7 Yarn Must-Knows for Knitting with Handspun

This is a guest post written by Jillian Moreno, author of Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning. Follow Jillian’s spinning and knitting adventures at jillianmoreno.com.

Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno Cover

In this post, Jillian shares with us her best tips for knitting with handspun yarn. Soak up her juicy expertise!

Want to knit with your handspun? First, interview it a little.

Figure out as much as you can about your handspun, squeeze it, measure it, swatch with it. It will make it easier to choose a pattern and knit a project that you’ll be happy with in the end. Grab your favorite beverage and your yarn and settle in for a cozy getting-to-know-you session. Here is a list of interview questions (yup, just like a real person, the more you know, the better you can work together!):

How does this handspun look and how does it feel?

Our senses can tell us so much about our yarn!

Squeeze it, how lofty is it? Or is it a dense yarn? Tug on it; is it elastic? Hold it on your neck, soft or prickly? Is it fuzzy or smooth and shiny, which look do you want for this project?

handspun by Jillian MorenoHow many wraps per inch does the yarn have?

Knowing the WPI of your yarn will help you figure out your knitting gauge. It will give you a starting point when choosing what size needles to use to swatch. Ravelry has a chart that shows WPI in relation to Yarn Standards yarn size.

What’s the knitting gauge? And do you like the look and feel of the swatch?

Take the time to swatch your handspun, then swatch again. I find that handspun has a lot more life than a commercial yarn. I can measure all of the bits of my yarn and find that it is similar to a commercial DK, but the gauge I like is knit on needles two sizes bigger and is more like a light worsted yarn. If your yarn is inconsistent or is an art yarn, knit a bigger swatch and average your gauge from measurements from three or four places on the a swatch.

Swatches knitting with handspun yarn

What’s the fiber type?

What is the fiber (or fibers) in your yarn? It makes a difference. Looking to knit a cowl with spring and softness? Wendsleydale with it’s gorgeous sheen and drape, is probably not the fiber to use, as it has little elasticity and most people find it too prickly to wear next to their skin. A better choice would be soft and springy Merino Want some shine? Grab a Merino/silk blend.

How many plies does the yarn have?

The number of plies in a yarn can affect stitch patterns, particularly lace and texture patterns. 2-ply yarns love to twist lace holes open and 3-ply yarns love to stack up and make texture stitches stand up.

What’s the total yardage?

Duh, right? I know you probably measured your yardage while your yarn was on the niddy noddy, but did you measure again after you finished your yarn? Yardage can shrink, especially if you are working with crimpy fibers like Targhee and Polwarth.

knit handspun shawl by Jillian Moreno

How many yards per pound are there?

This is the measurement that many spinners leave out, but it often saves my spinning day. Measuring for yards per pound (also called grist) will tell you the density of your yarn, how many yards are in a weight of yarn.

Measuring yards per pound before starting a project tells me if I have enough yarn to finish a project. I also use it guide me to how much fiber I need to spin for a project, all I need is a sample yarn to measure.

Listen to what your yarn tells you, it’s the only way to know if it’s the right yarn for the job!


Want more info on spinning yarns for knitting? Check out Jillian’s best-selling book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want, or her blog at jillianmoreno.com.