Guest Post : The Inaugural Team Countess Ablaze 2014

August 05, 2014

Today’s blog post comes from Rachael(sarcazm), Co-Captain of our Tour de Fleece team and group moderator on Ravelry.  


First and foremost some backstory, as this is a post about the largest international spin-along, or SAL as we spinners call it, called the Tour de Fleece.  The Tour de Fleece that we participate in on Ravelry had rather humble beginnings, and was started bystarathena in this post fromKeep On Knitting In The Free World back in 2006, with a team of less than 20 spinners.  In 2008 she brought the Tour de Fleece, often referred to as TdF for short, to Ravelry, and it has been growing every year.  This year we bit the bullet and formed our own Wildcard Team, Team Countess Ablaze 2014, with an outstanding first-year roster of 30 team members.

Photo 1 : weeseaweed with her travelling spindle.

Weeseaweed with her travelling spindle

Now you might be a bit confused as to what this all means.  The Tour de Fleece runs concurrent with the Tour de France, keeping to the same schedule.  There are two rest days and even a challenge day.  Many spinners also follow the Tour de France on television and stay on top of the cycling.  Non-spinners are encouraged to participate as well, cheering on the spinners and maybe even learning to spin too as the spinning bug can be quite strong – especially during the Tour.  TdF is an all ages and all stages international event where participants set their own goals and work at their own pace.  There is a huge amount of fascinating and helpful information inthe Ravelry Tour de Fleece group’s “Start Here” thread, and for the sake of brevity I won’t go into all of the details but I encourage people to check it out.  

This year I had the honor of Co-Captaining our team with my fellow Countess Ablaze group moderator,weeseaweed  ofWool + Bricks.  We kicked the festivities off early with a TdF-oriented swap called Fleece-cycle, and the team devoted two months to practice spins, setting their goals, stash organization, tool maintenance, and making sure everyone had more than enough time to acquire any extra materials they might require, whether it be more fiber (with the help of an awesome shop discount from the Countess herself) or maybe even a new brake band (guilty as charged!).  Our team was a dream to work with, and we had a lot of new spinners and a number of veterans as well.  We had quite an eclectic mix on the team roster, and considering we wanted to have fewer rules and more of a fun atmosphere during the Tour as far as participation was concerned, I would consider that a win for both of us as team Captains.


Photo 2: debkmsb's shetland spin

debkmsb's shetland spin

While there is a definite challenge day during TdF, and for this year that day was July 19th, the entire concept of the Tour de Fleece is to challenge yourself.  Team Countess Ablaze 2014 has learned new plying techniques, spun sweater quantities, tackled difficult fibers, created beautiful art yarns, experimented with fiber preparation methods, and worked on some gorgeous combospins, a personal favorite of mine.  Considering the fact that the entire event is only three weeks long, 23 days to be precise, and some people spin or do spinning-related activities on the two allotted rest days which are optional, the Tour de Fleece is a bit like a spinning boot camp.  Instead of an angry drill sergeant yelling at you to draft faster – which would be interesting - you have the aid of supportive cheerleaders egging you on and more experienced spinners than yourself and your captains reminding you thatyou can do this whenever you feel inertia and frustration creeping in.   

This has been my third year participating in the Tour de Fleece.  I look forward to it every year like a small child eagerly waits up for Santa Claus to come on Christmas Eve.  Every year at midnight on the day the Tour begins I am awake and ready to begin, each spin meticulously planned.  Every summer I am personally rewarded with new skills and techniques and information I didn’t have going in.  That’s not all though.  Most teams offer prizes and our team is no exception.  However, we decided to take a bit of a different approach to physical rewards than some.  Countess Ablaze group members – even from those who don’t spin (yet – you will be aspinnerated!) – have been so kindhearted and had asked to be allowed to donate prizes, and there is no way we could have turned down such lavish generosity!  There were so many prize donations even that it appears as though everyone who spun along with Team Countess Ablaze will receive a prize on top of proclaiming victory as an all-around better and more knowledgeable spinner.


Photo 3: squiished's 1st day of TdF

So for those of you who participated in this event with us I extend my thanks, as you have all made this a truly rewarding and enjoyable experience for me as one of your captains.  For the spinners who missed out on the opportunity to take part this year we would love for you to join us again next year, as this might have been our first year but it certainly won’t be our last.  Finally, if you’ve ever been on the fence about learning how to spin, or simply admire all those handspun yarns you see and think to yourself, “I wish I could do that”, there’s no better way to learn than with a team of people like the Countess Ablaze group to provide guidance and encouragement – especially during a huge event like the Tour de Fleece.  Then again, why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?   



Photo 4 : scarletprincess' spindle goals for the TdF
Photo 5 : Dodiegirl spins as many breeds as possible for the Tour.
Photo 6 : an array of handspun skeins by britishbeaknits
Photo 8 : sarcazm fulfils the challenge of spinning from the oldest fibres in the stash