A Handspun Boneyard

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

I’ve wanted to knit a Boneyard Shawl for years. Not with the burning desire that makes you drop everything and head to the yarn shop, but when I eventually found the right yarn. Eventually is the key word. I wanted a variegated yarn that’d be fun to knit and fun to wear. I’d know it when I found it. I didn’t find that perfect yarn because I ended up spinning it during the 2017 Tour de Fleece. It’s a thick-and-thin variegated mix of greens, blues, and browns. The skein is one of my favorite yarns that I’ve spun this year, and was thrilled that I had enough yardage to make something big out of it. Well, bigger than a hat anyway.

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

With 260 yards of aran weight to work with, I knew it was finally time to cast on for a Boneyard Shawl. So I did, and it was a fun knit. The shawl was so hard to put down because it was good auto-pilot knitting and I wanted to see what color would come next. The only change I made was to switch out the m1’s for lifted increases.

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

The only trouble came when I was trying to figure out how much shawl I could knit. There were still a few yards left and I didn’t want to waste any of them. So, the Boneyard sat on my desk for months, mocking me, while I worked on other projects. The shawl would probably still be sitting on my desk too if I hadn’t needed a break from all my holiday gift knitting. I’d knit 7 ridges already and decided to start the edge and see how far I got. A few tv shows and an inch of garter stitch later, it was time to bind off. Why did that take me so long to do? Ugh! At least I made the most of the yardage.

It may have taken years to find the right yarn and also a good bit of procrastination, but this Boneyard Shawl is just what I imagined. It's cosy, just the right size to wear under a coat, and special. Also, it feels good to knit with my own handspun in the same year that I made it. Who knew?

Handspun yarn + Procrastination = The Perfect Shawl #knitting | withwool.com

The Details
Pattern: Boneyard Shawl by Stephen West
Yarn: 253 yds 2-ply aran weight handspun
Needles: US 9 (5.5 mm)
Dates: August 20 - December 2, 2017
@Ravelry

FO: My First Handspun Socks

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

When I was first learning spin, one of my far way goals was to spin durable yarn for socks. It took me a few years to reach the point with my skills and confidence to try and actually succeed. Then it took me another year (or was it two?) to spin more sock yarn and finally use it for socks. This pair was for the Bearded One, which is why I finally took the plunge and cast on. When I knit to keep my own toes warm, other sock yarns and fun patterns somehow keep distracting me.

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

The yarn was always going to be the star of the show. When I sat down to design the pattern, I knew that the striping and mottled colors would only obscure a more detailed stitch. So I went with my standard vanilla sock with 2x2 rib which would also make for a well-fitting sock. I also added a princess sole, where the stockinette side of the fabric is against the foot, to smooth out any bumps that might have come with using a sometimes thick-and-thin yarn. The downside to the princess sole was that it slowed me down since I had to purl a big chunk of every row. That changed when I knit the second sock inside out, and worked the reverse of pretty much every stitch. Take my word for it, it’s much easier working lifted increases on the knit side of a fabric. 

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

I had a few worries when I cast on for this pair. One, would the half pound of yarn I spun be enough? It’s not like a I could go to the store and buy more. Two, would knitting smooth out the unevenly plied and unruly sections of yarn? Now I know the answers to both those questions are an obvious yes, but figuring that out definitely kept me on my toes. I have a few yards leftover for darning. Plus, I can’t point out the sections where the yarn was more snarled than smooth. 

The best part is that all that work - picking a yarn construction, spinning the yarn, setting the twist, designing the pattern, and then knitting two huge socks - has been rewarded. This pair is the Bearded One’s new favorite out of the many pairs of socks I’ve made for him. Knowing that does a spinner/knitter’s heart good, and makes sure the hand knit socks keep coming. 

