by Miriam Felton
As handspinners, we have a unique relationship with yarn. This deep and detailed knowledge of how the yarn is created, how it bounces, its shape and energy, informs our association with all yarn, not just with handspun. Spinners know yarn on a profoundly detailed level.
Most of the time a knitter’s relationship with yarn is assumed to be linear:
- We find a pattern
- We figure out how much yarn we need
- We find a yarn that works for us
- Then we knit the project.
But if you’re spinning solely for the pleasure of feeling the fiber and creating yarn, then you’re left trying to figure out a pattern with limited yardage. While some new tools (like Ravelry’s advanced pattern search) have made this easier, it’s still a bit frustrating trying to pair a pattern with a set amount of yarn.
Having felt this frustration myself (plus the dissatisfaction of having a leftover ball of handspun that wasn’t enough to do anything else with, but was too precious to throw away), I started thinking about how to get the most out of a limited quantity of yarn. At some point in the process, I realized that this set of concerns had a broader application than just handspun yarn. Being able to use as much of the yarn as possible is also useful for hand-dyed yarn or luxury fibers, where buying another skein to bind off isn’t an option.
The projects and techniques I came up with are included in my first book “Twist & Knit: A Dozen Knitted Patterns for Handspun, Hand-dyed and One-of-a-kind Yarns”. Using handspun yarns with this specific set of concerns means that projects need to have small repeats (or repeats that can be bound off at small intervals), unique constructions, variable gauge, and flexible sizing. For instance, where a triangular top-down shawl would work for a limited quantity of yarn, the same shawl with a knitted-on border would not, since you wouldn’t be able to estimate exactly how much yarn you need to keep in reserve for the border without some very complicated math.
Some of the techniques featured in this book are very straight-forward. The Comfy Shawl and Cleite Shawl are traditional top-down shapes, and the lovely, crescent-shaped Lune Shawl is a modification of a top-down shape. The book includes a how-to on figuring out how much yarn you are using per row to estimate how much yardage you’ll need for a bind off, which is useful for all of the projects in the book (or even applicable to your everyday knitting with more easily-accessible commercial yarns).
The Motte Shawl takes advantage of its unique point-to-point triangular construction to work increase rows until half of the yarn remains, and then work decrease rows until the yarn has run out.
The Tudor Stole and Colonnade Scarf use a technique where you weigh your total yarn, weigh your yarn again after you’ve done a border section, then knit the center portion until you have just enough yarn by weight to finish the second border section, which ensures you won’t run out working the final border.
With the patterns offered in the book, you could easily pick up a skein of handspun yarn, pick a pattern from the book, knit it, and get the most fabric from that skein.
If the patterns and the info in Twist & Knit save you half the frustration I’ve felt knitting with my handspun, then I’ll count it a success.
Photos © Miriam Felton, Twist & Knit, 2010.