by Rachel Brown
Fjord Mitts – Spin the Yarn
It’s that time of year when I start hunting around for any and all handknit accessories I can find. I live in a place that, while it doesn’t get really cold (there are palm trees in people’s gardens for heaven’s sake), it is damp. Very, very damp. I spend the months from October to March wrapped in layers of woollens to ward off the chill.
Fingerless mitts are incredibly handy and comfortable in this environment – enough coverage to keep your hands warm in the chill, but open so your hands don’t overheat and you can use your fingers.
For this project I needed a wool that would be warm, but sturdy – there’s nothing more disappointing then having a gorgeous pair of mitts that pill as soon as you put them on. Living in the UK, I also wanted to use a fiber from a typical British sheep – Shetland wool (straight from the islands themselves) was the perfect choice as it is strong but also soft enough to wear next to the skin.
Next decision point was color: my personal color preference lies firmly in the blue/green/purple region of the color wheel, and as a dyer, I get to surrender to my love of the cooler colors on a regular basis. Over the summer, a holiday in Norway gave me ample inspiration for this kind of indulgence. The colorway I decided to use is called “Naeroyfjord”, and is a combination of cool greens, teal and greys, with just a hint of a warmer green peaking out. I chose a natural grey Shetland as the contrasting color to pair with the Naeroyfjord top – I wanted something that would contrast with the dyed fiber, but still fit within the cooler color scheme.
When I went to prep the fiber for spinning I did it in a very specific way: I wanted to maintain the color sequence of the dyed top, but didn’t want to chain ply the singles, as I was worried that a 3-ply yarn would be too bulky.
I decided to spin for a fingering weight 2-ply yarn instead. I split the entire length of the top down the middle as carefully as I could. To make the splitting more accurate, I broke the top into four chunks, and split each one down the middle separately. The stripes were spun end to end in the same order so that I ended up with the same color sequence (and hopefully the same yardage!) on each bobbin.
I wanted the yarn to be warm, but still work well with the mosaic stitch pattern, so I decided to spin in a semi-worsted fashion, using a drafting technique similar to American sliding supported long draw (as defined in Jeannine Bakriges’ article on drafting techniques in the Fall 2013 issue of Spin Off).
Basically, I let some twist into the drafting triangle as I was moving my fiber supply hand back, using the front hand to control the amount of twist entering the fiber supply and to draft out short sections. The resulting singles were much fluffier then standard worsted spinning, and would make a nice cozy yarn with lots of trapped air for insulation.
I let the singles rest for a few days and then plied them. During plying, when I came to a point when one single changed color and the other one didn’t, I wound off the offending mismatched single, reattaching the delinquent when the right color reappeared. This manipulation meant that I could maximize color matching of the plies, minimize barberpoling and keep the beautiful colors distinct and clear.
Final yarn stats: The singles were spun on a single treadle folding Lendrum at a ratio of 12:1, and plied on a Hansen miniSpinner to a (prewashing) plied twist angle of approximately 10.5º and 6.7-8 tpi. The singles were approximately 30-45 wpi, and the final yarn before washing was 20-30 wpi. After washing, the yarns plumped up to 13-18 wpi, so about a heavy fingering to sport weight. The final yarns had an average twist angle of 10.7º and 7.6 tpi after washing. The grist of the yarns were 1333 ypp (natural grey) and 1511 ypp (Naeroyfjord). I ended up with 325 yds/3.9 oz of grey, and 425 yds/4.5 oz of Naeroyfjord, of which approximately 105 yds and 115 yds were used for the mitts.
Rachel Brown is an ex-Bostonian now living in London by way of southeast Texas. She spends as much time as possible dyeing, spinning, knitting, designing and tech editing. When not occupied with woolly pursuits, she’s likely to be wrangling kids, coddling Wee Ridiculous Dogs, slaving away at the lab bench, or helping to organize crazy yarn adventures as one half of the partnership behind Yarn in the City. You can find her knitting and designing adventures on her blog, and her handdyed fiber and handspun yarns in her online shop Porpoise Fur.