Intention & Serendipity: How to Spin Yarn You Love

Spinning with intention doesn’t necessarily mean having a specific pattern in mind. Instead, I consider the best end use of the fiber when I decide how to spin yarn. Factoring in color management or color effects can take me still closer.

Such was the case with my Cliffs on Cladonia shawl, my handspun take on Kirsten Kapur’s Cladonia shawlette. This shawl had been on my radar for years. When I came across the Cliffs colorway, dyed by JulieSpins for a spinalong, I knew that I had the perfect fiber to suit the pattern.

I had six ounces of this bright and cheery Polwarth and silk combed top, plenty for spinning 500+ yards of fingering weight. Julie often dyes in what I think of as a bullseye swirl of color, which makes for a fun color repeat.

Take Charge of Color!

I decided to split the braid in half vertically, spin each half end-to-end onto its own bobbin, then chain-ply each half. I striped one skein against the other in a pseudo-gradient effect, ending with a color crescendo of the most glorious series of blues I had ever seen: deep, tinged with teal, yet somehow summery in tone. The darker colors would draw the eye to the lace border and looped picot bind off, adding impact.

Two matched summery skeins of chain-plied yarn. Photos by Debbie Held

Two matched summery skeins of chain-plied yarn. Photos by Debbie Held

It all worked perfectly, right up until I got to the setup of the all-important blue lace border, the crowning glory of my shawl. I wasn’t as deep into the throes of dramatic blue as I’d hoped to be.

So . . . I cut the yarn. And as long as I was embarking on “yarn management,” I switched to knitting from the inside of what was left of my yarn cakes instead of knitting from the outside, as I’d been doing. This reversed the gradient order from darkest to lightest blues.

Feeling bold, I opted to bind off my picot loops by continuing with this same color sequence rather than switching back to my main color as called for in the pattern directions. I envisioned more elegant and less distracting finish to an already colorful shawl.

The Verdict

This shawl is exactly as I’d hoped it would be. I took a risk or two and they paid off—this time.

The finished shawl

The finished shawl

If I’m being honest, this was one of those “flying by faith” knits. I was never quite sure that the colors truly worked together until the very end, when it all took shape.

Up next, I’m casting on a pair of socks using my first crêpe-spun sock yarn, which I spun during this year’s Tour de Fleece. I’m eager to knit with and experience wearing what promises to be an elastic and durable yarn.

More on that project next time…


Debbie Held is a freelance journalist who chose full-time spinsterhood after an extended illness. She lives in the Atlanta area with her wool, her wheels and her 14-year-old Italian greyhound, Iggy. They may be reached via Debbie’s website,

Spinning fun with handpainted fiber!

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