Finished: The Owl In The Thicket Hat

The Owl In the Thicket is my new favorite hat! Cables, owls, beads, cashmere - what’s not to love? | withwool.com

It seems like I say this every year when I finish a new hat, but this is my new favorite hat. It’s soft, warm, and perfectly slouchy. There’s even cables and owls with beaded eyes for good measure. The only thing I’m kicking myself about is that I didn’t cast on until a year after I’d bought the yarn! Still I’m glad it’s finished and just in time for weird spring weather. Will it rain? Will it snow? Look out the window to find out.

The Owl In the Thicket is my new favorite hat! Cables, owls, beads, cashmere - what’s not to love? | withwool.com   

The pattern, Owl in the Thicket by Sara Huntington Burch, was a great challenge. This hat is all about the details and required lots of attention. Aside from the ribbing, there were only a handful of rows that were the same in the entire pattern. I had a lot of fun knitting it, and now I want work on more complicated projects. It’s nice to break out of the auto-pilot knitting every once in a while. And the knitting didn’t actually take all that long because I had a hard time putting it down. I just got hung up on how to block the thing which I’ll show in more detail in my next post.

I splurged on a skein of the recommended yarn, Anzula Cricket in the Lenore colorway, which I don’t do often. The benefit and responsibility of having a large stash means I usually shop from it first. The reason I splurged is that Cricket is a blend of merino and cashmere with a beautiful luster. The yarn was wonderful to work with and the semi-solid dye job added the right amount of detail. I’m glad I didn’t pick out a darker color because then all the cables would have gotten lost which would have been a complete waste.

The Owl In the Thicket is my new favorite hat! Cables, owls, beads, cashmere - what’s not to love? | withwool.com   

The yarn and cables certainly go a long way towards making this my favorite hat, but the pom-pom is what really makes it. I add pom-poms to stuff on a case-by-case basis. They’re cool, but not always necessary. Not this time. The pattern sample looked so good with a pom-pom, and my hat just looked so lacking without one. So I made a very large and in charge pom-pom, but how to put it on? This pom was pretty weighty and used 5 yds of yarn! I didn’t want it to pull the hat out of shape or for it to look tacked on. The answer turned out to be a .5” button. I used this tutorial for how to attach a removable pom-pom. Now, I have no intention of wearing the hat without the pom or taking it off (except maybe to wash it). The button gives the pom somewhere to sit, and that little bit of extra structure makes all the difference.

Now to wait for the weather to get cold enough to wear this beauty. I might not have to wait long with this random weather.

The Specs:
Pattern: The Owl In The Thicket by Sarah Huntington Burch
Yarn: 190 yds Anzula Cricket - Lenore
Needles: US 4 - 3.5 mm
Dates: January 11 - March 11, 2018
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Notes About Spinning Cashmere

My first handspun skeins of cashmere! Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

Brave readers, it’s time for the next installment of adventures in spinning cashmere. In the first entry, I wrote about my attempt at drafting the singles and overcoming the idea that spinning cashmere would be as hard as everyone made it sound. At the time, I was working on the second single with the idea that the true test of whether or not I could spin cashmere would be in the plying. If the singles fell apart every couple of feet, then I’d failed. If the singles stayed together, then I could actually spin cashmere without screwing it up. 

One mama skein and one baby skein of plied cashmere ready to come off the bobbins. Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

Did the singles pass the plying test? If you haven’t already guessed from all the pictures, yes! Seeing all the plied yarn on the bobbins was a relief because I wasn’t sure I was going to pull it off until they were done. There were a few times with the singles pulled apart on me, but I didn’t need all the fingers on one hand to count them. Whew. 

A little uneven and limp, the yarn is ready to be finished with a good soak. Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

The final test came with the finishing. Would the skeins be the lofty, airy yarn I set out to spin? Before the skeins went into the bath, they looked a little limp - plenty of plying twist in them, but limp all the same. Finishing the skeins with a soak and a gentle thwack changed them for the better. The yarn plumped up to a beautiful, airy body and texture. Soft too. Oh, so soft. Of everything I’ve spun, this was the hardest to let go of. If the fiber hadn’t been sent to me to spin and then send back, I probably would have kept the yarn as a pet. Have I mentioned how soft it was? Mmmm…

My first handspun skeins of cashmere! The mama skein is about 240 yrds and mini is about 25 yrds. Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

Enough with the daydreaming, onto the technical details. Now that I know that what I did to spin this cashmere actually works, I can share my notes in good conscience. They still come with the disclaimer that I’m still a newb when it comes to working with this luscious stuff though. 

