It's nearly that time of year again, when wheels turn, and thousands of miles are covered. It's very much become a part of the seasonal pattern of things that when the cyclists are making there way around France (and this year the UK as well!), the spinning community keeps them company.
In essence the Tour de Fleece is very simple, spin something for every day that the cyclists ride. And that's it, no more, no less. Of course, many use these 3 weeks to do something a little bit extra. They might try a new fibre, or maybe a new technique, they'll aim to spin more than they've ever spun before, of spin thinner than before. However, in it's most simple pure form, the idea is to use the first 3 weeks of July to spin stuff!
We have our very own Tour de Fleece team in the Hilltop Cloud group, just like the main event it's low key. You can post as much, or as little as you like, and spin whatever you fancy (so long as it's Hilltop Cloud fibre, or fibre you've prepared yourself).
However, this year I dyed us some spcial colourways, on my lovely Superfine Shetland (though you can of course join in with any HTC fibre).
There was an element of mystery, as the only clue for the colours were some graphics showing some jerseys as worn by the cyclists in the peloton. I'm hoping this way everyone got a colour they liked, though of course, me being me, the end braids of fibre were a little bit more interesting...
(If you've not received your fibre yet, and want to keep it a surprise, stop reading now, spoilers ahead!)
So here are the colours I dyed, and the inspriation behind them.
A- Team Death Star. Mostly black, with a few flashes of bright blue. Loosely inspired by the Team Sky jersey colors of the current champion Chris Froome. They're nicknamed Team Death star as their Big Black Coach is full of all the latest gadgets, and when they first came on the scene a few years ago, as larger than all the other team buses. Also, like The Empire, they take over and win just about everything.
B- I was slightly sneaky with this one, Team Climbers. This one used the colour of the jersey's worn by Team BMC, however, for me BMC stands for the British Mountaineering Council, hence the name! The jersey's are mostly red, with a few flashes of black, as is the fibre.
C- I just had to do a colour inspired by one of the French Teams, so here are Team FDJ, who also use a 4 leaf clover as part of their logo, so this colour is Team Lucky.
D- This one is a slightly abstarct take on a jersey, but it's a team I was desperate to include, and a colour I knew you'd all like. Team Kwick-Fit, inspired by Omega-Pharma-Quickstep, who happen to be the team of my personal cycling favourite, Mark Cavendish. Their jerseys are mostly black (again, there's a lot of black in the peloton), but I already had a black colourway, so I picked out the natty turquoise accents instead. Of course, this could also be inspired by Team Astana, but I'm less than a fan, so we'll pretend that this colour doesn't match their jersey's at all.
E- Following on from the team of Mark Cavendish, we're on to the colour he'll be hoping to wear. The Green jersey is the competition for the Sprinters. These are the guys who are fastest on the flat, at the end of a stage they go flat out at 50km/h in a sprint for the finish line, aiming to pick up points depending on how high they place. The highest number of points gets to wear the Maillot Vert. So this colour is green, with a few hints of tarmac grey, as all too often the sprint for the line ends up in riders piled up on the tarmac, surrounded by bits of splintered carbon fibre.
F- How can you resist a team who wears pink! Lampre-Merida are based in Italy, and their jersey feature more than a splash of bright pink. The Italians must have a thing fo pink, as the winners jersey in their big cycle race, the Giro d'Italia, is a very fetching shade of pale pink. so here we have Team Rosa
G- My first introduction to the Tour de France was via the Tour de France Knitalong, the first year I started knitting. We were all placed in team, and I ended up in team AG2R La Mondiale, and I've had a soft spot for them ever since. They combine Brown with pale blue in their jerseys. and so does this colour. The team sponsors do something to do wth finances, and given this is the most sedate colourway I've dyed, it's called Team Bankers.
Finally, the big one, the ultimate prize, the jersey awarded to the winner of the race. The Maillot Jaune, this is the prize for the rider who completes the overall course in the fastest time. The best all rounder if you like, they need to be able to climb mountains, and do well in time trials, and stay out of trouble when the sprinters come out to play.
I know bright yellow isn't a colour that many like, so I tempered it by using some inspiration from another iconic Tour image, the riders going along roads passing through fields of sunflowers, so the yellow is paired with the browny shade from the centre of the sunflowers.
Even if you don't have any of the special edition colours I hope you'll join us in spining along, the tour starts on July 5th.
Back in mid-May you may remember I did a quick trip down to London to take part in filming Etsy's first ever TV advert.
Appications involved uploading a photo of yourself, with you products you sell, using the hash tag peoplemakeetsy to Instagram.
Luckily I had a photo of mself with my drop spindle kits that was taken at my first ever Wonderwool 3 years ago. A few days later I got an email telling me to come on down to London just 4 days later...
The advert itself was filmed in one afternon at a TV studios in South Wimbledon, the very same place where The Last Leg is filmed, I might have done a little internal squee of excitement when I saw the signs labelling their parking....
The set is a fake street scene, that was apparently built for a now defunct daytime TV soap, so those houses you see in the advert are all just fronts.