My first pair of handspun socks is off the needles and on to happy feet! | withwool.com

Pattern: My own basic vanilla sock with 2x2 ribbing and a princess sole

Yarn: Tour de Fleece 2016 Sock Yarn 

Needles: 2.75 circulars

Dates: September 22 - December 11, 2016

@Ravelry 

Knitting Handspun Socks Part 2

I’m knitting a sock inside out! | withwool.com

I’m still knitting my first pair of socks from handspun (you can read part 1 of the tale here). It’s also the first time I’ve tried adding a princess sole - the smooth side of stockinette stitch is against the sole of the foot instead of the bumps - to a pair of socks. The socks have been great purse knitting, but the making the first sock was slow going because off all the purling on the sole and gusset increases. 

I’m knitting a sock inside out! | withwool.com

Why is so easy to overlook the simplest solution to a problem and instead go with a more complicated fix? After I turned the heel and knit the heel flap, a light bulb went off in my head. I could knit the second sock inside out! The only purling I’d have to do would be for the top half of the toe and the ribbing. I used the same cast on at the toe and the same increases. Instead of purling the sole, I purled the top half of the toe. I reversed the rib pattern from *k2, p2* to *p2, k2*. I’m glad I went with a simple stitch pattern over the foot otherwise knitting the sock inside out would be a little more complicated. 

I’m knitting a sock inside out! | withwool.com

The little bit of effort I put in upfront has been worth it because the second sock is zooming along. It’s almost time to knit the gusset which will actually be easier to work inside out. The combination of purled increases and marled yarn made it really hard to tell if I’d correctly worked an increase row on the first sock. Or if I was even on an increase row. Happy to have solved that problem this time around.

Okay, now it’s time to double check my gusset math and get back to the gift knitting. 

Knitting A Handspun Sock

I’m knitting my first pair of handspun socks. It was a nervous cast on, but the first sock is going really well even though I ripped out the gusset. Knitting A Handspun Sock | withwool.com

On one of the rare occasions when The Bearded One went into a yarn shop with me, he found a half pound of spinning fiber that he liked. Second to me, he has the greatest appreciation for my fiber goodness, so I was all to happy to promise him something made from handspun. We eventually decided on a pair of socks. Tour de Fleece came along this year and I got spinning. 8 oz of Louet Northern Lights turned into 2 matching skeins of opposing 3-ply sock yarn

The yarn didn’t turn out like I’d planned. Instead of solid stripes, the yarn marled. Instead of fingering weight, I got sport weight. Instead of a smooth 3-ply, the opposing ply made a kinked up and uneven yarn. Plus, I didn’t get anything close to the yardage I was expecting. Ugh. 

I’m knitting my first pair of handspun socks. It was a nervous cast on, but the first sock is going really well even though I ripped out the gusset. Knitting A Handspun Sock | withwool.com

I wasn’t sure what would happen when I cast on. To be completely honest, I didn’t think the yarn would work as a pair of socks. Happy to say I was wrong though. I only ripped out once and that was because I messed up the gusset increases. The marl is beautiful with subtle stripes. Knitting with sport weight means even a US 14 sized sock works up fast. There’s enough yardage too - my fingers are crossed though just to make sure. Of everything that that could have gone wrong, I was worried the most about the yarn making a bumpy, uncomfortable sole. That would have a deal breaker for sure. So I’m working a princess sole, and it seems smooth and comfy. Definitely worth all that purling. 

I’m knitting my first pair of handspun socks. It was a nervous cast on, but the first sock is going really well even though I ripped out the gusset. Knitting A Handspun Sock | withwool.com

After being nervous that my handspun sock yarn wouldn’t make a good pair of socks, I’m relieved thateverything is working out better than I planned. Here’s hoping the second sock and the second skein do as well together. 

Free Pattern: Show Off Boomerang

Show Off Boomerang - A free pattern for that one special skein of yarn, handspun or hand dyed, that’s a show off all by itself. |   withwool.com

I finally finished a couple of long-term works in progress last week, and decided to reward myself by casting on for something new. The yarn I spun during this year’s Tour de Fleece has been taunting me, specifically a wild combination of dark grey merino and random mini batts. I may or may not have wound the yarn at 11 PM. Okay, I definitely wound the yarn that late. I stayed up watching movies and cast on for a beautiful shawl. Unfortunately, the yarn obscured the yarn overs, increases, and details that made the shawl what it is. Simple, reversible, garter stitch was the only option. 

