Knitting fun with handspun

I'm one of those knitters who loves to knit with handspun yarn but doesn't love spinning it myself. I've tried spindle spinning and I feel all thumbs, with a resulting lumpy yarn that keeps breaking on me as a result.

There are so many beautiful, luscious handspun yarns out there for me to buy, I decided that what I needed to do was support talented spinners, not spin my own yarn.

Ann Budd used to agree with me, but she caught the spinning bug. What's interesting is that she didn't catch it on her first exposure, so maybe there's hope for me!

Here's a fun article excerpt by Ann, featured in the super new publication Knit & Spin.

My Knitting Takes a Spin
By Ann Budd

     Ann Budd
Ann Budd modeling her first project knitted from her own handspun. Doesn't she look like Barbara Walters?

Back in 1992, I attempted spinning with little luck. In preparation for a Spin-Off staff project, the editors at the time, Deb Robson and Rita Buchanan, tried to teach me to spin though we only had about an hour. They provided a pound of fleece dyed in my choice of colors and a wheel.

I had lofty visions of the sweater I'd knit with the yarn that I'd spin. But by the time I was done spinning all 16 ounces, I had precious little to show for my efforts. I thought there would be enough for a cropped vest, but it turned out that I had only enough for the front and the neck and armhole bands. What you can't see in the photo to the right is that I knitted the back out of lopi.

Embarrassed by my poor performance and frustrated by the amount of time it took to create so little yarn, I promptly gave up. Like a number of passionate knitters, I always felt that with such wonderful yarn available for sale—and already in my stash—there wasn't reason to spin my own. In fact, after my disastrous first attempt at spinning, I took pride in yarn "purity" and had no desire to waste my time with lumpy, bumpy handspun.

Ann Budd's knitted socks, made with handspun yarn     
Ann Budd knit these socks from yarn she spun herself: a worsted-weight superwash merino. I love the color!

But that all changed last spring when I impulsively decided to join a couple friends who had signed up for a six-week-long beginning spinning class with Maggie Casey. I figured it would do me good to really understand how yarn is made—but I had no illusions that I'd find it enjoyable.

But for inexplicable reasons that I can only attribute to fate, I felt as though I were a fish returned to water. After just a couple of hours, I was spinning surprisingly smooth, even yarn on a spindle. It didn't take me long to master spinning on a wheel, either. By the time the Estes Park Wool Market in Estes Park, Colorado, came along a few weeks later, I was obsessed.

I have now knitted a pair of fingerless mitts and the pair of socks at left with my own handspun, and I have to wonder what took me so long to learn to spin.

The benefit of knitting with handspun yarn has been variously described as the difference between eating tomatoes out of the garden and those available at the supermarket; the difference between reading every word of a classic and skimming Cliff Notes; the difference between a live orchestra and a recording . . . you know what I mean.

The yarn in both projects has a life of its own. The boingy, sproingy nature of the stitches gives the mitts and socks an elastic property that massages my hands and feet. Of course, I've ordered a wheel of my own, and I now wonder if I'll ever get to the millspun yarn in my stash.

—Ann Budd

For more about Ann's adventures in spinning, not to mention a bunch of great knitting patterns, get your copy of Knit & Spin today!




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