spinning

"Breeze Sunflower Spindle" by Lab Cat “Breeze Sunflower Spindle” by Lab Cat

July is one of my favourite times of the year, and that is because thousands of spinners around the world dedicate a couple of weeks to spinning in the Tour de Fleece. The idea is clear – challenge yourself, spin, and have fun.

This event, started in 2006 by Star Athena on her blog Keep on Knitting In The Free World, is a spin-along that happens for the duration of le Tour de France. Spinners spin on racing days, and rest on rest days. On days when the cyclists are climbing mountains, lots of spinners challenge themselves, by using a difficult technique, or by treadling out amazing lengths of yarn. Over 7000 spinners are registered on the Tour de Fleece Ravelry group, where they encourage one another, chat about their spins and post photos of their fibres and yarns.

9287046915_8a2b3fb53a_b “Why are there so many songs about rainbows?” by Fluid Pudding

Like the cyclists on le Tour, spinners can join teams like the Peloton (main group), Rookies (first years), Sprinters (fast, or high mileage of yarn), Climbers (personal challenge), Breakaway (art yarns), and countless Wildcard teams which may be sponsored, friendship groups, local spinners, spinners who use the same equipment or brand of fibre, or based on just about any interest you can imagine.

Even though I spin all year round, I really love having a dedicated annual spinning event, which reminds me to clear some crafting time and devote it to spinning, and gives me an opportunity to form some spinning goals. This year my own goals are to finish off some yarns that have been works in progress for some time, and to work towards turning fibre stash into usable yarn. I’m not achieving as much as I had hoped, but I’m still glad to be a small part of a worldwide community of spinners, taking some time out to make yarn together.

9270753740_3f7c799b5c_b “Tour de what?” by knitting iris

These images are all from the Tour de Fleece Flickr group. Pop by and have a look at all the gorgeous yarns, wheels, spindles, fibres and finished objects from this year’s Tour.

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As you know I finished by Scrappy steps afghan and mentioned that I was hunting around for a new crochet project. I have settled on Bullseye (which I fell in love with back here and again when Kate made it). I have made a bit of a start – my first circles are pictured below, and so far I am finding it meditative and interesting. I am going for clashing contrasting colours this time around and have chosen a very dark grey for the background (Rustic Graphite 8 ply). I am mostly using wool from Bendigo woollen mills — I love them because they are Australian, I can buy online, they are wonderful quality and because you can get 200gram balls for the price of a 50gram ball. 

Also this week my boy was in the paper (he is the cute blondie with the big smile) because of the controversy over compulsory national assessment in schools. The irony of course is that his school did really well even though they don’t agree with the process. The article is here.

In other news: I launched our latest Action Pack Magazine just for kids — it’s the Mad Scientist Issue: In our 9th issue of Action Pack Magazine for kids, we continue to encourage kids to think and do for themselves, to be independent and creative learners, they are able to explore science through art, cooking and experimentation. We also encourage parents to become observers and co-learners rather than having to take control in a teacher role. In this issue kids are able to go through a journey of self discovery and learn that science is indeed fun and real! You can purchase a copy here.

And because I am already thinking ahead to the next Action Pack (Go Tribal) I came across these cute arrow and feather inspired crafts: make an arrow necklace :: make newspaper feathers :: tribal inspired bangles

More cool and quirky crafts:

On my coffee table:

Doodling books: Both of these books have a similar aesthetic — a little bit bohemian and a little bit street — Creative Doodling & Beyond by Stephanie Corfee (published by Walter Foster December 2011), is a brilliant activity and tutorial book. As well as tips and tutorials throughout, there are blank pages to practice the excercises and practical ways to then use your new found doodling skills. Plus its a lovely big book with nice paper and rounded corners – I do love a thoughtfully presented book. Doodles Unleashed by Traci Bautista (published by North Light Books February 2012). This mixed media class in doodling takes you through a whole bunch of techniques and mediums and also includes a section on digitizing your art.

Spinning books: Two incredibly art yarn books that will teach you how to spin textured art yarn — it’s not easy, and is not for beginner spinners, but once you have mastered the basic techniques of spinning then you can move on to create some fabulous art yarns. Hand Spun by Lexi Boeger from Plucky Fluff (published by Quarry Books February 2012), is aimed at the beginner art yarn spinner, there are techniques to get started creating your interesting yarns and some really cool projects to use them on too. Spin Art by Jacey Boggs (Interweave Press January 2012) is aimed at a more advanced level of spinner. Like all interweave books the photography and level of instruction are excellent — plus there is a DVD.

