FOFri #48: Moonlight Pine and Spinzilla

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my first embroidery finished object (FO) post! I’ve finished a few bits and pieces here and there, but this is the first time I’m writing about one.

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CozyBlue design, click for pattern

This embroidery pattern, Moonlight Pine, was part of the CozyBlue stitch club. I am not part of that club, but I bought it off of a friend because I loved it immediately. The original design called for stitching the entire thing in a deep navy thread. I liked the look of that, but I had the perfect deep dark green for the needles, and decided to give it a go using different colors. Deep dark green for the needles, rich brown for the trunk, a lighter sky blue for accent lines, and the perfect sparkly silver and gold Lecien metallic thread that I purchased from Namaste Embroidery for the stars. The sparkly thread really pulls it together for me.

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Detail shot. SPARKLY!

I painted the hoop in a coordinating sparkly gold acrylic, and I really love how it came out. The stitching was quite simple on this piece, mostly straight stitches, but it was a pleasure to work because of the elegance of the design. It’s peaceful. I’m happy this is hanging in my home and am itching to get more hoops finished to join it on my wall.

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Inglenook Fibre batts on Jenkins Lark

Spinzilla (a.k.a., “spin as much as humanly possible” week) is a friendly competition organized by the TNNA that just finished last weekend. I spun for Team Webs and I’m happy to report that I actually managed to spin a little bit every day, which is not something I’ve managed to make time for since before I was pregnant!

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Loop! batt on Lendrum wheel, with bonus toddler butt

I managed to spin a bunch on my Jenkins Lark while playing on the floor with my son, and even snuck in a decent amount of wheel time to spin up a Loop! batt that’s been waiting in the wings for-freaking-ever to be spun. (Like for real, I started spinning the other single that I intend to ply with this one in 2013. Which is apparently when my mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer, so an update: 5 years later and doing well!)

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Spinzilla output.

By the end of the week, I had managed to complete a small 80-yard skin of the Inglenook Fibre batts (counting as 160 yards because one of the singles was spun previously) and about 705 yards of fine singles from the Loop! batt, for a total contribution of 865 yards. I am excited for Monday, when team yardages and winners will be announced. My contribution is teeny tiny compared to most folks’ output (I’m talking miles of yarn) but I’m quite pleased because, as I’d hoped, the week of spinning has gotten me back in the groove again. I have a lot of bobbins to clear and half-finished WIPs to sort out, so keep an eye on this space for more handspun because damnit if it kills me I’m going to finish spinning something this year.

🙂

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Rhinebeck Sweater: Admitting Defeat

With the wool festival occurring this weekend and the crazy stressful time we’ve been having over at the Morandi house, I’m finally admitting defeat: I will not finish my Rhinebeck sweater in time.

Rhinebeck Sweater: Admitting Defeat | Woolen Diversions

Progress to date.

If I were someone without a full time job, it might have been possible to finish, as there are just the right and left fronts, right and left sleeves, giant ribbed collar, and seaming left to do (hah!) but that’s just not going to happen in the next 5 days and I’m not even tempted to try. I will, however, aim to finish it shortly after the festival, as it will be wonderful to wear in the coming months.

I’m admitting defeat with Spinzilla this year, too. Between my Polwarth sock yarn and Louet merino/silk, I didn’t even fill one whole bobbin! Based on my yards per pound calculations, I spun a paltry 3.2 oz and 380 yards, but it’s not nothing, and the spinning was soothing.

Check out my interview with Subway Knits!

I’ve also had to give up on my plan to vend at the pre-Rhinebeck IndieUntangled Trunk Show this Friday as Nana’s funeral is scheduled for sometime on Friday, and I need to stay home and be with my family. However, Cheryl and Jenn of June Pryce Fiber Arts  have generously and graciously agreed to bring some of my items up with them and man my booth for me. So if you were hoping to sniff some Sweet Sheep scents in person, it will still be possible thanks to those two wonderful ladies (and you should check out their lovely fiber, yarn and notions while you’re at it)! I’m sad that I won’t be there in person myself, but you can hear me chat about my business with Maria over at Subway Knits in her Road to Rhinebeck podcast series. (I haven’t even had the chance to listen to it yet, fingers crossed that I don’t sound like a weirdo!)