Show Off Boomerang - A free pattern for that one special skein of yarn, handspun or hand dyed, that’s a show off all by itself. |   withwool.com

I love the look of asymmetrical triangle shawls. And I love the fact that I could knit every inch of that precious skein without worrying when to bind off. So, I experimented with and frogged a few different versions of bias knit boomerang shapes before I found one I liked. Then I made sure that all the action happened on one row of the pattern repeat for easy auto-pilot knitting.  

Thanks to plenty of down time, I knit the shawl in one day and blocked it the next. Blocking smoothed out the curves - the yarn had it’s thick and thin spots - and added a few more inches of depth. I’m so happy I didn’t let the yarn linger in the stash or try to force it into a complicated pattern. This shawl will be the perfect pop of color on a dreary winter day. 

Show Off Boomerang - A free pattern for that one special skein of yarn, handspun or hand dyed, that’s a show off all by itself. |   withwool.com

If you’ve got one precious skein of handspun or hand dyed indie goodness that wants to do it’s own thing, the Show Off Boomerang might be just the pattern you’re looking for. 

Size: Your Choice

Yarn & Needles: 200+ yards of any weight yarn and needles to match

Show Off Boomerang - A free pattern for that one special skein of yarn, handspun or hand dyed, that’s a show off all by itself. |   withwool.com

FO: Fructose Hat

Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com

Don’t let the green leaves in the background trick you. I finished knitting and blocking this hat just in time to wear it for the weekend’s snow. 

When I moved to Los Angeles, I only brought one hat knitted hat with me, the Slouchy Babe. That was fine for awhile because it never got cold enough to wear it. Then I moved to San Francisco, the land of fog and rain, and actually needed a hat. Slouchy did it’s job admirably, but I got bored of only wearing one hat. But not bored enough to actually cast on for another hat until I moved again. Road trip knitting is a definite necessity after all. Alex Tinsley’s Fructose had been near the top of the queue for awhile and I already had the yarn picked out, a sparkly handspun single. I cast on the week before the cross-country drive and stashed it in my purse for the trip. 

Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com
Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com

Fructose turned out to be the perfect project. It was simple enough to let me knit while checking out the scenery and easy to come back to after navigating or putting it down for the night. I knit while we drove across stormy Donner Pass. I knit round after round across deserts, salt flats, plains, and mountains.  Sometimes I took it out just put in my lap and stare out the window. I put a few more rounds on it after The Bearded One and I were unpacked. Then I couldn’t knit for 2 frustrating weeks which is why it took a month for me to finish. The hat’s worth the wait though. It’s warm, cosy, and cute too. 

Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com

I spun the yarn, a blend of Columbia and green Firestar, during the 2015 Tour de Fleece. I only had 2 oz of fiber so I decided to keep it as a single. It’s definitely not my most consistent handspun but the thick and thin created great texture within the ribbing. Going to file that trick away for the next time I knit with wild or wild-ish handspun. I haven’t given up on the #handspunchallenge and this hat is only making me want to knit with more of stashed beauties.

When I cast on I was a little worried that the sparkle from the Firestar would be overwhelming. It’s not though. The Firestar adds mottled color and only up close does the glint of the fiber come into play. Glad I didn’t shy away from it and skip the sparkle. 

Fructose is the first hat I’ve knit from handspun and it won’t be the last. #handspunchallenge FO: Fructose Hat | withwool.com

Pattern: Fructose by Alex Tinsley

Yarn: 138 yds of sport weight handspun

Needles: US 6 (4 mm) circulars

Dates: March 5 - April 8, 2016

@Ravelry

Knit All The Things!

