Sampling To Spin With Purpose

  I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com

A good friend of mine has said for years that she’d like to knit with my handspun. I kept the request in the back of my mind, but didn’t really take it seriously until I was able to consistently spin the kind of yarn she liked to use. That would be fingering weight yarn. We settled on 2 choice skeins of 100% cashmere as equitable bribery, I mean compensation, and I got to work.

  I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com

The first step was finding the right fiber. My friend likes to knit complicated lace shawls and wants to make one with this handspun. So right off the batt, I had a clear set of requirements to meet:

  • The yarn should be a 2-ply fingering weight.
  • The final yardage should be between 500 - 600 yards.
  • The colors need to be similar in tone and hue so they won’t distract from the lace. 
  • She likes to work with wool and wool/silk blends.
  • Preferred colors are dark blue or emerald green. 

I’m happy to have these very specific requirements, because they take a lot of the guesswork out of the process. Instead of constraining me, knowing the end goal for the yarn makes it easier to spin. I get a clear vision of what I’m working toward from the beginning which is rather freeing. As much as I enjoy spinning for the fun of it, finding something to do with that “just for fun” yarn can be frustrating. 

  I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com

It took me a few months of looking around online, in stores, and at festivals before finding fiber I thought would work. After getting an okay on the color, I ordered 8 oz of Dreaming in Green, a BFL/Silk blend from Three Waters Farm. I’m not going to need all 8 oz for the handspun, more like 5 or 6 oz. Those extra ounces are for sampling. Before I dive straight in to spinning 600 yards of fingering weight handspun, I need to make sure I am. It’d be an expensive failure if I made 400 yards of worsted weight by accident. Sure, the yarn would be pretty, but not what we want. 

  I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com

Sampling will help me figure out the right ratios and tension for my wheel. I’ll be able to fine tune my worsted drafting for a wool/silk blend. Equally as important, I can try out different methods of handling color to find what works for lace. Then I can wash and set the twist on the sample skeins to see how that changes the yarn. I’ve spun many a yarn that looks like a sport weight when it comes off the bobbin and blooms to an aran weight after setting the twist. That cannot happen this time.

So I pulled off 2 oz to experiment with. There’s no deadline and I’ve got time to answer any questions that comes to mind. I might even knit a few swatches. Time to get sampling. 

  I’m starting a new handspun project, and relying on spinning mini-skeins, aka sampling, to set me up for success. | withwool.com