Rhinebeck Sweater: Admitting Defeat | Woolen Diversions

My new Rhinebeck goal.

In more uplifting news, I am still going to attend Rhinebeck, as my dear Fiasco reminded me that after all of the stress lately, I could really use a vacation. So I will be heading up sometime Saturday and since it wouldn’t be Rhinebeck without a lofty knitting goal, my new challenge will be to attempt to finish my Kelp-y Kelpie shawl in time to wear to the festival. This shawl has been hibernating since May of 2014 because I used the wrong color yarn to pick up the border stitches and then I just abandoned it. I resurrected it last night, fixed my mistake, and have gotten into the rhythm of the border now. I have 43 more border rows to complete, in addition to the bind-off, and some fiddly bind-off business along the top. All this needs to be completed in 4 evenings, if I want time to block the thing. Challenge accepted!

WIPWed 105: Monster of a Week

Today, I bought three different cards at the same time: one ‘sorry for your loss’, one ‘get well’, and one ‘happy wedding’ — all for immediate members of our family. To say this week has been a bit of a monster would be an understatement. The Fiasco’s mom is getting re-married this weekend, which will be a nice celebration of hope and happiness. My own mom is currently in the hospital, she underwent major reconstruction surgery to repair damage that was done to her implants from radiation treatment for breast cancer. It was a 10 hour surgery and she’s due to be in the hospital for another few days. She’s recovering quite well but it will be a few months before she’s all healed.

And the saddest event of the week is that the Fiasco’s dear Nana, who is probably his favorite person in the world, passed away.

She was truly one of the kindest, sweetest souls I knew. I’m sad that I only got to know her for the last 6 years, but I’m grateful that she treated me as if I were her own granddaughter nearly from the start, and that she had such a big impact on her warm, loving grandson. She lived a full life and had many wonderful stories to tell about it. She will be sorely missed. It’s hard to believe she’s gone.

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Stray Cat Socks yarn, colorway Are We There Yet?

Thankfully, she was sick for only a short time. When we found out her kidneys were failing and there was nothing that could be done, I impulse-bought some cheerful sock yarn because I knew I’d want something beautiful to work on while I thought of her life and mourned her death. That’s probably a strange concept to muggles, but as fellow knitters, I’m sure you can understand. (The pattern is a modified Geek Socks by Wei Leong of Kiwiyarns Knits and it’s perfect for self-striping yarn.)

Monday began this year’s Spinzilla: a Monster of a Spinning Week. I was hesitant to participate as this week is going to be insane and emotional and I knew I would have very limited free time, but then I realized that taking time out to spin might be just the thing to do. Spinning is calming, meditative, and something that can restore my energy in the midst of what will be a crazy time. So I spun the last of the Polwarth sock yarn I had begun during Amy King’s sock yarn spinning class, and I started in on a big bag of Louet’s commercially-dyed Merino/silk blend that I had received as a prize last year. I wanted to keep the spinning simple and easy, not worry about color management or technique, and the black felt fitting while the silk adds some tactile and visual interest. I’m planning to make a fingering-weight 2-ply for a shawl.

I signed up too late for the Louet team but joined the MadWool team instead, which is a great little shop in Connecticut that I’ve visited a few times, most recently when I was hunting for a spinning wheel. I feel a little bad that I won’t be contributing significant amounts of yardage to the team total, but there’s a lot happening right now and I’m choosing to use Spinzilla as a coping mechanism rather than an added stress, so I’ll just have to do my best.