There was a terrible, no good, absolutely rotten time when I could not knit or spin because of stitches and doctor’s orders. Thankfully that time is now over! To make up the two weeks when all I do was longingly pet yarn and plan what to do with it, I’ve been finishing and casting on for all the things.

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

My almost finished Fructose Hat was the first thing I picked up after my stitches came out. I was working my way through the crown decreases when I had to put it down. Knowing that I was so close to a finished hat that I could’ve been wearing was incredibly annoying. All that was standing between me and a finished hat was a few rows of decreases. It was so tempting to finish the hat during my knitting hiatus - doctor’s orders be damned - but I didn’t. Thought about it though. 

Anyway, the hat and I went out to lunch Friday. I was 4 rows away from cutting the yarn and pulling it through the last stitches when my food arrived. Hunger and tasty Indian food won out so the hat had to wait until I got back home. Worth it. I still need to wash and block the hat but at least the knitting is done. 

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

With the hat off the needles, I pulled out a cone of cotton and cast on for the Garterlac Dishcloth that I’m modifying to make a kitchen towel. I’ve knit this pattern before and it does great things to variegated yarn. The last cloths were a gift and it’s past time to make some for my own kitchen. 

This is only the second or third time that I’ve knit entrelac and it’s still addicting to make square after square. I don’t even mind picking up stitches to do it. Shocking, I know. Plus, each square has been pretty good bribery. Whenever I cross something of my to-do list, I get to knit a square. Makes for slower knitting, but a completed list at the end of the day.  

This time around I cast on using the increasing base triangle method which starts with just one stitch. It’s not any easier than casting on all the stitches for the bottom edge in one go, but it is a lot more flexible. 

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

These socks have been hanging out in my purse for way too long. They’re still purse knitting for the time being because there’s still a few inches to put on the second cuff. If I can put in a few rows between garterlac squares, this pair should be on my feet soon enough. 

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

And the most recent cast on. I’m swatching for a secret project so this is all I can show you for a bit. I can say that it involves some fun cables.

I’m celebrating being able to knit again by finishing lingering WIP’s and casting on for a bunch of new projects.  Knit All The Things | withwool.com

I might be going overboard with the knitting to make up for the two week hiatus, but I regret nothing. I had a winding party Monday night and wound these three skeins of Malabrigo Chunky in Frank Ochre. The plan for them is to knit the Vertigo Cowl; I feel in love with the shop sample years ago but didn’t get the yarn until last week. Once I finish that green swatch, casting on for Vertigo will be my reward. Sounds like good bribery to swatch right?

Giddy Up Handspun

Finished my first handspun yarn of 2016! Now to figure out what to make with it. | Giddy Up Handspun - withwool.com

My first handspun of 2016 is officially finished! I’m thrilled with how it turned out, but I have to admit something.  Sometimes I buy fiber because I like the look of it and want to try working with something new without much thought to what the finished yarn will look like. That’s definitely what happened when I bought the roving that became this single. Doesn’t always work out, but it did this time. 

Finished my first handspun yarn of 2016! Now to figure out what to make with it. | Giddy Up Handspun - withwool.com

I loved the smooth single I saw on the bobbins and didn’t want to fuzz it up during finishing. So, the yarn got a good 20 minute soak in cool water. I snapped the yarn over my arms to even out the twist, but skipped giving the yarn a good thwack it again the shower wall - didn’t want the halo that can come from thwacking. Then I hung it up to dry. The single did plump up a little after it’s bath, but it still has a smooth surface which helped the seacell keep its luster.  

Finished my first handspun yarn of 2016! Now to figure out what to make with it. | Giddy Up Handspun - withwool.com

Time for my second admission. If I saw this yarn at a shop I’d think it was pretty, but I wouldn’t buy it. Why? Simple. I’d have no idea how to make the most of it. Not going to let that stop me this time though. I’m sketching and swatching up a storm. The good thing about making all my sketches on post-it notes is that I can put them all up on the wall and see what sticks. I might not use the single for the eventual design, but I’m glad to have the challenge.

