Roving Reporter: Planning a Sweater with Handspun Yarn
I love spinning for a project, constructing the handspun yarn I want, and seeing a thing I made grow right before my very eyes. Many spinners worry that they don’t have the skills to create a garment from beginning to end. Most of those worried spinners actually do have all the skills required but need a nudge to make the process feel manageable. I began planning for a Moonflower Dolman in handspun yarn, and I’d love for you to spin along with me.
Spin + Knit: Sampling
1. Start small.
Once my Ashford Alpaca/Merino arrived in the mail, I immediately started sampling. I almost always begin a new project with a series of small samples by spinning a few yards and folding it into self-plied 2-ply, 3-ply, 4-ply, and beyond. I think of these little snapshots akin to a musician’s scales. On a wheel, I make small changes from one sample to the next by adding more or less twist (moving to a smaller or larger pulley), adjusting gauge (increasing or decreasing wheel tension), and trying different combinations of plies. While sampling, I found that a modified worsted draft—a technique I learned in the Shetland Isles— gave me the yarn I wanted. This gives the alpaca in this wool blend a bit of room to bloom but still produces a consistent, structured yarn.
2. Size up.
For me, choosing the right handspun yarn design is about finding a happy combination of suiting my textile purposes and being comfortable and fun to spin. So, after spinning a variety of samples, I picked a lovely cabled structure (more on cabled yarns) that I think will work. The next step is to spin a small skein so I can spin, ply, wash, and knit a swatch that will be an accurate sample for the final textile.
3. Keep notes.
Do it. Really. Keeping notes can be a challenge but is incredibly helpful in planning a project and developing our skills as handspinners. Over the years, I’ve developed a spinner’s notebook approach that keeps me on track.
Next up: Knitting with handspun yarn!
Featured Image: Full bobbins, happy spinner! Photos by Kate Larson