handspun

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One of the questions that often arises for me is how to make the best use of handspun, bulky, and novelty yarns

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These yarns are often expensive, detailed, and bulky, and there is often not enough to make anything of any great size. I want to make something with these yarns, large enough to be useful, and that shows the artistry in their making.

I find that many crafters approach knitting from the perspective of a spinner or approach spinning from the perspective of a knitter. I think spinners who come to knitting often want ways to use their handspun yarns and want to knit something very simple, which makes sense when using many novelty yarns, but the detail of the yarns can get lost in the stitches.

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Knitters who come to spinning often want simple yarns in fabulous colours and fibres to use for more knitting focussed projects.

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I have tried both, and both have appeal, but I would like to propose a third way – there are techniques and styles and projects that can make use of beautiful handspun yarns of every description and show them to advantage, and here I must confess that many of my ideas in this area are heavily influenced by Debbie New.

I bought both these yarns from Milkyrobot’s Etsy Store

Girls Throw Snow (40 yards / 36.5m):

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And Earthworm (46 Yards / 42m):

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When they arrived I was really unsure about what to do with them. I was worried that they were too intricate to show all their detail and too short to make much if knit by themselves. Every centimetre of these yarns is beautiful, and I would hate to hide whole sections of them behind cables or on the back side of something.

For the Girls Throw Snow yarn I mixed it with some grey fingering yarn I had lying around that matched one of the accent colours, and knit it in an irregular version of Debbie New’s squiggle lace using large needles (pattern):

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For the Earthworm yarn I wanted to make things more interesting and combined several yarns:

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In a long strip:

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That I crocheted together into a scarf at the end using Debbie New’s labyrinth knitting technique (Ravelry link):

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I especially like the way the mohair lace weight makes transparent sections.

These projects show these yarns as I wanted them to be shown and have enough knitterly interest to keep mine.

I could probably be induced to produce a pattern for the Earthworm scarf too, if enough of you leave comments on my blog here.

Download pattern here: Wisp PDF pattern

Difficulty

Beginner

Finished measurements

Approximately 5 inches [13cm] wide / 84 inches [213cm] long

Materials

[MC] 1 skein of bulky novelty yarn (shown: Milkyrobot Girls Throw Snow, super-bulky handspun, 40 yards[36m])

[CC] 1 skein coordinating fingering yarn (shown: Sandes Garn Sisu, 173 yards[158m] per 50g, colour 1042)

1 US #17/12.75mm circular needle

Tapestry needle

Gauge

Not really important and difficult to measure.

Within the next few days I will be posting the free pattern for the scarf I made with the Girls Throw Snow Handspun Yarn I bought from Milkyrobot a few months ago.

Here is a sneak peak:

This is a series of questions Jess Rollar of Milkyrobot was kind enough to answer for me about spinning and her process. You can buy Jess’ yarns and fibre from her Etsy store (also called Milkyrobot). I have bought some, and please let me say that they are as wonderful as they look in the pictures.

How did you get started spinning?

After teaching myself knitting, I became very interested in handspun yarn. I kept drooling over handspun and wondered if I could do the same. Once I got spinning I was hooked!

How long have you been spinning and how long were you doing it before you considered yourself good?

I started spinning in 2002. My mom bought me a wheel for my 21st birthday with no experience what so ever. It took me a couple tries to actually get any yarn to twist and not break. I finally mastered the skill later in the month. It was about 8 months to a year until I fell in love with my yarn. Some were kinda creepy at first and didn’t actually look like yarn!

Who taught you how to spin?

I taught myself how to spin after getting my wheel. I’ve never used a drop spindle and still haven’t. Just could never get it to work right.

What is your process?

I always start out with an image or idea before gathering my materials. I usually base my yarn and batts off of graffiti art, nature or just random objects that catch my eye. Once I have an idea of what I want to create, I gather all the fibers together and card them into a squishy batt, then spin away! Some yarns get plied and some stay single, the yarns do the talking!

What equipment do you need to create the yarns your post on your Etsy shop and blog?

The equipment I use the most would be my spinning wheel, of course, and my Ashford drum carder.

What kind of wheel do you have and what kinds have you had in the past?

I spin on a Louet S-17. This is the first and only wheel I’ve had. I do have plans to pick up an Ashford Country Spinner sometime this year.

Where do you buy your materials?

Most of my materials are bought from two local fiber shops, The Fiber Factory and Tempe Yarn and Fiber in Arizona. I get some unusual spinning fiber online or from etsy shops as well.

Do you dye your own fiber, if not, how do you get the exact colors you want?

I have dyed my own fiber in the past. I’m currently getting ready to start dyeing sock yarn soon. When I can’t find the exact colors I want, I find other materials to spin into my yarn such as sequins or random strings and things.

What do you think would be a basic start up spinning kit? Wheel? Fiber? Carders?

I always suggest starting with a Louet or Ashford wheel. I find these wheels very easy to understand and use. As for fiber, I would suggest wool or dyed roving to start with. Once your comfortable with your wheel, try adding in random fibers and see how they spin and feel. I’ve only used Ashford hand carders and drum carders and very much love them! I suggest starting with that to anyone!

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with spinning and get excited about the yarns you make and sell?

You must have lots of patience and lots of creativity! Let your fingers do the work and let the fiber do the talking. Anything can be spun even plastic spiders and feathers! Get super creative and don’t hold back.

What tips would you give to a new spinner on how to spin your batts? How do you incorporate the sequins into the spinning?

Whenever I spin my own batts or even others, I always strip the fiber into 8 pieces. Once split up, I spin each strip one after another and let the colors pop up how they please. Sometimes I even mix other fiber clumps into the spinning or solid merino strips. With the sequins, I usually just catch the tip of the sequin strand to some fiber and let the wheel pull the in, twisting the sequin strand around the roving.

How close are you to being able to support yourself on spinning?

If it wasn’t for the economy today and if I could get my yarn into a few more shops, I would most likely be able to live off my yarn and fiber sales. But in this case, maybe next year if I push myself hard enough!

I have just finished reading Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years – Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elizabeth Wayland Barber; it was wonderful and transported me through time to see the work all those women did making things to make their lives a little more beautiful. It appears to be out of print, but I was able to order a copy from ABE Books without difficulty.

I loved the descriptions of making linen and wool, and I have come up with the brilliant idea of growing flax in the backyard.

Sure, it may not look like much now, but I will dig it and plant my flax and grow it and ret it and spin it. I anticipate that the flax I grow will not be good for “clothing,” but I can always knit a table cloth or a rug or something from it.

I need to dig the garden soon as the weeds are already growing. You see, last year I let it go “fallow” so there may be a bit of a battle to get this started, but I think it is a wonderful, if somewhat eccentric, idea. I have looked up the Flax Council of Canada’s website and they advise the farmers to plant it in the middle of May, and I plan to do the same.

I’ll keep you posted.

I just got these beauties from Milkyrobot:

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I figure you need to cut yarn like this, especially if you are buying it from someone else, as it would just be too expensive otherwise, though I do want one of these really badly.

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I have special plans for one of them (the one is as yet unidentified).

I thought the pink one was more red from the photos, so now I am considering cutting it with grey instead of red (I have also greatly reduced my red yarn stash, but my grey is undiminished).

Glenda will be calling me within the next few weeks when my drop spindle comes in.

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