Tag Archives: hand-spun yarn

Shades of red in hand spun Romney wool

Happy Valentine’s Day! On this day, it seems apropos to celebrate Twisted Tuesday with this collage of graduated red skeins of yarn I finally finished spinning not too long ago.

Shades of red in hand spun Romney wool
Shades of red in hand spun Romney wool

The batts from which I spun this yarn had been dyed by Rhonda Selser (of Ewe Mom’s, DeRidder, LA) from wool she sheered and carded from her own Romney sheep. What was so intriguing to me was they way in which she had dyed the pound of batts. It was hard to resist the lovely shades of red, too.

I did not see Rhonda dye the batts, but she explained that she had laid the stack of batts atop the dye solution in a large cooler. Then very slowly let the batts sink so that the bottom layers resulted in the darkest shades (having been in the dye bath longer and therefore having a chance to grab more of the dye particles) and the top layers the lightest.

I didn’t think about getting photos years ago when I first began spinning the batch of batts. Then I set things aside and didn’t get back to spinning for several years. But this project had always been on my mind and has been one of the first that I got out when sorting through my spinning stash recently. These pictures don’t give true color because I grabbed them indoors under poor lighting, but you can see some of the batts and little “nests” of fiber that I stripped from the batts and pre-drafted.

The sequence I used for spinning was to start with the lightest batt and proceed to darkest. I spun a fine singles on my double treadle Majacraft. After 2 bobbins where filled, I plied those together. Then filled up 2 more bobbins, and plied, etc. You’ll notice one skein which is much smaller than the others. That is where I was having trouble with my wheel (the drive band gave out). Not being able to readily get a replacement in, I experimented with some make-shift solutions. That is a whole ‘nother story, lol. But I did finally manage to get things going again.

Now, having completed the spinning, I am just enjoying the pretty skeins. Eventually, I guess I will decide what they will become in their next life. Meantime, it doesn’t feel like they want to be hurried, and the eye candy is plenty enough satisfaction to me to claim this as a ‘completed project’ for now.

Hand-spun skeins of Romney wool in a series of red shades
Hand-spun skeins of Romney wool in a series of red shades

Hope you are enjoying some pretty red things for your Valentine’s Day, too!


5 Favorite Tips for Knitting with Handspun

A number of years ago, I took a comprehensive workshop with Rita Buchanan on Knitting with Handspun. In going through some of my old file drawers in efforts to downsize to near-paperless, I came across a short write-up I had compiled of notes taken at this workshop 15 years ago! (SOAR ’95)

The fundamental message of the workshop was

“In a knitting project, the elements for a satisfying outcome happen in both the spinning and knitting.”

Rita is a fantastic teacher. A short blog post here would not do justice to the depth and breadth of what we covered and I learned in this workshop. But there were several points I discovered (or re-discovered) that have served me well through the years. Here are my “top 5” favorites. Whether it is something new to you or just a reminder, I hope you find them useful when knitting with hand spun yarn or even choosing commercially spun yarn.

Tip 1: Any fiber can be knit on a wide range of needle sizes (e.g. US 0 through 10) to achieve ranges of firmness or drape-iness (but there is a fine line between drape and sag!)

Tip 2: When changing needles in a test swatch by more than a couple of sizes, do a row of elongated stitches as follows: k1, yo across the row with the larger of the needles; then drop the yo on the next row. This will eliminate puckering between the two areas of the swatch.

Tip 3: You can increase the amount of fiber by up to 3 times on the same needle size and there is no significant change to the stitch gauge, but it does significantly add to the feeling of bulk and likely will affect the row gauge.

Tip 4: For lace knitting, a higher twist yarn is better for wear and stitch definition.

Tip 5: For 2-color knitting, a lower twist yarn is better because the spaces between the stitches will fill in so just the color shows. (And here is a corollary side benefit of this if you are stranding your colorwork: the lower density of the yarn will also compensate for twice the yarn being accommodated in each row/round.)

Spinning a 2-ply laceweight yarn for a scarf

Reversible Lace Cables Scarf
Scarf in handspun yarn from hand-painted silk roving

Sometimes I am asked about the laceweight yarns I have handspun and used to knit scarves or shawls. At the top of my list of favorites, I like to spin a laceweight 2-ply yarn from hand-painted silk, cotton or fine wool blend. Here’s how I approached spinning the yarn used in the above scarf (which was knitted using the Reversible Lace Cables Scarf pattern).

I particularly like the hand-dyed silk rovings by Nancy Finn of Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks, and that of Nancy Ballusteros of Treetop Harmonies. For the scarf shown above, I unfortunately do not have a picture of the Treetop Harmonies roving before it was spun into yarn. But here is a photo of a similar colorway from Chasing Rainbows.

Hand-painted silk roving
Hand-painted silk roving

Notice how the roving is dyed in sections of colors. What I find particularly appealing for lace knitting in the Treetop and Chasing Rainbows color pallets are their close tonalities.

For a scarf like that shown above, you’ll need only 2 ounces of fine top or roving to make a finished size of about 10″ by 72″. Choose a subtly varicolored or multi-toned fiber for added interest in the spinning as well as the knitting.

Divide fiber lengths into strips narrow enough for spinning a very fine thread — about 50 to 60 wraps per inch (wpi), and so that color changes in the spun thread will be in random lengths of every few yards or so. Spin worsted-style to produce a smooth, strong thread. My plied yarn is in the 30 wpi range at about 200 to 250 yards per ounce, depending on the type of fiber.

The 2-ply laceweight yarn
The 2-ply laceweight yarn compared to the size of a US quarter

When plying, I don’t try to keep the colors together in any particular order. The fineness of the threads and the subtle tonal variations produce gradual color changes that are further enhanced by the texture and movement in the knitted pattern stitches of this scarf design.

I hope you are inspired and motivated. Don’t hesitate to share what you’ve created with your handspun yarns as well. I invite your comments here on this blog or contacting me directly through my heartstringsfiberarts.com website.

Scarf in handspun yarn from hand-painted silk roving
Reversible Lace Cables Scarf

p.s. To see and read about another favorite method I like to use for spinning laceweight yarn, see Moody Blues, hand-spun pima cotton plied with silk.