Finished my first handspun yarn of 2016! Now to figure out what to make with it. | Giddy Up Handspun - withwool.com

Fiber: 4 oz Spun Right Round Blended Roving - Giddy Up

Yardage: 526 yds

Plies & Weight: Sport Weight Single

Start - Finish: January 21 - February 14, 2016

@Ravelry

How Setting The Twist Can Change The Yardage of Handspun Yarn

Every yard of handspun yarn is a wonderful thing, but you might not have as much as you think. Finishing and setting the twist of handspun can drastically reduce your yardage. How Setting The Twist Can Change The Yardage of Handspun Yarn | withwool.com

I’ve been trying to knit more with my handspun as skeins move from being a finished project in their own right to knit-able yarn. The length of time for this transformation varies. For the skein that became Dotted Rays that was about a year and a half.  Recently plied and freshly skeined, I had about 512 yards to work with. That’s about 200 less than the 700 required for a small Dotted Rays Shawl. I plowed on anyway with the thought that I could bind off at any time; the pattern is fairly forgiving that way. After blocking, the shawl was absolutely beautiful but it seemed small. Did the skein really measure 512 yards? 

Had I stretched the yarn when I was winding it?

Did the yarn plump in the bath when I set the twist, gaining in diameter but losing length?

Did plying twist affect the yarn differently after I set the twist in a bath?

Had I just miscounted the wraps?

There’s no way to know for sure now, but I have other skeins to put to the test. The guinea skeins you see before you were spun during Spinzilla 2014 which makes them perfect candidates. Since the challenge of Spinzilla is to spin as much yarn as possible in a week, I was meticulous in measuring the yardage of these 4 skeins. The kicker, the yardage was measured before I set the twist in a cool water bath and snapped between my hands. The plied skeins also got a few good thwacks on the shower wall.  None of the skeins were felted or weighted during washing or drying.  

Here are the steps I followed to remeasure their yardage:

  1. Check to see if the skeins still fit around the swift. 3 of the 4 skeins were wound to have a circumference of 72”. The fourth, the hot pink single, was wound to a 60” circumference. I used the same windmill-style swift that they were all wound on to remeasure. 
  2. If a skein did’t fit over the swift, I loosely rewound it to its original circumference. If I stretched the yarn, I wouldn’t be able to get an accurate number.
  3. Count the number of wraps and do the math to get the new yardage. 

Fiber: Mountain Colors Targhee - Gold Rush

Initial Yardage: 286 yds

Drafting Method: long-draw

Construction: 2-ply

Did it fit on the swift? Nope.

Yardage After Setting The Twist: 238 yds

Yardage Difference: 48 yds or 16.8%

Notes: This skein wasn’t even close to fitting on the swift at 72”. Of the 4 skeins I measured, this one had the most drastic and unexpected before and after. 

Fiber: Mixed Blue Faced Leicester

Initial Yardage: 184

Drafting Method: long-draw

Construction: 2-ply

Did it fit on the swift? Nope

Yardage After Setting The Twist: 168yds

Yardage Difference: 16 yds or 8.9%

 

Notes: Rewinding this skein was a trying process because I had to spend an hour untangling it. While sorting the strands, I thought it might not have fit because I didn’t put it on the swift correctly. After measuring and finding a 16 yd difference I know it wouldn’t have mattered how I put in on the swift.

Fiber: Abstract Fiber Targhee - Laurelhurst

Initial Yardage: 330

Drafting Method: long-draw

Construction: 2-ply

Did it fit on the swift? Nope

Yardage After Setting The Twist: 316 yds

Yardage Difference: 14 yds or 4.24%

Notes: I can’t really pinpoint the exact reason this skein of Targhee didn’t lose the same amount of yardage as the first skein. It could be how the fiber was prepped and dyed, the length of my long-draw, or plying twist. 

