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  • This picture of Elliott is mesmerizing. Straight VERMEER.

    • Oh my yes! Elliott just needs a pearl earring!

    • My thoughts exactly! That light!

    • That’s the first thing that came to my mind too. Expertly composed and lighted, and the model obviously a professional, a true beauty.

    • I had the same thought about Vermeer, but my first thought was “that’s one hell of a hairy cat”!

      • Chiaroscuro!

  • Ouch! I knit primarily with handspun and it’s my yarn of choice. One of my favorite projects has been http://www.ravelry.com/projects/thecrazysheeplady/sweet-dreams and another is http://www.ravelry.com/projects/thecrazysheeplady/market-jacket.

    What’s even nicer is I know which sheep I’m wearing :-).

  • Try Quaker Yarn Stretcher, Mandy Cowl or Light and Up. Handspun is wonderful to knit with!!

  • Ever been tempted to make your own handspun from Eliot’s shed fur!?

  • My favorite solution for small quantities of handspun is Stephanie’s one-row scarf: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/one-row-handspun-scarf – you just knit until you run out.

    • Great suggestion. I keep forgetting about this simple but lovely pattern. It also looks like a good knit for traveling, watching movies, and the like.

  • I love knitting with my own handspun! Consistency is one of those things that some people hate but I love. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t bother for consistency, else why make handspun. Well, even if I try my hardest at consistency, it’s still never as good as a machine could do it.

    And I adore playing with colour. You can get really crazy with it while spinning. Here’s one of my favourite of my handspun projects:


    • What is it with people (not you!) and handspun? Why do people think it has to be lumpy and inconsistent? Is it because folks sell their practice yarn at craft shows? Look at Henry VIII – all that embroidered stuff he posed in for portraits? Handspun. They didn’t even have spinning wheels back then – that stuff was spun on hand spindles! Silk! Gold thread!

      Handspun is not inherently shoddy. If a person practices enough they can get as accurate and consistent as a machine. And the point of handspun is not to duplicate commercial yarn. It is to make yarn with fibers and combinations and colors that you can’t find commercially. Think about all the breeds of sheep you see people raising, and then compare that with the commercial market which basically consists of merino, merino, merino, BFL and a few specialty Shetland yarns. With hundreds of breeds, the hand-spinner can choose her fiber source to precisely match the type of yarn and garment she intends to make. Handspinning is about precision and control.

      • Agreed, Sarah S.

      • I totally agree! It’s a lot of fun and good practice to spin different breeds.

        I’m in awe when I think of those Viking sails, all handspun on spindles.

      • Amen.

        • Yes.

      • Another agree, with a small caveat. It makes me itchy to say a category as wide and deep as handspun yarn is “about” any one thing. For goodness’ sakes — we’re talking *all* yarn (and thread!) that was made in the history of humans up until the mere blip of the last 200 years or so, and a good deal of yarn (and even thread!) since then.

        It seems to me that handspun and handspinning are about as many functions (or non-functions) as humans have been able to conceive, and have taken the corresponding myriad of forms and aesthetics.

        But the thing Ann is talking about — the you’ll-never-mistake-me-for-millspun, exuberantly colored modern skein — is a Thing, and a thing that has a particular value for many in our current era of fiber arts. So what I’m curious about is how can we talk about this specific type of handspun more precisely? What are the (non-derogatory!) words for the aesthetic of handspun yarn it represents?

  • Look at the spinning knitters board on Ravelry; that’s my inspiration. Also, anything that uses Noro. But mostly I spin for sweaters so my yarn has a bit more, uh, regularity.

  • Two ply inherently has less stitch definition than three ply. That’s why lots of us hand spinners use the plying technique that is best for the project we plan to make.

    Visit the spinning forums…you will see lots of handspun that is consistent and predictable.

  • Wow! I wish I could knit as quickly! In the same amount of time since your post, I did not even finish a first sock (which had been already started) that will go to my second child size pair for the current afghans for Afghans campaign. By yesterday I finished up to the gusset, put the sock away, and got out a dishcloth to work on as sort of a palate cleanser.

    So. Is the knitting of the Citron now complete? Ann, I have been wondering if you have had any adventures with your sewing machine.


  • I love it! It will be a beautiful shawl. A couple of weeks ago I finished a giant poncho of handspun craziness. The colors are weird and the gauges don’t match and it is a poncho of glory and goodness! It is warm and snuggly and spun by my own small hands. I’m going to make a sweater with my handspun next time. Knitting isn’t about perfection or duplicating something that could be made a machine. It is all about the creative process and the uniqueness of the finished product. It is all yours in a way that a store bought item never could be.

    • Ps. Embrace the handspun!

  • I recently knit a handspun shawl using this: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ex-boyfriends pattern. It looked great even if the name of the shawl is a little on the cutesy side. It is especially designed to use up stash and can be made with varying amounts of yarn. It really showed off the texture of the handspun yarn I used and is very simple.
    That cat of yours is glorious.

