Getting ready for the Tour de Fleece 2015

All the info you could ever need about Tour de Fleece here.

The tour starts on July 4th, but I think I have figured out what I want to spin already. I will probably change my mind about it a bit (a lot) after we start. I hope to do daily picture posts (probably won’t have time to write much).

TDF spindles and fiber posing for a starting photo
TDF spindles and fiber posing for a starting photo

This is an awesome chance to spin some fiber from some of my favorite suppliers on some of my favorite spindles (and wheels – more about that at a later date).

So far I have fiber from Nunoco, The Double Ewe, Fondant Fibre, Hilltop Cloud, Porpoise Fur (forgot to include that in the picture), and Barber BlackSheep (picture below).

Spindles are from Mirkwood, Bristlecone, FWAussie, Malcolm Fielding, Turtlemade, Buckeye and Woodland Woodworking

I will also be spinning on my wheels (Little G and Big G).

Barber BlackSheep rolags and TexasJean spindles that I forgot to include in the group picture
Barber BlackSheep rolags and TexasJean spindles that I forgot to include in the group picture

Spindle Spotlight: Neal Brand

So that update thing… not going too well. I have been a little nervous about updates since I did the Golding update and afterwards ended up destashing every spindle but one (the starfish). I think writing the post made me realize that I just did not use them enough to justify keeping them. Now I am giving it another try with spindles that I am almost sure I will keep.

Neal Brand “Shorties”: Zebrawood/Ebony, Tulipwood/Holly, Bloodwood/Ebony, and Black Palm/Ebony.

My Neal Brand tibetan was one of my first supported spindles. It seems that a lot of the good makers of supported spindles have quite a back log of orders, so it takes a while to get your spindle. Neal’s spindles are amazing quality, but he is also very fast. He usually has a monthly special in his Etsy store, and every time I have ordered; it has taken less than a month to get the spindle.

My first Neal Brand Purchase was a set of three tibetans and a bowl (this is the link to the original Etsy listing). One was a monthly special with an Ironwood whorl and a Wedge shaft. The other two were my choices of woods (Zebrawood/Ebony and Tulipwood/Bloodwood).

Neal’s spindles are incredibly well balanced and smooth (both surface and spin). They all have pointy metal tip, so I don’t use them in wooden bowls.

Neal brand spindles at work. The bowl is from Debs Fibers.
Neal brand spindles at work. The bowl is from Debs Fibers.

After trying the spindles out; I pretty much feel in love with their design and ease of use. They are very forgiving for a beginner. I thought it was really interesting that Neal is a math professor and has used that to optimize the design of the spindles (my brother has a PhD in math and I don’t see much in the way of spindles coming from that direction!). Neal is also very responsive and great to work with. I later ordered several other spindles in different lengths so I now have a quartet of shorties (around 9 inch length) and a quartet of “Longies” (around 11 inches in length). Both sets are wonderful.

For my latest order; I decided to let Neal pick out the woods and he made a couple of AMAZING spindles in Black Palm/Ebony and Olive/Canarywood.

“Longies”: Ironwood/Wedge, Lignum Vitae/Makore, Tulipwood/Bloodwood, and Olive/Canarywood

Neal also makes spindle bowls (I have two but they are hiding) as well as phangs and Russian spindles. I have held of on those so far since I prefer my phangs and Russians to have a less smooth surface than Neal’s spindles.

If you are looking to try out supported spindles; Neal’s tibetans is one of the best places to start. If you are picking woods; I highly recommend Bloodwood (somehow he gives it this amazing glow), Tulipwood, or Black Palm for the whorl. Neal makes these 3 woods look absolutely beautiful.

Spindle Spotlight: Golding RingSpindles

One of my first spindle loves were the drop spindles made by Golding Fiber Tools. The Goldings don’t just make drop spindles; they also make spinning wheels, weaving looms and other fiber tools (as implied by their name). The spinning wheels are incredible and very expensive. The spindles range from prices in the $50 range for the small basic spindles to about $300 for the more elaborate spindles with expensive materials.

I own several Golding RingSpindles in varying sizes:

Showing the different Golding Ring Spindle sizes: 2", 2 3/4", 3", and 3 1/2"
Showing the different Golding RingSpindle sizes: 2″, 2 3/4″, 3″, and 3 1/2″

Starting at my smallest spindles:

2″ Golding RingSpindles

"Waves" and "Tsunami" Golding 2" Ring Spindles
‘Great Wave’ and ‘Tsunami’ Golding 2″ Ring Spindles

Great Wave is one of the ‘Vintage and Decorative’ Ring Spindles. This means that only a few (or just one) spindles are made with the design (2015-01-15: A spindle very simiar to mine is currently available at the Golding web site). The whorl of the Great Wave is made of walnut with a Sterling Silver ring. The spindle is quite heavy for it’s size weighing about 1oz/ 28g. I haven’t really found a great use for this spindle. If I want a spindle that weighs 1 oz; I will usually pick one with a bigger whorl, so I can pack more fiber on it. It is very pretty though.