As for reading, Last Night on Twisted River by John Irving has utterly bored me. It seemed to combine bits and pieces from some of his other books while not making the characters very sympathetic or interesting. Plus, he killed off three important people in the first 100 pages, which seemed a bit excessive. Perhaps I’ll finish it later, but in the meantime I got distracted by another book: Fat Girl by Judith Moore. This one fascinated me, but was horrifically depressing. It’s a memoire about growing up as an obese child in a dysfunctional family. I think it paints an accurate picture of the kinds of negative self-talk and extreme stress and childhood trauma that results from the way people treat overweight kids, but it really just made me want to reach into the past and give that little girl a hug, tell her she is loved, and she is enough just as she is. It has taken me 30 years to get to that point with myself, though, and it’s a difficult thing for a child to learn when they are taught the opposite by family members and society in general. It was not a happy book but it was well-written and I loved the tone.

Unabashedly sassy excerpt from the intro.

I hope you all are doing well and I apologize in advance if my posting will be irregular in the coming weeks. Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet

As you might recall, on Wednesday I mentioned that I came home to a giant box of fiber-y goodies from Louet*. Want to hear more about that? Of course you do!

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Thanks, Louet!

Louet is putting together super cool, heavily-discounted fiber bundles to help us all prepare our stashes for Spinzilla, the week-long spinning marathon that happens in October. There will be a different fiber pack each month leading up to the event. The May pack contains $160 worth of yummy fibers to play with, and retails for less than half that price. After sampling some of the fibers included in the pack, I can’t deny that it is an absolute steal.

The fiber pack contains 4 bundles of 2 oz each Dyed Merino Top (in Champagne, Dusty Rose, Lupine Lavender, and Tawny Gold), 4 oz of Angora/Lambswool Top, 100 gr of Eri (a.k.a. Peace) Silk,  8 oz of Light Romney Sliver, 8 oz of Dark Romney Sliver, and 8 oz of SWTC Dyed Karaoke (50% soysilk / 50% wool). I wanted to write my review before May was over so I’ve only had time to dabble in half of these fibers thus far, but here we go.

Eri Silk:

I practically attacked this lovely bundle of silk as soon as I had it out of the bag. It’s a beautiful, natural champagne/honey color, a nice light tan. It feels incredible. Since it comes from silkworms that spin open-ended cocoons, the silk is not reeled off in one continuous piece. This makes the fiber a bit fluffier and less sleek than typical mulberry silk (and the critters get to live!), but I like this quality as it makes the silk easier to draft and spin.

Review: Spinzilla May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Eri Silk sample skein

I spun a small amount (7 g) with short forward draw (worsted) on the fast flyer of my Lendrum wheel (12:1 ratio) and made a 2-ply sample skein with 38.3 yards. If I had spun the entire batch of silk up (4 oz), I would’ve ended up with 618 yards of laceweight yarn (2,481 ypp, 24 wpi). I love this little skein and think that the rest of this silk will make an elegant shawl.

Angora/Lambswool:

The next fiber that my fingers couldn’t resist was the 50/50 blend of angora (from bunnies!) and lambswool. This fiber comes undyed in 2 oz bags (2 bags included in fiber pack). As you can imagine, it’s wonderfully fluffy stuff. I tried spinning this worsted but had a bit of trouble (it’s not my favorite drafting style) so I switched to my old standby, spinning from the fold. This allowed me greater control over the short, sleek angora fibers while introducing a nice bit of air into the single.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Angora/Lambswool sample skein

I spun a bit up (11 g) on the fast flyer of my Lendrum wheel (12:1 ratio) and made a 2-ply sample skein with 20.7 yards. If I had spun the entire batch of fiber (4 oz), I would’ve ended up with 214 yards of sport/DK weight yarn (856 ypp, 14 wpi). The yarn in this wee skein is thicker and fluffier than the silk but still has a lovely density from the angora and a nice bit of bounce. I imagine any knit fabric will develop an enticing halo over time. The angora and wool fibers were well blended and only a few times did I find myself at the end of my handful of fiber with just bits of angora left loose in my hand.