Fiber: Spun Right Round Polworth - Color Bot

Initial Yardage: 133 yds

Drafting Method: short forward draw 

Construction: Single

Did it still fit on the swift? Almost.

Yardage After Setting The Twist: 128 yds

Yardage Difference: 5 yds or 3.6%

Notes: Compared to the plied skeins, the single lost very little yardage which I’m chalking up to how it was drafted and the fact that is was’t plied. The single was spun with a short forward draw from combed top which resulted in a smooth and dense worsted style yarn. Had the single been spun long-draw, my guess is that the lighter and airier yarn would have more potential to lose yardage while setting the twist.

The lack of plying twist is probably the main reason the single only lost 5 yds. Plying compresses the singles as it wraps them together because now they’re positioned at an angle instead of a straight line.  


The numbers of my test are all over the place with one skein losing just 3.6% of its yardage and another losing 16.8%. What’s the same across the board though is that all 4 of the skeins “shrunk”. The skeins that lost the most yardage were plied which points to plying twist as the main force behind the change. Another possibility is that I simply wound the skeins too tightly around the swift and they relaxed to a much smaller circumference. There’s no way my yardage counts would have been correct if that’s the case. 

Realistically, it’s probably a bit of both. I haven’t done the best job of always loosely winding my skeins. Some I couldn’t put them back on the swift if I tried. I’m not saying this to discount how setting the twist changes the plying. Finishing a yarn affects its surface, diameter, final twist, workability, and, yes, even yardage.

I wish I could just give you a formula to estimate how much a skein will “shrink” after setting the twist. That’s just not possible. I spun all 4 of those skeins in a week, 3 with similar methods, and none of them lost a consistent amount compared to another. Calculating how yardage changes after setting the twist is something that has to be done on a skein by skein basis. But is it worth doing every time? Probably not. 

So, what’s a spinner to do? 

Wind skeins loosely. Plied yarns with high twist are going to be stretchier than skeins with less twist. You’ll get a better estimate of yardage this way.

Don’t take the measured yardage before setting the twist as a definite number. It’s a high estimate. 

Spin a sample. I’ll admit that I don’t do this but I’m usually not spinning for than 4 oz at a time or for a particular project. Sampling before before spinning a large quantity or because you want to make a specific kind of yarn lets you test your methods and figure out how much you need to spin. 

Spin more than you think you need. You might need those extra yards. 

When you’ve finally work with that one precious skein of handspun, pick a pattern that calls for less yardage than you have. This is assuming that you haven’t measured the yardage after setting the twist. Plus, there’s less chance you’ll run out of yarn 6” before binding off the last stitch. 

If you’re working with a lot of yardage, it might be worth using a McMorran Balance or a scale instead of counting wraps. Either device would let you calculate yardage by weight instead of relying solely on wraps and skein circumference. 

Free Download: Handknit Handspun Wallpapers

I started the #handspunchallenge because I’ve spun lots of yarn and only knit a few skeins of it. Grab your handspun and knit, crochet, or weave it up! Handspun is too precious not to use. Read about how the #handspunchallenge got started here.

For #handspunchallenge this week, I’m picked out my favorite photos of handspun in action to make into desktop and mobile backgrounds. The first is of my Dotted Rays Shawl and the second is of my Present Cowl. Since we’re talking about handspun, the first wallpaper set I made featuring Texel singles is a perfect match to this set too. 

I’ve also got plans to cast on for a handspun hat but I haven’t picked out the lucky skein yet. Or a pattern. Yeah….

Handspun Dotted Rays

I started the #handspunchallenge because I’ve spun lots of yarn and only knit a few skeins of it. Grab your handspun and knit, crochet, or weave it up! Handspun is too precious not to use. Read about how #handspunchallenge got started here

Dotted Rays wasn’t the first shawl I knit out of this handspun skein. The first was a pattern of my own design that I’d sketched and knit a mini sample of. I happily cast on, knit several inches of it’s crescent shaped body before deciding the edge increases just weren’t quite right. Rip it. Rip it. On my second attempt, I got a little farther before I needed the needles for another project. When I came back to the shawl again, the love was gone. If I wasn’t enjoying my own design, I couldn’t expect anyone else to either. The to be frogged shawl went into a bag that went under the bed to await it’s fate. 

