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Handspun Summer Lovin’

July 2, 2020
yellow, pink, and white two-ply yarn
A skein of yellow, white, pink handspun 2-ply

Spinning is like an old flame I have a hot rendezvous with every few years. It doesn’t fit into my everyday life, but when we get together, sparks fly! In the same way that I love knitting with speckled yarns, knitting with handspun brings me BIG JOY. And spinning the yarn myself? Well, that’s like adding an extra layer of icing on the cake.

I first learned to spin on a drop spindle in 2008. In 2017, the desire came back stronger than ever, and I bought piles of fibre and a little e-spinner. Now I’m enjoying another summer of mildly illicit handspun pleasures. Ever since I dug into my Precious Stash, I decided I MUST spin the exquisite batts I’d been hoarding away. Spinning is time-consuming as hell, and it doesn’t make much sense to anybody who hasn’t already caught the bug. But I love it SO HARD.

Transforming fluff into stuff is delicious magic

As a designer and maker, I get really excited about completely transforming materials with my own hands. Spinning yarn out of fluff is all about this. The entire process is a sensual pleasure: the selection of fibre, the process of drafting and watching the twist transform fibre into yarn, and the soaking and finishing process. With spinning, you spend so much time enjoying the material before you even cast-on!

Oh, but this love makes no sense

In a fit of anxiety about spending so much time on my spinning obsession, I mentioned to my husband, “Handspun just makes no sense. It takes SO long to make, and then you still have to knit the sweater!” He literally laughed out loud and said, “Emily, you do knitting for a living. Do you know how much sense that makes?” Point taken.

101 rookie mistakes

Alongside the pleasures of spinning have come plenty of surprises. I’m accustomed to being very competent as a knitter, so when I make the most basic of mistakes spinning, I have to laugh at myself – even when I feel like crying over the mess I’ve made!

Like, how the hell did I switch the twist in the middle of a bobbin?! One day while plying, I realized part way through the process that I’d spun half of one bobbin in one direction, SOMEHOW switched the direction of the twist, and spun the remainder of that same bobbin in the opposite direction. So beyond a certain point, it wouldn’t ply with the other bobbin of singles. WHOOPS! That’s a do-over.

Or, how haven’t I spun NEARLY enough for a small sweater?! I recently started a sweater project with 200g of a lovely green batt, which I spun into singles. To stretch the batt farther, I spun the other ply in a coordinating colour. I figured I could make a cropped sweater with about 400g of yarn. A couple of weeks later when the lot was complete, I measured the yardage and discovered that, while it looked and felt like DK weight, there was only around 750 yards of it! At that point, I realized I should google “how much fibre do you need to spin a sweater?” I quickly learned a pretty basic fact: handspun tends to be denser than comparable mill-spun. OOPS! I’ll need to spin 800g of fibre to have enough yarn for my cropped-sweater project. Time to begin again!

Spinning a sweater is my goal!

Alexa and I both like to have at least a dozen (slightly unreasonable) master plans on the go at any given time. So to add to this year’s impractical list, I plan to to spin and then knit a sweater from handspun.

I’m considering knitting a Flax sweater (it’s a free pattern, so check it out!). Or perhaps a Strange Brew sweater because apparently I just can’t stop experimenting with yoke designs. But I might change my mind and make something with a bit of pretty lace, like Windswept or Ironheart.

Because it’s my first time with this kind of project, I’ll spin the yarn first, and then let it tell me what it wants to be, depending on the gauge it knits to, and the colour and texture of the finished yarn. I might even use it to work up a new design! In any case, I know I’ll enjoy every sensuous minute….until we meet again.

Tell me about your spinning adventures

Being new to spinning, I’m most interested in the spinning tales of others. Are you a long-time spinner, or maybe new to the craft? What are your top tips or pitfalls to avoid?

~ Emily

19 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2020 12:41 pm

    I love this blog. I’ve just finished knitting my first cardigan with my handspun and that was John Arbon. I adore it. I’m now knitting a fade sweater with handspun, that was fibre from Witchcraftylady. She’s an amazing indie dyer. My next project is the John arbon you’ve featured. Just trying to decide how to prep it. I’d love to know how you did. I love your amazing spinning

  2. July 27, 2020 4:45 am

    That blu/green color is absolutely gorgeous.

  3. July 9, 2020 2:11 pm

    Taking care of a toddler definitely put spinning on the back burner for me, but I used #the100DayProject to work spinning back into my daily life. The project is almost over, less than 10 days left, but I’m so close to plying my third skein of yarn.

