I’ve been doing some research about knitting with handspun singles. Even though I’m not a big fan of singles, not plying yarn is an easy way for a spinner to keep the colors pure, much like Mr. Noro does.
This fiber was purchased years and years ago on the then young ebay site. It is 100% wool and was dyed by Ruth Fortune in a colorway she named Fiesta. (Thank goodness for those little tags on a string that stay firmly fastened.) I spun this yarn, probably on my old Ashford Traveler, in a single so that I could control the color. After all the pure color was what attracted me to it. It is worsted spun–and, as always, by the seat of my pants. Details, wpi, ratios interest me NOT AT ALL. Spinning for me is rhythm, touch, meditation—all process.
Spun singles are easy to over spin and if you do that, the yarn will bias or slant your stitches when you knit. (See above) You probably don’t want this. There are finishing processes that can minimize some of this. Or, like me, you can do nothing–but you have to do nothing for a long time. When yarn sits without any tension on it, Mother Nature uses physics to balance it. Slowly, over time, like making diamonds, the twist migrates along the yarn until it is balanced.
The zigzaggy swatch beside the two balls of yarn was my first attempt to knit this yarn umpteen years ago. I’m guessing the bias is still there because the yarn was knit in small bound off pieces. I chose garter swtitch for the swatch because garter balances normal yarn. However, you see the result.
The new swatches look pretty good. The mitered square is square and the seed stitch is even, yet they still retain the “energy” we treasure in our handspun singles.
The stockinette swatch shows you the effect of needle sizes. I began knitting this DK weight with a US3. The middle section is a size 5 and the top a 7. I like all three for different purposes. I especially like the energy effect of the size 7 swatch.
Now what to do with this yarn. Color purity directed the spinning, but what if you want to knit it which will mix the colors? How? I hate it when a beautiful skein of hand dye knits up into a blah fabric. I’m thinking slip stitch patterns are helpful here.
Which is more important to you? The stitch pattern or the color? You have to choose one. I chose color. Here’s what I did and what I challenge you to do.
I made a hat.
I started with four stitches cast on to my magic loop. I increased (Kf&b) 8 sts every other row until it reached the largest circumference I wanted–pretty big actually–128 sts. I threw in an occasional K2, sl 1 wyif row and one yo, k2tog row. Most of the energy came from the handspun.
Then I went to the reference books–for me, Barbara Walker. I picked a pattern I’d never knitted before–”Quilted Lattice” in vol. 1. I knit it just to see what it looked like in this hand dye. I like it. Oh, I had to add 4 sts to make the pattern work out but that was easy.
Then, I moved to my new favorite ribbing. It’s a 3X3 rib with slip sts every other row. I’ve used it with handpainted sock yarn, so I’m now trying it in a DK weight. The hat was knit on a size 7 and then I changed to the 5 for the ribbing. I’m trying to figure out a way to trim the edge before binding off, so it is still on the needles.
So, I feel good. (Actually I have a cold) Here’s what I learned.
1–I’ve knit and learned from my own handspun, so I’ve used stash.
2–I’ve learned a new stitch pattern.
3–I’ve demonstrated a blind faith that some day, Charlotte, NC, will again be dry and cool and hat weather.
Do this!!! I dare you. It’s fun–even if it doesn’t work out well, you’ll learn. If you hat turns out ugly, give it to someone you don’t like very much and continually ask if they are enjoying it. I am so mean sometimes.