  • The twig and leaf shawl pattern by Anne Hanson worked well with some handspun yarn I had. The yarn had subtle long stripes somewhat like the yarn you are using. The suprising thing was the lace part of the pattern seem to hide slight imperfections. The lace also kind of opened up and lightened the color of the yarn. Not all lace patterns work with handspun yarn. Flatter looking lace seems to work better. I find seed stitch, ribbing, or any combination of knit and purl seem to balance out handspun and show off the variation in color well. Currently bias knitted shawls (a twist on your big rectangle) are filling my brain with possibilities. The stitch count is mostly the same all the way through keeping the color shifts even. I would be tempted to block what you are knitting though just to see what it looks like.

    • Kathy, I hope you are considering Architexture (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/architexture) It’s my first knitted-on-the-bias shawl (making it for my tall architect step-daughter with yarn I recovered from a sweater I made for her father which never fit him) and I love it! Great fun to see what the various stitch patterns do and how it all comes together.

  • FWIW, which isn’t much, this odd thing pleases me.

  • I think the shawl is lovely and don’t think the second yarn competes with the ruching. I am a spinner who is just starting to get better at spinning consistent yarns. I marvel at the spinners who can make yarn as consistent as machine spun, but I also appreciate my unique yarns. No one else can spin them as I did even though it may not be perfect, I still think the fact that it is totally unique is amazing.

  • I use my handspun almost exclusively now because I love it. The latest thing I completed is the Crazed Scandinavian cowl. http://www.ravelry.com/projects/Chinamom/crazed-scandinavian-cowl It is all from my handspun, in a 2 ply yarn. I think you can make anything with handspun. It is great fun!

    • Wow. This would be plenty impressive even with store-bought yarn.

    • Oh, wow! beautiful

  • I am a whore for hand spun and have a ridiculous greedy collection of the stuff…. My favorite go-to pattern for mindlessly stitching/fondling and watching the mystery unfold is Quaker Yarn Stretcher…. Because it works… And you always know when you are ready to bind off…(within a row or two) and those digonal stripes and boomerang shape just get me all excited!
    And your citron is beautiful despite her hazy crazy lack of definition.

  • Are you going for ratio 1:2 or 1:3? I think it will take that to look “right”. I do love the colors!

  • Elliot has excellent taste. Of course. He should, after all — he is a cat.

  • I think a beautiful cat like Elliot deserves his very own handspun, handknit shawl. 🙂

  • I have very few skeins of handspun, only one comes to mind but I’m sure there must be at least another, and I keep them in their skein and put them in a decorative bowl. Noro gives me enough anxiety …

  • There is a perfect pattern for every skein:). Next time – I would try a small neck type cowl shaped in a tube. I have the perfect pattern somewhere and will send name soon:)

  • I’ve always used hand spun successfully. The key, as with every yarn, is the marriage of yarn to pattern. This is not the right pattern. It’s a shame to see this yarn wasted.

    • Wasted? I’m having a swell time knitting this!

  • I think it is beautiful in an unmatchy sort of way. It looks like Fall. It seems like a good snuggly go to. Can’t wait to see it blocked.

  • This charms me to no end. I love the play between the colors and the textures. Can totally see wearing this with jeans and a turtleneck in the fall.

  • I knitted Stonecrop using my own handspun in January this year. I initially hated it, but a solid blocking made it work and it’s now one of my best-loved. I also had great success making my little bits of dying experiments into a feather and fan shawl (http://www.ravelry.com/projects/Arianaknits/feather-and-fan-comfort-shawl), which embraces uneven spinning and makes it look intentional.

  • I looked at the picture, and thought, “WOW, I love the way the striping works with the ruching!” And then I read your statement that the yarn and the pattern are not a good match. So I looked at the picture again, and still loved the way the striping looks with the ruching.

    Ah well, in knitting as in life, each to his own, right? 🙂 I think it looks great!

  • In a shocking display of approval, my boyfriend’s mother gave me three skeins of her alpaca silk handspun for Christmas, which was only the second time I had met her. I just finished knitting a French Can Can shawl, which came out beautifully. Lots of garter stitch, and then a stunning knit-on edging. I love it so much… And unfortunately it’s a pale beige color that will make me look half-dead.

  • I knit a Citron in purple green stripey yarn a few years ago and it came out gorgeous – I think once you block it the shape and the yarn will mesh very well!

  • well, I love it!! and think the 2 yarns mesh nicely…

  • I love what it looks like now!

  • I love it, Ann! It is a riot of color and texture. 🙂
    And the above commenters are right, handspun can be anything from perfectly round and even to lumpy bumpy uneven yarn. The only thing it cannot be is machine spun. It is an example of our pre-industrial roots. The mummies were wrapped in handspun. The Bayeux tapestries–handspun….

    As a long time handspinner, I knit anything and anything in handspun if it suits the project. A couple things I have knit in handspun recently:

    The red colored distal is the one in handspun. I mostly try to pair yarn with a pattern that does not compete with it, as others have suggested.

  • I make handspun yarn for a living, so I have found the pros and cons very interesting. In my experience, the key is to use a simple pattern to let the yarn shine. Also, I usually gp up a needle size or two to give the yarn space to “bloom.”

  • As someone who spins a lot of yarn, this made me laugh so much. I know exactly what you mean. I suggest just exactly what you learned through the process- – stick with simple patterns when knitting with handspun so the yarn can be center stage and doesn’t conflict with the pattern.

    Happy knitting!

    Best regards,
    Carla Hanson