A little bit of this and, a little bit of that, makes a little bit of me.

There is so much more to spinning than feeding fiber into the orifice of a spinning wheel and being amazed at what comes out the other end. While I enjoy the simple pleasure of spinning, I do have specification–replicating Lorna’s Lace that are fit for fine lace shawls. Being able to plan yarn production takes the guess work out of spinning and can help to reduce wasting time, fiber and, of course, the frustration when the spinning of yarns doesn’t go to plan.

In the two months of my spinning journey, there were disappointments of spending many hours spinning yarn only to find that it is unsuitable. But, with practice, I learned the essentials of spinning, the difference between woolen and worsted methods, the different between S-twist and Z-twist when knitted, drafting techniques, plying on wheel and spindle, Andean ply, and most fun spinning in the grease. Twist is what holds fiber together. It’s to be loved, not feared! Spinning a thinner, more twisted singles and plying them together.

From Raw Alpaca fleece, skirted, hand carded for worsted spinning
and spun in the grease, before washing…
center-ball plied with 40-wpi Llama Wool singles into 38-wpi 2-ply yarn
As you notice, I have been on a shawl kick lately. I never made a shawl until this year and now I can’t stop realizing how versatile a shawl can be…so many ways it can be wrapped around your neck–it can be flung over your shoulder just like a scarf. Just perfect! I spent a while pondering what to do with this pretty skein of hand-dyed yarn, sitting in my stash for a couple of weeks.

It was waiting for the perfect project to show off its beautiful muddle hues of pink. Ultimately, I decided to do a triangular shawl, top-down, center-out, essentially creating a mitered corner at the center line of the triangle, improvising Fan & Feather panels as I went. The merino is super soft, with a nice drape, and a joy to knit. Knitting this shawl ranked really high on the comfort knitting scale because of the yarn-over and knit-2-together stitches with simple increases and the color. The ripple effect did a nice job of showing off the color blends and stretches. The project is full of many first times, first steps: hand-dyed roving from Baabaara Wild & Wooly, hand-spun and hand-plied in spindle and wheel, wrapped Andean bracelet for spindle plying, knitting with S-Twist and Z-Twist yarns in one project…mistakenly plying S-Twist and Z-Twist singles together even for a short spin! It is the kind of thing that makes me feel very self-satisfied.

The pattern designed to use any yarn, any needle size, and any gauge. I was able to knit on with confidence and didn’t care if I ran out of yarn. It’s marvelous not to panic when hand-dyed merino came to an end abruptly. In fact, I was delighted for another opportunity to use up previously spun merino/tussah silk for its ruffled edging. The shawl started off at the neck with 3 stitches. After that, it’s just a matter of increasing 4 stitches, every other row, in between two 6-row F&F panels. This brainless pattern is fast and easy with beautiful results—truly a work of art.

CAST ON: July 6, 2009
CAST OFF: July 8, 2009 (One day project if I didn’t run out of yarn, twice, and had to spin/ply more to finish.)
PATTERN: My own with Fan & Feather stitch in a basic triangular shawl, center top down. There were 253 stitches on needles before increasing stitches to 506 stitches for ruffled edging. A few rows of seed stitch after plain stockinette ruffles eliminated rolled edge.
YARN: 230 yards of Handspun, hand-dyed fingering weight merino, 142 yards of handspun lace weight merino/tussah silk, and a skein each of Louisa Hardings Thalia and Trendsetter Venus
NEEDLE: US 9 and 10.5
MEASUREMENT: 78″ wide and 36″ long blocked (from the top to the bottom point of the shawl)
COMMENT: One interesting thing to note about the shawl is that while it seems, pattern-wise, as if it’s a pair of right triangles, with two 90-degree angles at the top center, it’s really not. This is because of a certain fudge factor with increases at the edges. The angles are slightly obtuse as a result. However, I wanted it to still look like the center was in square, and the Fan & Feather was in square at a 45-degree angle to those, so… blocking! And the fudge factor in blocking came into play at the pointy edges, which aren’t exactly evenly spaced.

I knitted this while reflecting on my relationship with God over the years. It was very meditative. This shawl has a lot of good vibes and cheerfulness that I hope the recipient will feel. Maybe some people would think that I am asking too much from a shawl, but I believe in those things. I have seen the way a child would calm down as soon as she clutches her favorite blanket, so why can’t a shawl bring comfort to someone?

My favorite way to wear this is tie-back. It’ll be hard to part with!
This was a great standby for something straight forward and stress free to stab away at. It definitely served its purpose—quick and sweet.

It may seem like I only knit shawls these days, but I swear, I have been knitting other things, too—bags, blanket squares, finishing up some WIPs…and–yup–spinning. With spinning growing in popularity, like many knitters, I am learning the joys of knitting with my own homemade yarns. Drop spindles are inexpensive, easy to use, and a great introduction to the ancient art of hand-spinning. I have 5 spindles right now and am itching to acquire more–like the Jenkins Turkish Spindles my friend Kristin has–or simply make my own–it’s like knitting and needles—you can’t have enough WIPs and needles! It got addicting pretty fast. A spindle is merely a stick with a weight on one end, but for such a simple tool, it has many different variations. You can use almost anything as a spindle, even a dowel stuck through a ball of modeling clay. It’s best, IMO, to start with a purchased spindle, however, because you can be sure the balance and weight are appropriate for a beginner. An unbalanced spindle can be annoying to work with, especially when you’re just learning. I tried my friend Ruth’s DIY spindle last night and, boy, do I appreciate the long spin my spindles give me on a spin!

Above is a merino/tussah roving that has been slick to spin on wheel or spindle. That’s half a bobbin full, and some on spindle for a 2-ply. It’s so fine that I may just get the 100-wpi thread I am hoping for some lace after plying.

Here is some handspun, light fingering weight of soft 2-ply Merino ready for next project as soon as I get the act together with schematic and design sketches. It’ll be hand-painted after it’s knitted up.

Two 53-wpi singles turned to 32-wpi 2-ply
Last night, after weekly knitting gathering at Dudley’s, my right thumb was in excruciating pain. I couldn’t believe it’s from spinning. Then, I remember…all the skirting I did for a small bag of Alpaca earlier in the afternoon! It’s still painful even after a night rest…ooooh, it’s so worth it. I now have more soft fiber to spin in the grease and ply with Llama Wool on bobbin. Life is good.

Leaving you with a bit of simple, cheerful knits in progress:

Round 4 completed, measured 26″ unstretched

Happy creating!


Comments on: "Joy of a Spontaneous Spinner" (1)

  1. Love that beautifully winding spiral with lovely colors!

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