Monday, October 22, 2007

Into the Land of Spinning

"I am a spinner." At Stitches East last week, I said those words for the first time. Another shopper had asked what I planned to do with some rovings I was buying. (Sure, they're pretty, but what are they for?) I didn't say I'm just a beginner or novice or trying to learn how to spin -- though those things are still true. Unthinkingly, I called myself a spinner without demur, without timidity, without apology. I honestly think I have crossed some mental rubicon. And it feels pretty good!

But yes, I am a beginner. In fact, I have yet to knit a single thing with my handspun. Not one stitch. I just haven't quite taken that plunge. It's probably time, though. (See rubicon, above.)

I've played and practiced until what I'm producing is recognizably real, knittable, and appealing yarn.

Here's a row of fat little sausages I can squeeze and chuckle over and think "I made that." It's as satisfying as all get-out.

I'm well on my way to creating enough yarn for my first handspun sweater project. The balls of roving in my spinning basket are dwindling, and the pile of skeins is growing ever-higher.

The wool is Coopworth, in four natural undyed sheep colors. It's wonderful that we can appreciate sheep in their natural colors now, instead of expecting them all to be the generic white that's easiest for commercial processors to use in manufacturing yarn. Interestingly, the different colors felt completely different to spin. For me, the taupe-y mid-brown seemed the coarsest and most challenging to draft (partly due, no doubt, to my inexperience), while the light tan was soft and dreamy. I guess I'm learning that even in the same breed there can be a lot of variation from one individual to another.

I have a pound and a half of wool, which should be enough, as I'm not tending to spin a very heavy weight of yarn. It's not exactly consistent yet, but I'm guessing it's somewhere around DK weight. It's a two-ply yarn in which each of the singles tends to be a little finer than fingering weight. I keep wondering, though, whether I shouldn't get a little more wool, just to be safe. I actually do have another half pound of the dark brown color that I spun earlier, but it took the brunt of my learning and experimenting. I'm not so sure it could stand up to actually being used in a sweater.

I'm starting to think about what kind of sweater this wants to be. Shannon Okey, in her Spin to Knit book, suggests a top-down raglan as a pretty adjustable, gauge-forgiving way of using handspun of iffy consistency. Sounds like good advice to me! The other big question is how to make an attractive design using approximately equal amounts of the four shades. I could always go with color blocks, graduated light to dark or dark to light, or do various patterns of repeating horizontal stripes. I'd kind of like to put in a little fillip of stranded decoration somewhere, but with the yarn quantity in doubt, that might be risky.

For certain, I want to keep it classic. Since it will be my very first handspun sweater, I want to be able to wear it for a long time. I plan to be unreasonably proud!

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