Tsunami is one of the standard 2″ spindles. It is available in a 0.5oz and 0.8 oz version made of either Cherry or Purpleheart. Mine is the Purpleheart version (I have a larger Cherry Tsunami). I don’t spin a lot on this either, but I do see its uses for thin singles.

2 3/4″ Golding RingSpindles

2 3/4" RingSpindles: Seaside Mermaid, Starfish, and Solid Bird's Eye Maple
2 3/4″ RingSpindles: Seaside Mermaid, Starfish, and Solid Bird’s Eye Maple

The Bird’s Eye Maple spindle on the right is one of the standard RingSpindles. It is a real work horse spindle. Nothing fancy but with a steady, stable spin and a reasonable price.

My beautiful Golding Starfish 2 3/4" spindle
My beautiful Golding Starfish 2 3/4″ spindle

My Starfish spindle was my first true spindle love, and we are still madly in love (or at least I am!). It is another of the ‘Vintage and Decorative’ spindles, and as such was pretty expensive. The whorl is made of Birds Eye Maple with a Sterling Silver Starfish and an abelone ring.

Starfish Spindle dressed in pink
Starfish RingSpindle dressed in pink

The Starfish spins wonderfully and it is so very beautiful. It is in the top weight range of what I like to spin with (it weighs 1,4 oz), but still within that range.

Mermaid spindle ready for some action!
Mermaid spindle ready for some action!

Oh, how gorgeous this Seaside Mermaid is. So gloomy and dark with her walnut whorl. She is on the heavy side for me (1.8 oz), and she appears to have a slight wobble when she spins. I use her for slightly thicker singles.

3″ and 3 1/2″ Golding RingSpindles:

3" Tsunami on the lift and 3 1/2" Butterfly on the right
3″ Tsunami on the lift and 3 1/2″ Butterfly on the right

These are plying spindles for me, but I’m sure they are great for spinning thick singles as well. I purposely chose the lighter spindles since I don’t want them to be too heavy when plying a whole 4 oz of yarn on one spindle.

Both the Cherry Tsunami and the Butterfly are standard spindles. The Tsunami used to be my plying spindle of choice until I got my butterfly. I still use my tsunami for plying yarns when I have 3.5 oz or less. The Butterfly is one of my two favorite plying spindles (the other is a Greensleaves Mjolnir). It is big enough to fit 4 oz of plied yarn without trouble.

Both the Tsunami and the butterfly spin beautifully when loaded with yarn. Before I build a cop; the spin is a little sluggish and when they get VERY full they start to wobble, but they do a good job of what I bought them for.

Comparing sizes: Smalles and largest.
Comparing sizes: Smalles and largest.

Overall I am very satisfied with my Golding spindles. There are a lot of choose from (I didn’t even touch on their special porcelain, scrimshaw, gemstone, or aromatherapy spindles) in different price ranges. For someone starting out with drop spindling; I would not hesitate to recommend one of the basic 2 3/4″ spindles. They would be a wonderful starting point that would continue to be useful.

Spinning the Bin

Like many other spinners; I tend to accumulate quite a bit of fiber. It’s easier (a LOT easier) to buy fiber or yarn that to actually create something with it. In the Spin the Bin Challenge every spinner makes a commitment to spin a pre-determined set of at least 12 fibers from their stash. The spinning must be finished before the end of 2015. Furthermore each spinner can choose to donate the fibers from the bin that weren’t spun before the end of the year.

Here are the fibers I have committed to spinning this year:

My 2015 Spin The Bin fibers
My 2015 Spin The Bin fibers
  1. Fiber Quirks The Tarot Series Hand-carded Batts: The Star Merino 100g/3.5oz
  2. Porpoise Fur Rita’s Bedroom Falkland 115g/4.0oz
  3. Hilltop Cloud Robin Merino, BFL, Manx Loaghtan, Yak 100g/3.5oz
  4. Hilltop Cloud Blue Nile Merino, Corriedale, Tussah Silk, Stellina 100g/3.5oz
  5. Hilltop Cloud Carded Batt- Blue & Yellow Spinning Fiber- Merino, BFL, Alpaca 100g/3.5oz
  6. Undyed Polwarth approx 2.5oz
  7. Willow Fairy Wool Hearty – BFL, Silk 100g/3.5oz
  8. Fondant Fibre Meditation Norboo 100g/3.5oz
  9. Fondant Fibre Dakota Don’t remember the fibers 115g/4.0oz
  10. Garngalleriet Handcarded Batts Orange/Pastels Don’t remember the fibers 99g/3.5oz
  11. Homespun from Devon Cottage Garden – Hand Dyed Blue Faced Leicester Top/Roving 100g/3.5oz
  12. Porpoise Fur Wysteria BFL/Alpaca/Silk 115g/4.0oz

I have started on my #10 already and I am really enjoying it!

Garngalleriet orange and pastal batt being spun on a Mirkwood Gimli spindle
Garngalleriet orange and pastel batt being spun on a Mirkwood Gimli spindle