  4. Julie permalink
    July 8, 2020 1:35 pm

    Emily
    May I ask what e spinner you have?
    I am looking into purchasing one.
    Thanks julie

    • July 12, 2020 10:46 pm

      I have the Electric Eel Wheel 5, and it’s been great, but had a few minor downsides, and I’m currently excitedly waiting for my Electric Eel Wheel 6.0, a kickstarter I helped fund this summer! If you’re interested, get on the Electric Eel Wheel mailing list, as there may be extras available after the kickstarter backers have been shipped their wheels. https://www.dreamingrobots.com/

      • Ashley Hardy permalink
        September 6, 2020 9:16 pm

        Oh I’m jealous! I backed the kickstarter initially but had to pull out due to money issues 😔 I do have myself a nano until I can purchase the 6 though so I shouldn’t complain 😂

  5. Julie permalink
    July 8, 2020 1:32 pm

    Emily
    May iba ask what type of E-spinner do you have?
    Thanks julie

    • July 12, 2020 10:46 pm

      I have the Electric Eel Wheel 5, and it’s been great, but had a few minor downsides, and I’m currently excitedly waiting for my Electric Eel Wheel 6.0, a kickstarter I helped fund this summer! If you’re interested, get on the Electric Eel Wheel mailing list, as there may be extras available after the kickstarter backers have been shipped their wheels. https://www.dreamingrobots.com/

  6. Gunvor permalink
    July 7, 2020 10:57 pm

    Looks so beautiful. May I ask what kind of E-spinner you have/use? I am considering buying one. The one from Ashford looks really good, but expensive (more than a traditional spinning wheel).

    • July 12, 2020 10:46 pm

      I have the Electric Eel Wheel 5, and it’s been great, but had a few minor downsides, and I’m currently excitedly waiting for my Electric Eel Wheel 6.0, a kickstarter I helped fund this summer! If you’re interested, get on the Electric Eel Wheel mailing list, as there may be extras available after the kickstarter backers have been shipped their wheels. https://www.dreamingrobots.com/

  7. July 6, 2020 10:09 am

    Knitting with handspun is the best experience ever! I can’t wait to see your handspun sweater (that’s one of my eventual goals, too).

  8. July 4, 2020 7:21 pm

    I just tried spinning with a drop spindle for the very first time the other day! I’m on an epic quest to get shetland sheep on my homestead, which led to blindly emailing a lady in my town with a NASSA registered flock, which resulted the shepherdess saying, “Well, I don’t have any lambs for sale this year, but I’d be happy to give you some fiber and a drop spindle to learn on!” We met masked up in the Target parking lot because of COVID and she gave me a quick lesson. So far, I am a much better knitter (thanks in part to your tutorials and free patterns!). One day, I also want to knit a sweater from handspun wool…from sheep I’ve raised myself! :)

  9. July 4, 2020 11:29 am

    Oh, the knitting and the spinning and the dyeing! I have been spinning for 18 odd years, but the last two summers, I have actually taken classes (at the Haliburton School of the Arts). Last summer’s focus was colour and I learned sooooo much. With a massive heat wave underway, I think tomorrow will at least partly be about prepping some sun-dyeing jars and trays (for back of car baking) , and then much spinning!

    Those green and blue swatches are stunning!

  10. July 3, 2020 12:33 pm

    Your yarn is beautiful.

  11. Andrea permalink
    July 3, 2020 9:49 am

    I,too, spin very occasionally. It is like I am afraid to love it too much because I already have several expensive hobbies! Two of my children have hand spun hats that are far more precious to me than they are to them. It delights my soul when they wear them because I made them from fluff!

  12. Mary permalink
    July 3, 2020 8:52 am

    A friend sent some cotton she’d picked by the side of the road and asked me to spin it. She’d terribly compacted it while trying to clean it so that meant I needed to buy cards. After fluffing all the cotton, I used the cards on some alpaca I bought fresh off the animals about seven or eight years ago. Now I may get the three bags of alpaca actually spun!

  13. Patty permalink
    July 2, 2020 9:57 am

    I love the results of your hand spinning.I have tried to spin multiple times but the hand feet combination of skills is lost on me. No matter who the teacher is, what wheel I use I fear that I drive the teacher to tears. the results of spinning has ALWAYS taken my breath away.

  14. July 2, 2020 9:06 am

    I bought a drop spindle but haven’t figured it out yet. Your post is definitely making me want to try again!

  15. July 2, 2020 9:01 am

    Uhh, I’ve never spun. I’m just blown away by how one can turn a ball of fluff into an intricately knit sweater!

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