After last weekend's spinning workshop, I was so excited that I kept right on spinning that night and the next day, until a tired thumb on my drafting hand told me it was time to stop. But still I could think of nothing but spinning and handspun. So I set to cataloging my handspun skeins and counting up the yardage. I just needed an idea of what could be knitted from them.
Lovely Dalis at Dancing Leaf Farm pointed out a little book called Noro Designer Mini Knits, by Jenny Watson, as a good source of small projects that could be adapted for handspun.
This yarn in particular was a pretty thing I'd been wanting to make into something nice. I'd tried starting a shawl with it, some time ago, but it just wasn't right. This was some of the first of my handspun that I'd ever knit a stitch of, and I was frightened of making a mistake. After I backed away from the shawl idea, it just sat on my coffee table looking decorative. For a long time. A long time.
I spun the yarn over a year ago, from this luscious hand-painted roving. Of course, I suppose more precisely it's wool top. (For non-spinners, that means it's been prepared by combing instead of carding, so that the fibers are more smoothly aligned.) I know some people are very unhappy with those who refer to any kind of thick rope of prepared fiber as roving. But roving is such a nice word, and I suppose I'm a bit of a carefree phillistine about the difference, at least for now. After all, I'm still pretty new to all of this. It seems a bit like expecting someone to speak of cars as coupes or sedans when he's just getting used to the idea of a wheeled motorized vehicle. I expect I'll get better about my terminology as I go along.
Anyway, I had 10 ounces of the wool ...top. It was from Lorna's Laces, in the Watercolor colorway. I had bought and spun it simply for the fun of working for the first time with a pretty hand-painted ...top. I was still practically a novice, and this is the ...top that taught me how to spin softer yarn.
It was such pretty fiber, and I spun it happily, expecting a beautiful yarn. I didn't split the fiber; I just enjoyed the colors and the long transitions I got by drafting from the entire thickness of the ...top. I was also working on spinning consistently at a heavier weight, and aimed for a thicker yarn than my beginner efforts. But when I plied the first skein, I was disappointed in the result. The yarn was kind of dense and firm. Even the colors seemed flat. I had enough experience by then that I had developed some ability to control my spinning, so I decided to try putting less twist into the yarn, hoping it would be softer.
What a difference that made! You can see it in this photo. The skein on the left is the first one I spun, about worsted weight and, sadly, a little hard. The one on the right is what I got with a lot less twist. It was bulkier and much softer.
I was much happier with the yarn after that. But the evolution in the yarn made for a challenge in coming up with a suitable project. I had about 500 yards, about 2/3 of it in the soft bulky yarn, and 1/3 in the firm worsted weight.
Nevertheless, this time I was gung ho and ready to try something. Looking at projects in bulky yarn from the Noro book, I found a simple pullover cropped vest that looked like I could make it with plenty of yardage to spare. I was in the mood to just dive in, so off I went.
I knit merrily along and soon had this. Although the long color transition was interesting, I did not love the overall effect. The pattern was written for Noro's Blossom yarn, which has a lot of textural interest (and maybe some bits of leaf and twig, from the looks of it). But in my handspun, a smoother yarn, it was a bit blah and seemed to need something. So out it came.
After a little more swatching, I decided to loosen up the gauge and add some bands of moss stitch.
That did the trick.
It even worked out so that I could use the soft yarn for the body of the vest and the thinner yarn for the neckband and armbands.
I ended up using about 450 yards of bulky handspun, with US size 10 (6 mm) needles. In addition to adding the stitch pattern, I lengthened the vest a couple of inches, made the scooped neck deeper, and made the neckband and armbands narrower.
It went so fast, I had it done in six days flat. I couldn't wait to wear it right away yesterday, not even holding off to block it first. World's-most-patient-husband and I were out and about and stopped by for a visit to the Yarnstruck niecey and nephews. Showing impeccable taste, my little niecey immediately spotted my vest and complimented it. I might have attributed that to tact rather than taste, had there been so much as a hint that it was one of Auntie Yarnstruck's projects. No, clearly little niecey has excellent taste. :)
And I'm tickled that finally, in hardly any time at all, the pretty yarn that waited so long after I spun it has turned into a pretty vest that I can wear and enjoy.