Scrolling through new patterns on Ravelry, like one does, I found Stephen West’s Dotted Rays. The more I looked at the combination of the crescent shape, short rows, and eyelets I knew that it was the perfect pattern for the fractal handspun hiding under the bed. Because I wanted Dotted Rays to be a treat, I didn’t actually frog the ill-fated shawl and cast on until months later when I needed knitting for the train ride down to Stitches West. 

By the time I got to Stitches, I’d worked enough the pattern to rock my knitting world. The short row treatment was ingenious and completely different from what I expected. Just that one instruction was worth the cost of the pattern. And when I saw Stephen West at Stitches West, I made sure to tell him exactly that.

I could not put this shawl down. Turns out that you can finish something rather quickly when you work on it everyday (Thanks #yearofmaking!). The fact that I only had ~500 yards instead of the recommended 720 for the small size might also have had something to do with it. After my last full wedge, I worked as many rows I could get way with before started the i-cord bind off. Even after blocking, the shawl is on the small side but still big enough to be cozy. I’m glad it matches my favorite jacket because I’m going wear it all the time. 

Pattern: Dotted Rays by Stephen West

Yarn: 2-ply fingering weight fractal handspun; fiber dyed by Yarn Geek Fibers 

Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) circulars

Dates: February 19 - March 15, 2015

@Ravelry

Handspun Present Cowl

Once upon a time, I got a text message from a friend of mine. We live on opposite sides of the country so texting is the main way we keep in touch. Most of the time we talk knitting and yarn. She also reads this blog. After reading so many posts about my spinning and my ready-to-knit skeins of handspun, she asked if I had ever knit with any of it. A perfectly valid question. I referred her to Exhibit A, a pair of mitts knit from my first 3-ply yarn, and a shawl I was ripping out. Out of the dozens of skeins I’ve spun over the years, I’ve only knit with 2 of them. After I hit send, she threw down the gauntlet. Knit with my handspun or face the consequences. I’m not really sure what those consequences were, but I’m sure they were dire.

I choose a freshly spun skein and went looking for a pattern. I had enough yardage for a cowl and eventually picked the Present Cowl by Mademoiselle C. The cowl was a quick knit where the handspun was the star of the show. I knit it up last year but took my sweet time to block it. Still wore it though with the ends tucked out of the sight. When I flew back to Birmingham for a visit, the cowl came with me so I could prove that I actually had knit my own handspun. Consequences averted. Whew.  

When I dunked the cowl into the water, I was curious if blocking would change the gauge and drape of the piece. Before knitting, the handspun got it’s own bath to set the twist when it came off the bobbin. Would that soak be enough to prevent changes in the knitted fabric? Nope. After blocking, the stitches noticeably relaxed. The fabric had more drape and the cowl grew taller and wider. It’s still the right size to wear without collapsing so I’m happy. The moral of the story is swatching is important whether you’re working with commercial or handspun yarn.

The finished cowl is warm, comfy, and looks great with my favorite coat. It’s also good protection from all the wind whipping through my neighborhood. Now I just have to wait for the temperature to get cold enough to wear it.

Since knitting up this skein, I’ve knit one other project with handspun which I’ll be sharing soon. I also have my eye on another handspun skein that I wound but never knit. So, I’m passing the challenge on to you. Have tons of handspun that you’ve never knit with? Grab a skein and knit it up! The consequences of #handspunchallenge will be fun, wooly, and anything but dire. 

Pattern: Present Cowl by Mademoiselle C

Yarn: 2 ply handspun Malabrigo Nube - Arco Iris

Needles: US 8 (5 mm) circulars

Dates: August - September 2014

@Ravelry