I didn’t actually read up on how to spin cashmere before I started the singles. My idea to spin cashmere woolen came from a cotton spinning demo with Stephanie Gaustad when she visited the Greater Los Angeles Spinning Guild. (Side note: Fiber guilds are great resources and worth joining.) My biggest takeaway was Gaustad’s comment that people thought spinning cotton, a short staple fiber, was hard was because they tried to spin it the same they they spun grabby, long-stapled fibers. Instead, she recommended woolen spinning because the twist would move into the fiber supply and keep things from falling apart during drafting. 

My first handspun skeins of cashmere! Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

I decided to try this idea with the short, slippery cashmere. So, I used a woolen drafting style and let the twist come into the fiber supply. To keep the twist from locking up the fibers, I set the take up low and used a larger whorl. There’s usually at least good foot and a half between my hands and the wheel’s orifice, so this distance let more twist enter the single before it went on the bobbin. As for plying, I didn’t do anything beyond the ordinary tensioning andbalance checks. 

I did do some research on how to finish cashmere but didn’t turn up much in my cursory internet search. I was working on a deadline, remember. Ended up following my usual steps for finishing a woolen yarn. First, the skeins soaked in cool water with a little Eucalan for about 20 minutes. After the yarn came out of the bath, and I squeezed out as much water as possible first with my hands and then by rolling the yarn up in a towel. I evened out the twist with a few good snaps around my hands before giving the yarn a few gentle thwacks against the shower wall. Gentle is key here since I wanted the plies to open up but not develop a halo. Then I hung them up to dry, and the wait proved to be the hardest part of finishing. The last step, which I heartily recommend, is petting the yarn like it’s an adorable kitten. So soft... 

Made sure to send off the handspun with a tag detailing the weight, WPI, and construction. Cashmere is as soft as everyone says it is, and here's how I turned 2 oz of it into yarn. | Notes About Spinning Cashmere - withwool.com

Fiber: 2 oz cashmere top

Yardage: Mama ~240 yds and Mini ~25 yds

Plies & Weight: 2-ply Sport; Mini skein plied on itself

Start & Finish: November 28 - December 15, 2015

@Ravelry

Spinning Cashmere

I'm spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back. 

2 ounces of cashmere ended up in my fiber stash innocently enough. A friend of mine asked me if I would spin it for her and, of course, I agreed. She’s an awesome friend who deserves handspun, and I wanted to spin cashmere. It’s a win-win in my book. When the cashmere arrived it was as soft and lovely and amazing as I expected it would be. Then the doubt set in. Sure, I knew how to spin yarn, but most of my experience was with long-stapled, grabby wool. Everything I’ve read about cashmere told me it was slippery and had a relatively short staple length. Plus, I hadn’t figured out how to spin fine singles on my wheel yet which was what the cashmere would require. So the fiber sat for I don’t don’t know how long.

I’m spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back. 

It wasn’t until my successful attempt spinning a 3-ply sock yarn during Tour de Fleece 2015 that I started seriously thinking about spinning the cashmere. Spinning that sock yarn meant that I’d finally figured out how to draft a fine yarn. That was half of the hurdle was gone. Now, only the fear of messing up the fiber - because I repeatedly read that it was hard to spin - was holding me back. I didn’t want to waste my friend’s cashmere. If the fiber had been mine, it’d probably still be sitting in fluffy little bundles. It’s not mine though, and I’d been holding on to it for long enough. The only thing left to do was start.

I’m spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back. 

My end goal is to spin a 2-ply fingering weight yarn. Getting the wheel set up in the beginning with just the right amount of tension and twist took some fiddling. The first setting put twist into the fiber but didn’t pull it onto the bobbin. The second adjustment had too much twist and not enough uptake. The third attempt, on a larger whorl setting, was just right with enough twist and enough uptake.

I’m spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back. 

I want the yarn to be lofty and airy so I went with a woolen style draft where the twist comes into the fiber supply — only a little twist though since I’m aiming for a fingering weight yarn. Then I waited for the spinning to be hard. I working my way through the second single at the moment, and I’m still waiting for the spinning to be hard. Has it taken more patience and attention? Definitely, but spinning cashmere isn’t the insurmountable challenge that I’d created in my head. Just goes to show that the only way to know that something is “hard”, is to not let fear hold you back and try it for yourself.

I am by no means an expert at spinning cashmere. Not even a little. I’m just fumbling along and finding what works. Are my singles perfect? No, but they’re fairly consistent and holding together. Fingers crossed that the pair doesn’t fall apart during plying - then I’ll have to take back that whole ‘I can spin cashmere’ thing. Stayed tuned for adventures in plying.

I’m spinning my first skein of 100% cashmere, and it's not as difficult as all my reading made it out to be. Don't let the fear of messing up hold you back.