The advert aired last Thursday during the first of the new season of One Born Every Minute, and will be on for the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out for it, and know that if you buy from me you're already ahead of most of the people in the UK!
Filming those 30 seconds took an entire afternoon, and the set up took all morning, everything in the advert is made by the people in it, and you can buy all of it from their Etsy shops, which I think it pretty cool.
As for me, I am most definitely background filler, I am at the very far end of the cul-de-sac, where I suspect they put the ones they woldn't trust to behave! By around the 30th take we'd all become like the naughty school kids who sit at the back of the classroom!
Here's the street from the opposite viewpoint of the camera, so you can see how many lovely things were tucked up out of sight. Lots of them are featuring in all the other promotions centreing around the advert though.
The filming itself was done using a super high speed camera called a phantom. It was mounted in a really powerful truck which sped past the end of the street in a matter of seconds. The long suffering runners spent the entire day trying to meant sure we were all doing the right thing just as the car sped past, we all had particular sympathy for one poor bloke called Esra who was responsible for spreading around the fake smoke coming from the barbecue. We alwasy seemed to have too much, or too little, and the breeze that day seemed determined to remove all his efforts by the time the camera started moving.
As for the song, we had that playing too... I can vouch for it's ear-wormy qualities, I think I hummed it for 48 hours straight after the filming, and now the advert is airing it has ended up back in my head again.
It was a very long, very repetitive day, but I love the end result, and am incrediby happy to be part of it. Etsy is what gave my business the push it needed at the very start, and even though I could now move on to my own platform, I like being part of a community of people who are not afraid to do something a little bit different. Every day when I am on the site I am amazed by the creativity of the people on there, it's become where I buy most of my gifts, both to myself and for others. CNBC just named the company as number 4 on it's list of Top 50 companies who are revolutionizing the business landscape, and I'm proud to be a part of it.
Finally, while you might not see me in the advert, you can spot me in this lovely behind the scenes footage, and yes, I did spend the entire day spinning.
There is something of a cute overload around here at the moment...
Two days ago Mum found some kittens sunbathing on a cow pat, we left them where they were presuming and hoping that the Mum would come back to them, and get them back in the den, which is where they should have been. Twenty Four hours later it was pretty obvious their Mum wasn't coming back, and that the kittens were now cold, and very hungry.
So in to the house they came. Luckily I had a spare extra large cardboard box from Paul at Classic Carders, and we had some very yummy beef brisket gravy left over from the Sunday roast. They also got to use my hot water bottle, though removing the handspun, hand knitting wool cover was definitely a wise idea!
The photos I have are all dreaful, because once they warmed up, and had full bellies they didn't want to keep still!
The evening was spent wrangling kittens while they alternated exploring with eating and sleeping, not conducive to knitting or spinning!
They're now with Freshfields Animal Rescue, as they need far more care than I can give them. They're still too young to have lost their Mum, and one in particular is in need of quite a bit of nursing, as it still wasn't eating by itself. I'm sure they will make great pets in a few weeks for someone who wants cats in their life.
I'd always thought that my cat dreams were over because of Gwen, she hates cats, and will try and chase any we see while out walking, however watching her interact with the kittens yesterday morning was really sweet. She's a very motherly dog, and was worrying about the kittens just like she does with the chickens...
Maybe once busy show season is over it can be an idea to be revisited...
The chicks are still doing well, now flying solo, as their Mum left them under a gooseberry bush.
Quite literally. The chicks now have their own luxury run among the fruit bushes. Not that they seem to appreciate it as escapes have been made on multiple occasions. Their Mum decided that motherhood was not for her and ran off in to the arms of another man... she's already laying eggs again.
How anyone can run off from these sweeties is beyond me. Of course, not having a Mum means that humans are now the creature to pester when you want something new and interesting to eat. I've taken to avoiding the top part of the garden when I'm buys as I am powerless to resist.
Pak Choi is the current choice of exotic food, but in reality anything will do. The garden has been denuded of worms because my Mum is a soft touch, and will go digging to find them handfuls of worms to eat.
There might only be 3 chicks in these pictures, but Hoppy is still alive and well.
Her left leg sticks out at an angle, and she'd rather sit down and peck around than stand, but she has no problem keeping up with the others, or running away from then when she's got a worm. In fact the only reason she wasn't eating the Pak Choi was because her little crop was already full to bursting.
This chick is going to be a rooster I reckon, it's already getting a wattle underneath it's beak. I'm not sure about the other chick, it has roughly as many feathers as this one, but no signs of a wattle, though does enjoy a good cockerel style play fight. Big Bird is almost certainly a cockerel, it's twice the size of Hoppy, and bears more ressemblence to a baby crow...
Speaking of birds other than chickens. Dad found this Blackbird nest the other day while clearning brambles, at first we worried we might have disturbed the nest and scared the parents off. However 2 days later they will still there, and obviously being fed.
They must have been just about ready to fledge as just after I snapped the first picture they all flew off. I was still a good disatnce away, and we'd been and looked from that spot before, so chances are the parents had been trying to entice them out today anyway, and I was the final push!
Final photo... the chickens do like Dad's workshop. So much so that it's become one of the egg laying spots of choice.