The Joy of Knitting with Handpsun
I love, love, love to spin! Even though Spinzilla is months way, I am eagerly scheming about what fibers I’ll spin, and stalking the forums for new fibers and dyers that I’ve never tried.
Spinzilla is a global event where teams and individuals challenge each other to see who can spin the most yarn in a week. This year's event is happening October 6 – 12. Nobody cares what kind of yarn you spin, the goal is to just spin your heart out and see how much yarn you can make. That being said, once we have all that yarn, it is nice to actually do something with it. Make your plans now and by November you will be casting on with your beautiful handspun yarn!
Spinzilla is a great excuse to make time in my busy schedule to do something that is just for me. Since I am a working knitter, spinning is my relaxing time. I love to watch the fiber slip through my fingers and turn into yarn. Hand-dyed rovings seem even more beautiful as they wind onto my bobbin than they were in the braid.
Like a lot of spinners I love to buy my fiber in braids so most of my spinning is in 4oz increments. Choosing patterns for my handspun is governed by what can be made with the yarn I spin from these braids. I pick patterns where the pattern is enhanced by the small inconsistencies that make spun yarn so interesting.
When working with yarn with a lot of variability, such as handspun, I recommend making a large swatch and measuring over a larger area than the usual, 4x4". For example, rather than taking a gauge measurement over 4", take it over 8". Let's say you find that you have 32 sts in 8", that means your gauge over 4" is half of 32, or 16 sts = 4". Measuring over a larger area, means that you will have a larger sampling of the variability of the yarn. As with any yarn, always block your swatch before measuring, in the way that you plan to block your final piece. Gauge can change significantly with blocking.
I have a few patterns that I have specifically designed for handspun yarn. The first version of Saranac (pictured above) was designed with my handspun. Made with Unwind Yarn Company Handdyed Merino, the construction of this shawl shows up nicely when worked with a yarn/fiber's subtle color changes.
I created the Winter Wonderland Shawl (above) for the Winter 2013 issue of Ply Magazine. For this shawl I used a light fingering weight handspun yarn that was spun by Amanda Hartrich of Willow Glen Farm (formerly Inspiration Fibers) from a blend of Shetland, alpaca, bamboo, and firestar. I cherished having the opportunity to design with someone else’s beautiful spinning. This pattern takes 750 yards of yarn, so it may take a bit more than 4 oz, but you could easily work the body in one yarn, and the border in another.
I find that another great way to use handspun is in multi-color shawls. You can either use all handspun, as Earthchick did for her gorgeous versions of my Andrea's Shawl, knit with yarn spun from Silky Cashmerino from Fluff in "Asteroid" & "Pebbles":
Or combine your handspun with commercial yarn as I did the second time I knit my Germinate Shawl:
I used the commercial yarn in the lace sections to allow the delicate stitch patterns to show most clearly, and the yarn that I spun from the fiber shown in the first photo at the top of this post, in the stockinette sections.
I have a dream of spinning for a sweater someday. If I ever do, I will definitely make yarn for my Beach Street Park design. The simple details on this sweater make it a great choice for handspun.
Maybe I'll make that dream come true and spin the yarn during Spinzilla. Spinner Registration opens August 14. You can sign up either for a team or as an individual Rogue spinner. 100% of the team registration fee is donated to the Needle Arts Mentoring Program (NAMP).