Carding Dyed Merino Top:

For my last sample skein, I experimented with hand carding the 4 colors of dyed Merino wool top I had received. I carded 4 rolags of each color blend and spun them in the following sequence: champagne alone, champagne/rose, rose alone, rose/lavender, lavender alone, lavender/gold, gold alone, gold/champagne. Since I was spinning from rolags, I used a supported long draw technique to create a woolen-spun single.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

Dyed Merino Top sample skein

I switched back to the regular flyer and spun 38 g of wool into a single that I then chain plied (10:1 ratio) into a 3-ply yarn. If I continue spinning all 8 oz of wool in this manner, I will ended up with 455 yards of DK/light worsted weight yarn (910 ypp, 11 wpi). I found the wool top easy to card and spin. I did not notice any compacted areas that can sometimes result from the dyeing process and the colors were consistent throughout the top.

Review: Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack from Louet | Woolen Diversions

My pretties!

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be done with one of these fiber packs. Things I’d still like to try:

  • blending the Eri silk with the dyed Merino top in rolags
  • plying one single of silk with one multicolored single spun from the dyed Merino
  • plying light grey and dark grey Romney singles together for a subtle marled yarn
  • spinning a bulky singles yarn from the variegated soysilk/wool fiber.

In summary, these fiber packs are an instant stash, and a great way to explore different fiber types in a low-risk way. For instance, I’m not in love with the feel of the soysilk/wool blend (even though I adore the color!) and I’m glad I found that out through the discounted fiber pack before purchasing it on its own for a project. Louet’s fibers are well-prepared, easy to work with, reasonably-priced, and offered in relatively large amounts (usually 8 oz at a time) that allow for experimentation and sampling without sacrificing project yardage, which I really appreciate. I’ve had my eye on some of their more ‘exotic’ fibers for a while (yak, anyone? How about camel/silk?) and the fiber pack they’ve put together for June looks intriguing, too!

Have you experimented with any new fibers lately? What have you been itching to try?

*Disclaimer: This fiber pack was sent to me from Louet for review. All opinions are my own and reflect my true impressions, I only support businesses whose products I truly love!

WIPWed #93: Campfire Knitting

I am (reluctantly) back from my camping trip, it was such a lovely time. We didn’t go far, and we weren’t gone for long, but something about spending the entire day outside and sleeping with just a thin nylon wall between you and the night feels wonderful. It was a tad chilly the first couple of nights, but the sun was warm during the day and we got plenty of hiking, biking, and campfire relaxing in.

My favorite way to knit.

I brought three projects with me (of course) but the only one I worked on was my Camelot Monkey sock. I had the wild idea that I’d have so much leisure time I would totally finish the entire pair… which did not happen. I did make my way back through the leg and heel that I had to frog last week, but it turns out that roasting marshmallows and reading to toddlers is way more fun than knitting (*gasp*). Plus, it gets dark early outdoors which doesn’t jive well with my nighttime knitting habits.

However, that kind of project monogamy is coming to a close. I returned home to a giant box of goodies from Louet, including a Spinzilla 2015 May Fiber Pack and a lovely skein of laceweight Colinton mohair yarn (both of which you’ll hear more about soon). I eagerly ripped into the sample fibers and have begun playing with the irresistible Eri silk. So soft! So shiny! It’s also known as ‘peace silk’ because the silk worms are allowed to emerge from their cocoons before the silk is harvested, which does not allow for the silk to be reeled off in a single strand, but does allow the little insect to live.

I strangely didn’t read a thing while camping (I read nearly constantly at home) but I did finish that Mama, PhD book I was reading last week. I am now working my way through a couple of issues of Ply magazine that have been patiently waiting their turn.

Hope you all had lovely weekends and are halfway through a decent week! Linking up with Yarnalong and Stitch Along Wednesday.

WIPWed #69: Post-Spinzilla 2014

The weekend was a whirlwind of preparing lotions for the Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show (this Friday! Go to it!) and sneaking in one final spin for #Spinzilla. My final yardage was (drumroll please….):

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Woohoo!

I did not quite meet my (random) goal of spinning twice the weight I spun last year (22 oz… I spun up about 17 oz) but I’m really excited that I spun up over a mile (1 mile = 1,760 yards) of yarn in one week!

