The Tour de Fleece has brought spinners throughout the globe together since 2012, challenging fiber artists to spin every day the the Tour de France rides. Since the cycling event has been rescheduled for August 29-September 20, some Tour de Fleece spinners decided to spin this month during the originally-scheduled dates, and participants will be able to take a victory lap when the official Tour de France rides again this fall!
We were amazed by the beautiful fibers and handspun yarns shared this month on Instagram, Facebook and Ravelry, and look forward to seeing another round of handspun goodness when the official Tour starts up on August 29.
Now is the perfect time to train for the next event! To help you get into optimum spinning form, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite tips, tutorials and tools to keep your wheels and whorls spinning.
Know Your Fiber
One of the benefits of being a handspinner is getting to hand-pick the fibers that make up your yarn! While commercially-made yarns are starting to include more unusual fiber and sheep breeds that were previously only available as raw fiber for spinners, spinning your own yarn is still one of the best ways to make a can’t-get-it-anywhere-else yarn you’ll love to use.
Our sister brand, Strauch Fiber Equipment Company, has lots of great resources for learning about fiber-producing animals, sheep breeds and more - click the links below to check out these articles from their blog archive:
- Guide to Fiber Producing Animals
- Staple Length: A Quick Guide for Fiber Artists
- Evaluating Fleece & Fiber: A Beginner’s Guide
- The 8 Wonders of Wool: Amazing Facts You Might Not Know
- Where to Source Fleece & Fiber Without Leaving Your Home
Resources & Tutorials
If you’re totally new to spinning yarn, the best way to learn is by taking a class. While in-person learning is probably not something you’ll seek out until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control, there are plenty of online tutorials to help you learn at home. YouTube is a fabulous free resource, and there are countless videos showing you the ins and outs of handspinning.
We love this absolute beginner’s lesson to spinning on a wheel shared by Expression Fiber Arts; if you are getting started with a drop spindle, check out this Beginner Drop Spindle video by Ashley Martineau.
Once you master the basics, you can start refining your techniques - and there are countless videos for nearly every aspect of spinning! Here are a few to try:
- Spinning Sara’s video on achieving a consistent draft
- Amy King’s video on making a basic 2-ply yarn
- Classy Squid’s video on chain plying yarn
- Expertly Dyed’s video on setting twist for handspun yarn
Outside of YouTube, there are several handspinning websites to keep in your bookmarks for future reference. The Joy of Handspinning is chock-full of information that beginners and experiences spinners will find useful. Spin-Off Magazine has many online resources, including their free guide to spinning yarn for beginners. The Knitty Spin archive is another great resource which features advice from experts such as Amy King, Jillian Moreno, Amy Singer, Beth Smith and more.
Tools of the Trade
Ask any fiber artist, and they’ll tell you that having the right tool for the job can save both time and sanity! For challenge-based spinning events, you’re likely to spin more than you would normally, and unfortunately, that can result in injury. We’ve created a few tools to make spinning easier on the body, and more fun, too!
One of our customer favorites is the Handy Andy Andean Plying Tool. This tool is designed to easily fit in your hand, saving wear and tear on your fingers as it takes the brunt of the tightening yarn as it’s wrapped around the tool (instead of your fingers). As an added bonus, you can choose whether you want to ply directly from the tool while you it in your hand, or you can opt to place it in its base and leave both hands free to control the yarn going back into the spinning wheel (much like you would when using a Lazy Kate). Even if you decide to hold the tool in your hand while plying, you can always set the tool back into its base if you need to take a break - all without disturbing the bracelet of yarn. Watch the video below to see the Handy Andy in action!
Another must-have is a good Lazy Kate; our Jumbo Kate can accommodate even the biggest bobbins of singles, but if you’re looking to kick things up a notch, our Anything But Lazy Kate is where it’s at. This specially designed Kate can be tilted and adjusted however you like - simply put, there’s no other Lazy Kate like it! You don’t have to take our word for it, though: our customers say it best!
“This is an inspired, versatile, and truly useful kate. Easily portable in a beautiful wooden case, it sets up in a few moments. The adjustable angle for the bobbins provides all the benefits of gravity’s pull with or without the included tension cord. I’ve found the Anything but Lazy Kate a lovely and efficient tool for plying.” -Carolyn, Verified Customer
When the spinning is done, it’s time to measure your yarn! Our Wraps Per Inch toolkit (shown above) is the most accurate way to measure the thickness of your yarn, while our Niddy Noddy (shown below) efficiently winds yarn into your choice of 4 skein sizes, allowing you to measure yardage as you wind. Click here for our photo tutorial on winding yarn!
We look forward to seeing your handspun creations using NKK tools. Make sure to share your photos with us on social media using the #nancysknitknacks hashtag!
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