Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Now, What Was So Scary About That?

I did it! I did it! I took the plunge and knitted some of my own handspun.

I had run out of delaying tactics. The Merino Lace socks were finished, and all the additional wool in the new gray color was spun. I told myself that I was not allowed to start any other knitting or spinning projects until I got started on the handspun sweater I've been sneaking up on all this time. That gave me just the little push I needed to get over the hump. I felt stymied, briefly, bottled up and frustrated. But in a couple of days I gathered my mental energy, got up a head of steam, and got going.

First I needed to get better acquainted with the yarn, which up until then I had only petted and admired. I tried doing the wraps-per-inch test, but I'm not sure I had that right, as it kept coming out as chunky weight, which it assuredly isn't. Next I painstakingly counted all the threads in the skeins to estimate yardage and wound them into balls. It felt alive and resilient in the handling. I carefully weighed each ball and calculated the yards per pound. That didn't really tell me much either. How many yards per pound should there be for a given thickness of yarn? I'm not experienced enough to say. The one thing this exercise did tell me is that, although it looks fairly consistent, the yarn varies quite a bit in thickness from ball to ball.

Finally, there was nothing for it but to actually knit some of the stuff. I took a wild guess and grabbed a pair of US size 7 needles, jumped in and started swatching. It worked up in the neighborhood of a worsted-weight gauge, a little loftier than I realized.

And you know what? It's real yarn. Yarn that you can knit with. Rather nice yarn, in fact. It's crisp and eager to please. It doesn't drape lazily like the Cashmerino; it perches on the edge of its seat, ready to jump up and go, light on its feet. Right then, I told it, let's get to work! I still had some work left to do to sort out the details of the sweater design, but set to it with a will and soon had it done.

I needed something that would use the five different natural colors of Coopworth wool that I had spun. I didn't actually set out, originally, to make a multi-colored project; it just happened. It all started with a half-pound of dark brown Coopworth that I bought to practice on when I first got my spinning wheel. Then, wondering what to do with the yarn, I found other colors to combine with it. Of course, I don't think I'll end up actually using that first bit for the sweater. It's the yarn I learned on, and it shows, though I love it all the same.

I settled on a color-blocked design, with set-in sleeves and a square neck, and swatched to see how the colors would look. The warm tan really seemed to jump out from the other colors. So instead of graduating all the colors from dark to light, I moved the to the bottom as a sort of edge accent. I tried out the cable motif I want to use down the front, to make sure it would work. And since it needed a name, I dubbed it the Cannonball sweater.

So now I'm happily on my way. In fact, I took it with me on yet another trip this week. Normally, I take socks for portability, instead of a bigger project, but I think I've had enough of socks for now. So I packed circular needles for the plane and straight ones for the hotel room and, optimistically, five balls of yarn, one in each color.

I did get quite a bit done by the time I got back, thankful to be home again. Here's most of the back, and I'm partway up the front as well. Of course, stockinette stitch in worsted weight does go quickly -- a welcome change after a stint of lacy patterns in tiny sock yarn. In any event, I'm awfully excited to have this project underway and see how it will turn out. And I'll never again be quite so hesitant to dive in and knit with my handspun.

Thank goodness, the Cannonball sweater is finally rolling!


Bess said...

WOW! Beautiful yarn and beautiful knitting. Isn't handspun the most fun stuff to knit with. Somehow, the tension seems more relaxed and it seems to speak to my fingers more.

Congratulations on a lovely project.

Amy said...

Wow is right, it's looking fantastic!

Torhild Reidardatter said...

you did a great job on that yarn.
I am not into all that knowlegde either , but do know how much aprox. yards/meters pr.50 gr and how many stiches pr. inch/ 10 cm that will give me and aprox what needle size to aim for.
good job. love the natural colors