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3-ply Louet Jacob

I spoke about the Perendale (2-ply, 176 yards, 528 towards Spinzilla) last week and the Inglenook batts on my spindle last Friday (11 g spun at 3000 yards per pound = 73 yards for Spinzilla). Above you see my finished 3-ply Louet Jacob skein that come sin at 8 oz and 120 yards (480 for Spinzilla). I’ll write more about this skein in a future post when I do a review of the fiber.

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Bee Mice Elf Green Gradient 2-ply

Of everything I spun last week, this gorgeous gradient skein is the most happy-making for me. If you spin and are unfamiliar with Bee Mice Elf, you should get to know her stuff quick, because you are missing out on some amazing colorways! (Laurs also writes great “Mixed Up Mondays” posts where she talks about dyeing particular colors, like Tiffany Blue.) Anyway, this braid had all my colors (lime green through baby blue to teal and forest green) and was on Wensleydale fiber, which I hadn’t spun in any great amount before, so I had to have it. Guys, I love Wensleydale.

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Photo from winddanceranch.com

And not just because the sheep look like adorable muppets! The fiber is an extremely silky and lustrous longwool that is very easy to spin. It drafts beautifully and creates a really drapey finished yarn. That skein (236 yards, 708 for Spinzilla) is going to become some sort of lacy scarf or cowl, I’m thinking. I split it in two and spun each half in order, which meant during plying I had to break out some sections from one single or the other that did not match up correctly, so I had some leftover bits (10 g at 2600 yards per pound = 57 yards), but overall I’m super happy with this yarn.

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Silky Pond Clapotis, click for project page.

After all that spinning, I was inspired to start a project with a skein of handspun I’ve been itching to knit for some time now. I swatched for a drop stitch scarf but hated it and realized the yarn would shine better in a smooth stockinette fabric. I might be the last knitter on earth to start a Clapotis, but here it is!
What have you all been up to this week? Do you have a favorite pattern for handspun?

FOFri #33: Need An Extra Foot?

Somehow, even though I knit and blocked and measured a gauge swatch, and calculated an approximate length I wanted my cowl to be and cast on the appropriate number of stitches, I ended up with a cowl nearly a foot longer than I had intended.

Pre-work, dusty mirror selfie is all you get.

It’s a wee bit large: 63″ circumference, 8″ tall. I don’t hate it, though I’ll never wear it long like that. I’m currently wearing it doubled up around my neck and it has a comfortably loose drape. I can also wear it tripled for increased warmth.

My ‘almost being choked by knitwear’ face.

My blocked swatch had a gauge of 5.5 sts/inch, so I cast on 285 sts to arrive at hopeful finished length of 52″. My swatch was small, which might have had something to do with it, and while I did knit it in the round, I did so on bamboo DPNs, rather than on the KnitPicks harmony wood circulars I ended up using for the cowl. I suppose those changes could have resulted in a project gauge of 4.5 sts/inch (285 sts / 63 inches). Let this be a lesson in the dramatic difference one stitch per inch can make!

Inglenook Fibers batt spinning.

I am still spinning for #Spinzilla, but sadly had no time at the wheel last night. I’ve been piling up the singles on my Russian spindle, though! All of that is the result of just one of the eight little batt poofs (batt balls? batt sections? batt muffins?) from Inglenook. I’ve yet to spin a large project on my supported spindles, so far I’ve only just sampled and then andean plied the yarn off the spindle into a 2-ply. Does anyone have tips for singles management when you only have one supported spindle? How to you spin and organize your singles for plying for an entire project?  I need to figure something out, since promptly after shooting that photo, Darwin ran off with my spindle and tragically separated the cop from its rightful place on the shaft (bad kitty!). The single appears to have maintained its shape so I’m hoping it won’t be a total mess to wind up later.

What was your worst ever gauge miscalculation fail?

WIPWed #68: Mid-Spinzilla

Since we’re in the middle of #Spinzilla, this post is chock full of spinning! I shocked myself by working my way through a full 4 oz of the Louet Perendale fiber in one evening (thanks is due to several episodes of Game of Thrones, Season 1).