Knitted toy books: Fast & Fun Knits is by knitting legend Claire Garland (Published by David & Charles October 2011), she has a blog where she shares tutorials and she is on Ravelry too. This book is a little quirky and aimed at kids/teens who want to get into knitting. But the projects don’t condescend – there are simple socks, toys, hats and even knitted fruit! Knitted Dinosaurs is written by Tina Barrett (Published by STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book [USA] and Guild of Master Craftsman [UK] October 2011). I love the personality of these guys, dinosaur loving kids everyone will want you to make them one of these.

[Thanks to publishers and distributors for sending me books to review, I don't get paid to post reviews but I am an amazon affiliate] (Australian’s can purchase craft books online through can do books or booktopia or else browse booko for the best prices.)

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Are you spinning every day in the Tour de fleece? Rav group and Flickr group – see all the wonderful spinning that is being done each day. Can you still join in – why not?

{Images from Mary Heather and K_rivera.} [Thanks Kate for the heads up about this - good luck with the challenge!]

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dvd-cover

Start Spinning: The Video is a companion to Maggie Casey’s book Start Spinning: Everything You Need to Know to Make Great Yarn by Maggie Casey. Interweave Press (April 1, 2008). (reviewed on Whipup 28th October 2008).

Reviewed by: Kate is a busy mother of four with many craft projects on the go, including, but not limited to, crochet, knitting, sewing, dyeing, paper making, spinning, felting and bookbinding. Kate has challenges in the areas of finishing things, saying no and craft supplies storage. She also has a very very patient and tolerant husband.

Start Spinning: The Video features Maggie Casey herself, teaching beginner spinner (Eunny Jang of Interweave Knits fame), how to handle fibre, and to start to spin singles and plied yarns.

When I first read the book, I thought that Maggie Casey was probably a pretty good teacher, due to her ability to explain and instruct in text. But in person she is even better. At all times, Maggie’s soft, reassuring voice makes me feel as if everything is fine, it is all ok. When I first watched this DVD, I set my wheel up in front of the tv, and followed Maggie’s lesson on spinning woolen style (I was brought up in a worsted style family of spinners). In the past I had tried to figure out the knack of woolen style spinning using books (including Maggie Casey’s Start Spinning), but since I am a visual learner with a short attention span and a need for pretty quick gratification, I had had not much success and lots of frustration. Watching Maggie patiently explain and demonstrate this style of spinning, I found my mojo! It was a happy moment indeed.

While there are an increasing collection of spinning demonstrations available online, it is wonderful to have this resource as a DVD, that I can put on to my TV in the lounge room (can’t do that with YouTube!), with the remote beside me, and replay the bits that I need over and over and over.

The first disc of Start Spinning: The Video has chapters on fibres to start with, about your wheel, getting started, making yarn, more about wheels, plying and finishing. The second disc has chapters on looking at wool, basic carding, long draw, spinning worsted, commercial top, over the fold, and exploring other fibres.

Most of the views of Maggie and Eunny on this dvd are from the front which is fine if you like the look of Schacht wheels. (Schacht were the sponsor of this DVD and their wheels are the only ones shown). There are some views of Maggie’s and Eunny’s hands from the side and from the top, and for my money these are the best bits of the DVD. I really wish there were far more shots of what is actually going on in their hands, it would have really improved the quality of the instructions. I also wish that there were some titles and caption within the chapters. It is more of a sit-and-watch-the-whole-thing-through DVD than a dip-in-and-find-what-you-need DVD. For these reasons, the book and DVD are a great set, the DVD shows so many things that are hard to grasp from text alone, and the book fills in the gaps, for example spindle spinning, and has an index so is easy to refer to quickly.

The book and DVD together make an excellent resource for a beginning spinner.

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Quick join up members get recycled yarn and “quick knit” patterns to match – join the Leethal Quick Knits Club.

leethal quick knits club

The small-scale designs in Leethal’s quick knits website section, and in the club, are perfect for both beginner knitters, wanting to try more complex techniques without being intimidated by a large project, and seasoned knitters in search of ways to use up yarn leftovers or knit up some quick gift items.

The spun recycled yarns start out as multiple strands unraveled from cast off sweaters, which are then spun on a spinning wheel and plied together, often with other threads or yarns added in the process. The recycled hand-dyed yarn also comes from unraveled thrift store sweaters, mostly wool or wool blends, dyed over in custom mixed shades of non-toxic food dyes (acid set for colorfastness).

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