moderately hot water (180 degrees) with some mild detergent like Orvis paste or Synthropol. Leave undisturbed for about 45 minutes to an hour in a place that will keep the fiber relatively warm. Gently lift the fleece out of the water and dispose of the dirty water. Refill the basin with warm water for a rinse. Leave again for 30-45 minutes. Lift out. Look at the water, is it dirty? Feel the fleece does it feel soapy? If yes to one or both of these questions, then repeat the rinsing step until the fleece is clean and does not feel soapy. Depending on the amount of the fleece you are washing, you can spin out the water in a washing machine or a salad spinner. Leave to dry. When it is dry you can prepare the fleece for spinning. For Huacaya you can card the fiber into rolags or batts and then spin. For suri, you may need to flick the locks to open the fibers. Then you can card the fiber or you can comb the fiber to prepare it.

Raw Cria Fleece--you can see the dusty line in the middle of the staple. This can be spun without washing first.
Raw Cria Fleece–you can see the dusty line in the middle of the staple. This can be spun without washing first.

How do you design a yarn to take advantage of the best characteristics of alpaca while minimizing it’s foibles? As I wrote in a previous post here, alpaca fiber is very warm and insulating. This is because of the way that it is formed in the folicles. The medulla or inner portion of the fiber has small air sacs. Judith Mackenzie in her book, The Intentional Spinner, says these are a little like bubble wrap. The sacs hold in the warmth of the wearer. This hollowness contributes to its tendency to static electricity and clinginess of the fiber. Alpaca itself is also more slippery than wool is, so you will need to adjust your tension on you wheel to achieve a good twist and take-up. When spinning the fiber, you need to add more twist than when using wool to make the same yarn. But you also need to take care that the yarn is not overspun and therefore stiff and dense. Yarn made from Huacaya will bloom when you wash it and it will give you a halo effect. Most of the alpaca top or roving that you will find commercially are made from Huacaya, since it is more prevalent than Suri. Suri fiber has no crimp and no elasticity. It does have great sheen though and you can find fleeces from local alpaca farms to use for yarn. Suri is much more difficult to spin according to Deb Robson in her book The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. Yarn spun from Suri may look even and balanced while you are spinning it. However when it hits water, any imperfections will become evident. This is because it tends to resist being adequately spun. When this yarn is knit or woven you will see the imperfections and you may see some curling. You will need to practice with this fiber to get the results that you want in your final fabric.

isla alpaca1

Flying Goat Farm Superfine Alpaca top is made in Peru from 100% Huacaya. It has a micron range of 24-26 microns . I hand dye the top to make colors that will inspire and thrill you. You can see some of them here.

Natural cinnamon brown alpaca fleece plied with a hand dyed brown and purple roving.
Natural cinnamon brown alpaca fleece plied with a hand dyed brown and purple roving.

*Medulated fibers are ones that are a little more coarse. They tend to not take dye well and can feel prickly.



photo of handspun