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Spinzilla day 1

When I was too tired to sit up straight in my spinning chair, I curled up on the couch with a pretty little Inglenook Fibers batt and my TexasJeans Russian supported spindle. I really like spinning supported, it’s completely different than wheel or drop spindle spinning, I find it even more relaxing.

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Perendale 2-ply

Then last night I plied up my Perendale into a light, fluffy woolen 2-ply. I ended up with 176 yards of worsted-ish weight (just eyeballin’ the weight) which count as 528 yards for Spinzilla [plied yardage + (plied yardage x number of plies)]. That’s nearly half of the total yardage I spun last year already! Seriously, woolen spinning (carded prep and long draw) is wicked fast and makes a delightfully fluffy yarn.

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2 oz of Louet Jacob wool

I then knocked out 2 oz worth of Louet Jacob singles, as well. I have a date with the remaining 6 oz as soon as I publish this post.

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Honey Cowl, more on this soon.

And then I finished my cowl! (Hopefully some modeled pics on Friday).

I think it’s safe to say that I’m on a roll this Spinzilla and I’m really looking forward to adding everything up by the end of the week! If you spin, are you trying any new techniques this week? If you don’t spin, how are you not tempted?!?! 😉

Spinzilla Year 2!

Spinzilla has been on my mental to-do list for months, but even though I knew it was coming, I am feeling woefully underprepared. I didn’t finish clearing my bobbins, my spindles are all busy, and  I didn’t begin thinking about what I wanted to spin until… last night. A late night plying session helped the situation out some, but my bobbins are still far more occupied than I would’ve liked at this point. The two on the right will likely stay that way (I want to preserve the color progression I’m spinning), but the two in the middle I can clear with my Bobbins Up storage bobbins.

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Unfortunately occupied bobbins.

Last year, I spun 11 oz of fiber into 1,270 yards of singles. I’m sure 11 oz seems like nothing to the people who spin up pounds and pounds on a regular basis, but that was the most I’d ever spun in one week and I’m looking forward to attempting to surpass that amount. Hopefully I won’t hold back #TeamLouet too badly, the team did extremely well last year with more than one member spinning over 11,000 yards of yarn! (Yeah, 10 x what I did. Yikes!) But this is neither the time nor the place to feel intimidated. IT’S SPINZILLA TIME! So here’s my (rather hasty) plan of attack.

Since I’m spinning for #TeamLouet, I figured this would be a great time to work through some of the awesome Canterbury Prize Wools fiber that Louet sent me a while ago.

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Lovely longwools from Louet.

If you remember back in April, I reviewed their Perendale fiber. It was an airy, carded longwool that spun up easily. Thankfully, I have 4 oz left, plus 16 oz of Shetland sliver and 16 oz of Jacob sliver to work through! Carded preparations and longwool fibers are great choices for speedy spinning, so I’m hopeful that spinning these fibers will help my yardage out.

And just in case 36 oz of wool isn’t enough (ha!) I have some additional options stashed that I think will be nice and speedy (and a good bit more colorful):

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BFL, Wensleydale, llama, and batts!

Pictured above are 21 additional oz of fiber (clockwise from back left): llama down (5 oz), BMFA Rockin’ Whorl Club BFL (5 oz), Bee Mice Elf Wensleydale (4 oz), Countess Ablaze BFL (3.5 oz), and Inglenook Fibers batts (3.5 oz). With the exception of the llama and the batts, all are longwools and are likely to draft easily and quickly. I’m thinking of using the batts on one of my supported spindles so that I can keep spinning on nights when I want to curl up on the couch instead of sit at the wheel, or if I need to try to spin in the car. And the llama I threw in there because alpaca usually goes quickly for me, and they should be similar enough (plus it’s one of my long-ignored Spin The Bin goals).

Are you participating in #Spinzilla? Do you tend to set yourself lofty goals that you have no hope of achieving? How do you motivate yourself for challenges? If you haven’t already read the Spinzilla blog tour, check it out, there are some great tips in those posts!