We do spinning. And knitting. And weaving. And crocheting. And we love them all. But for the month of May, we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking & talking about the intersection of spinning & knitting. About knitters using handspun. And spinners spinning with the intent to develop a yarn for a specific knitting project.
It’s a joining-together of interests we take really seriously! Wanna hear a story? So you know our machine-washable merino yarn, Gems, right? It’s an amazing yarn that our customers love because even though it’s a super-soft merino (22 microns!), it’s also pill-resistant. What’s the secret? We only use fibers with a staple length of 3.6″ or longer (that’s crazy-long for a merino) and the yarn is worsted-spun with a high twist, meaning that the fibers are less likely to weasel out and cause a pill.
It’s a yarn that we’ve developed to be ideal for knitting purposes (by being really choosy about the wool properties and spinning preparation). Now, want to hear one more cool thing? The original samples for Gems were handspun by Louet North America’s founder, Trudy. (It’s Trudy’s son, Dave, who runs the company today). She was a master spinner and she spun up this fabulous workhorse merino sample on her S10, and sent it to the mill to replicate. The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s this synergy between spinning and knitting that gets us really jazzed. Whether you’re a sheep-to-shawl kind of person or a knitter who wants to learn more about how yarn is made for a more well-behaved finished product, the connection between knitting and spinning is something that’s super-important!
Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning
And for learning more on the interplay between knitting and spinning, Yarnitecture- A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Getting Exactly the Yarn You Want by Jillian Moreno is an amazing resource!
If you’re a knitter, you have probably had the experience of purchasing a yarn that looked lovely in the skein and then you knit it up… and the project was a dud. Maybe the rim of the hat was lacking the needed elasticity. Maybe your sweater had too much drape. Maybe the lace patterning in the shawl failed to ‘pop’. Or maybe the stitch definition for your cables just wasn’t as crisp as you’d like.
Many of these disappointing knitting projects can be traced back to a not-so-great choice of yarn. Not to say that the yarn isn’t amazing. But a spectacular yarn might not be quite-so-spectacular for a given project. (You probably also want to read The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes).
And finding the absolutely right yarn for your project isn’t always so easy. For better or for worse, producing yarn on a commercial scale is an expensive enterprise. This means that most yarns that are available are ones with wide appeal (so that they will appeal to lots of people and sell the large quantities that need to be made for a typical mill run.) What’s a knitter to do? Spin it yourself.
When you spin your own yarn, you can control everything. From the breed of sheep (or combo of breeds) that you use as the wool input, the way the fibers are prepared, the amount of twist, to the ply… these are all choices that you get to make. And each choice has an impact on how your final yarn will behave.
Mind-blowing? Yup. Intimidating? Well, maybe at first. The sheer number of choices available is the reason you need an amazingly knowledgeable guide. And her name is Jillian. And she’s written you a lovely book.
Yarnitecture walks you through the myriad choices today’s modern spinner is faced with, and discusses how each choice affects the final yarn product and how it behaves in your knitted piece. Topics covered in the book include:
- Properties of various wool fibers
- Worsted vs. Woolen fiber preparation
- Various drafting styles (and what happens when you draft against type)
- The basics of ratios and whorls
- Tips for consistent drafting
- Resting and rewinding singles
- How ply and twist affect knitting
- Working with color: spinning, plying and combining to achieve color effects
- Finishing: steaming, soaking, snapping and more!
- How to measure and keep track of your handspun for planning knitting projects
- Twist and knitting style
PLUS 12 knitting projects that capture all the info you learn. Check out the a snippet from the yarn description in this project:
“The spiral-ply and core yarns were spun with a worsted draft; the thick-and-thin yarn was spun with a woolen draft.” That’s a level of detail about the yarn that is definitely not part of your typical knitting pattern, but it’s exactly what you want to know if you’re spinning to create an exact yarn for a project.
The book is stuffed with tutorials, photos of swatches comparing various techniques and spinning tidbits. Although the book covers many beginner-level spinning techniques (such as how to draft), the range of examples shown in the book provides abundant information for even an advanced spinner. For example, have you ever spun 2 ply yarns in Corriedale and Bluefaced Leicester to see how they compare when finished snapped vs. whacked vs. steamed? And then knitted swatches? Don’t worry- Jillian does it for you.
For spinners, this book provides an opportunity to stretch out of your comfort zone. To try a new spinning challenge, especially for process-spinners. It’s fun to get a beautiful hand-dyed batch of top and spin ‘from the cuff’, but integrating a new drafting or plying style with the intent of completing a knitted piece may create a whole new perspective on your favorite craft.
Both Irish and Scotch tension wheels are featured in the book, as they have different strengths and feels. The Louet S10 Concept wheel is a wheel that can do both! With the ability to easily switch between Scotch and Irish Tension, the S10 Concept is a workhorse wheel that will allow you to play with all types of spinning techniques!