Knitting with Handspun: An Adventure in Duplicating Commercial Yarn

In my last post, I talked about my belated New Year’s fiber resolution—conscious spinning. I’ve been making an effort to plan out my yarn before spinning instead of just falling into my comfort zone and taking whatever my wheel wants to give me.

I’m midway through my first conscious-spinning challenge—knitting a project intended for commercial yarn out of handspun. The Interweave store has a ton of great patterns, and I’ve discovered that duplicating millspun yarn is not as intimidating as I had feared. I chose the Cabled Leggings pattern because I’m not an incredibly advanced knitter, and it looks to be about my skill level, and because I think leg warmers are the perfect accessory to transition between winter and spring—they’re great for those too-warm-for-pants, too-cool-for-shorts type of days.

I looked up the commercial yarn suggested for this pattern and found out that it is a 4-ply, light worsted-weight yarn. Using this handy chart, I decided to aim for a finished yarn measuring about 13 wraps per inch. I chose to make a 3-ply yarn instead of a 4-ply, so my singles each need to be about 39 wraps per inch (13 x 3). The easiest way that I know of to judge a yarn’s size while spinning is to use my newly discovered favorite conscious-spinning tool, the spinning control card. A control card makes it really easy to spin yarn of a certain size—just hold your yarn up to the lines to see if it’s too thin, too thick, or just right. Armed with measurements and handy tools, I spun a yarn that measures 14 wraps per inch. Not quite perfect, but a first attempt that I’m very satisfied with—and I purposely chose a pattern that doesn’t require exact sizing.

Lesson learned: Yarn substitution is not nearly as scary as I had built it up to be in my mind. I’d want to practice more before attempting anything needing an exact fit, but I’m no longer afraid! Taking the time to figure out my yarn specifications and having the right tools made this a really easy process, so if you’re like me, put aside your apprehension and just try it! The world is full of great patterns just waiting to shine in handspun!

And if you’re already a pro at replicating millspun yarns, I’d love to hear your handy tips! Any special tricks I should know about?

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