I have finished plying my most recent skein of handspun. A 3-ply skein weighing 155g and 400m in length, this was my attempt at spinning something a bit heavier than my usual spinning output. Most of the general tips I have seen on spinning a […]
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I knit Sarah Hatton’s Yellow Wagtail Scarf from the A Year Of Techniques project about four months ago, and I haven’t written about it until now due to not having managed to get any decent pictures. Unfortunately I can’t see that changing any time soon so here are a few pictures whose greatest quality is that they at least exist.
As written, the pattern gives a long (7ft) scarf with relatively narrow ends, widening in the centre, like a perfectly postured, straight spine effortlessly carrying a pregnancy off in style and comfort (ie, nothing like when I was pregnant). This provides a lot of extra fabric of the scarf in the area around the neck for extra warmth. As the scarf is so lengthy, wrapping the scarf twice around the neck feels natural, so you may have a very warm neck and chest for even the coldest weather.
I actually thought that much bulk would be a little too substantial for me and that I would find it easier to style a traditionally shaped scarf of consistent width. The pattern starts with a stitch count of 26, increasing to 53 by the time the centre point starts to near, maintaining that stitch count for a while and then decreasing back down to the original 26. I decided to go with a 41 stitch cast on, increase 3 when setting up for the cables and then knit the scarf with a consistent 44 stitch width until decreasing 3 to account for signing the cables off at the very end.
Apart from the change to the shape of the scarf I made no other changes. The scarf is knit in the kit yarn that the pattern calls for, Shetland Aran Worsted in the shade Auld Gold, seven balls of Shetland woolly warmth. I think I only used 6 balls for my scarf, knit to the same length as the original. It feels relatively weighty, but in a comforting, sheepy way, and the pure Shetland wool holds in a good deal of warm air.
The main design feature of the scarf is the play of the two cable details that run down each long edge of the scarf. Once is a simple, uneven twisted rope type cable, with long and short sections between the ‘twists’ and the other is made up of four intertwining strands on the same garter stitch background that makes up the scarf body.
There’s a single garter stitch border that sits alongside the narrower cable which gave me a few issues in blocking. It wanted to fold under the cable (which would have given a nice edge) but still wanted to creep into view at the points where the cable twisted. I think if I were to knit the scarf again I’d have added an extra stitch or two to the border on that side, to match the other, and just bring that cable in slightly, or swatch to see how the edge would look with a different treatment.
As with all the A Year Of Techniques projects, the pattern comes bundled with a wealth of opportunity to learn something new. The teachings of the Yellow Wagtail scarf were how to knit from a charted cable design, but the instructions also include written instructions for either back-up/comparison or, indeed, for those who do not like nor wish to knit from charts. The lesson is there, and it is comprehensive and well explained, but the pattern does not leave any knitter out in the cold. There also appears to be a bit of a bonus technique included to help people who wish to cable without the use of a cable needle, which is my preferred method. Not only does the technique information give great instructions on cabling with or without a cable needle, but also on visually interpreting the cable stitches so you can ‘see’ what is going on with the knitted fabric to create the pattern. I think cable charts are perhaps one of the most visually immediate types of knitting chart, alongside colourwork, as most charted cable stitches are very representative of the patterns that they relate to.
Though I was confident knitting from charts and without the use of a cable needle, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading the technique portion of this pattern for its thoroughness and clarity and think as both techniques make knitting cables so much quicker and easier that it would be a great learning opportunity for anyone who wanted to firm up their skills with either.
There are a couple of books that I always carry with me (figuratively, if not literally) as a means of escape with added lessons to take back into real life when I am ready to return. One is Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years Of […]
I haven’t spun in a long while. I’ve spun on and off for the better part of ten years, first on spindles and then I later bought myself a spinning wheel as a congratulations to myself for persisting. It was one of my more symbolic purchases along with my first trilobite as both were things I had harboured dreams of owning but often didn’t think I would ever have. I would knit more often than spin so it seemed an extravagance, but it was wonderful knowing that I could spin and make yarn that I would cherish knitting any time I wanted. And I have made what I think are a few nice skeins of yarn both on the spindle and on my wheel.
I don’t know if I spin ‘correctly’. I am sure that I do not spin in the best and most widely recognised style, because I somehow have got to this point without ever actually seeing another person spin either in real life or on a video, or even having read a book or website on the subject. I was sent my first spindle by a friend many years ago and sort of figured that out: how to set it spinning and pull out a fine sliver of fibre whilst it was going, to twist and then wind onto the spindle.
When I bought my wheel I set my husband to the task of putting it together, and once I worked out which each bit did and how to attach the fibre to the bobbin, I just sort of migrated and adapted what I had learned on the spindle. I probably have a lot that I could learn and improve on, but I also create yarn that I do enjoy knitting with, which is what I want for now. I would like to learn to spin a heavier ply as I seem stuck at one particular ply weight, and if anything prompts me to learn a bit more and seek help it will likely be that.
But I have not done any spinning for a while now. When I was pregnant I did not carry gracefully or comfortably, and my baby was training as whatever the solo version of a synchronised swimmer might be. Arms, legs and bony backside jutting out everywhere. His bum was so bony that one midwife we saw during a late pregnancy check up confused it with his head. It’s a problem we still experience today.
When the screaming pink wrinkly thing came into the world there was a brief time when I took spinning back up again, and I started spinning some fibre I bought whilst pregnant, but the period of time when a baby is content to lay still and look up to you with adoring eyes is all too short, and soon enough he was off wearing at the knees of his sleepsuits, crawling to explore all of the things he could touch, and so the wheel was moved to another room of the house.
Only these past few days have I told myself it’s really not that much work asking my husband to bring the wheel in from the other room, and I have started spinning up three plies of yarn from a set of Hilltop Cloud Rainbow Sprinkles. To mitigate the fact that I can only seem to spin one weight and would like to knit a slightly thicker yarn, I have decided to spin this selection of fibre up as a 3-ply yarn.
The set consists of 160g of fibre made up of 20g each of eight colours: white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and charcoal. I wanted the skein to move through the shades in that order, but I also wanted to stagger the transitions slightly, so I split each of the six spectrum colours into three equal sections (by eye, I don’t spin consistently enough to make precise fibre splitting advantageous) and the white and charcoal sections I split to be purposefully unequal. I started by splitting the white skeins into three equal(ish) sections, then I split one of those sections in half and added one of those halves to one of the other sections. Essentially (if my maths is right), one of the sections of white fibre is ¹⁄₆ of the total, one is ²⁄₆ and the other ³⁄₆ (or ⅙, ⅓ and ½). By adjusting the amount of white yarn spun onto each bobbin hopefully each of the colours that follows afterwards will be similarly staggered, and I will reverse the proportional split when ending with the charcoal yarn to give a roughly equal total spun length on each bobbin.
Like pretty much everything else I am just guessing at what I am doing here, so it might not work at all, but if luck is on my side I may have something interesting result from this spinning experiment soon, and then I’ll just have to think up a suitable project.
May the new year continue to bring creativity and enjoyment!