handspun · knitting · knitting with handspun · shawl · yarn

my snoqualmie story.

There is something very profound and rewarding about designing, spinning and knitting a yarn. I have talked ad nauseam about the process to create this particular yarn, as well as shared immensely about the spinning and knitting process {and here}. It was quite the project for me to tackle at the end of the year and while I couldn’t be happier with the results, I very much appreciate the process it takes to create something from true beginning to end.

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Very briefly, I created this yarn from fibre in my stash that I had been ‘saving’ for something epic. This state-of-mind that some of us makers have about ‘saving’ things we view as special or unique is something I have been attempting to overcome. While I appreciate that there will be things that come into my stash that hold a particular place in my heart, I don’t want that to hold me back from creating with those items.

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After spinning the Hedgehog Fibres Merino, Alpaca, Silk & Sparkle blend, I really wanted to work with a wool/Alpaca blend again. I couldn’t get it out of my head so I dove into my stash and found some natural, undyed BFL and Alpaca. Weighing out each and calculating what it would take to make an 85% BFL/15% Alpaca blend on my drum carder, I proceeded to use all of the Alpaca I had in my stash to create roughly 6 – 1.5oz batts. This fibre prep was done in anticipation of Spinzilla 2015, and through out the week this was the spin I focused on until it was finished. In the end, I had roughly 920 yards of 2-ply semi-woolen spun DK weight yarn. It was soft, lofty and slightly fuzzy. After knitting this huge shawl in the yarn, I can honestly say I really loved the handle of this yarn. It has drape, softness and stitch definition.

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Once the yarn was created, however, I felt paralysed or frozen when I started knitting with it. I cast on several projects and ripped each out. I contemplated knitting a sweater, a different shawl that remains in my queue, several smaller projects and even nothing at all! I finally stumbled on the Snoqualmie Valley Shawl, which was a mystery knit-along originally and the pattern is written as such, but I didn’t buy it or cast on immediately. I continued to waffle about the nature of the yarn, the intensity of the white was a bit of a hang-up for me, and I felt almost intimidated by it.

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Pattern :: Stories from Snoqualmie Valley by Annie Rowden

Yarn :: undyed, natural BFL/Alpaca (85%/15%) handspun, semi-woolen 2-ply, DK

Needles :: 4.00mm 32” circular

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Cosy and warm, the Alpaca offers drape. The BFL offers sheen and loft. Designing a yarn from ‘scratch’ is an amazing thing.

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After a few weeks, I decided to take the plunge and buy Annie’s pattern. I knew I would knit it someday, so I figured why not? I read through the extensive information about the original yarn meant for this pattern and decided to cast on one night. Due to tiredness, I cast on many times, read the chart wrong, ripped and restarted more times than I care to admit, but I knew it was the right pattern for the yarn. Immediately, the stitches sang as I created the cables and worked across the cable and lace. I knew I’d chosen wisely.

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For me, the wearability of a shawl is the make or break of whether the pattern was successful. I am happy to report that even though this oversized shawl is huge, it is completely wearable. The cable and lace chart repeats many, many times, which I thought would become tedious and frustrating but instead, I enjoyed it. That challenging nature of the patterning kept my interest but with the breaks and rest rows, it never became a burden.

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Originally, my plan was to dye this in natural Logwood but I have completely abandoned that. I love it the way it is and I am so super proud of how this turned out.

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I had a wee helper to photograph this but because it was –3 degrees outside, she got a little cold and wanted to cuddle.

What was your creative highlight of 2015? I’d love to hear about it! Any big plans for 2016?

9 thoughts on “my snoqualmie story.

  1. I love this shawl. i am in the middle of spinning a large amount of tussah silk in dk weight. You have me thinking about this pattern. Love the cables.

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  2. Rachel, this is utterly gorgeous!!! Fabulous job with the yarn and the pattern. I bet it feels like a dream!

    I love following your blog—getting your insights and reading about what you’ve learned with a project is tremendously helpful in my own knitting. And I *completely* related to your words on not “saving” something special in your stash. “Don’t let it hold you back from creating with it.” Words of wisdom indeed and a great way to kick off a mentality for the new year. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoy reading :) you’re totally right, starting the year off with the attitude to use and create with what we have is great!

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  3. Love, love your blog and podcast! I have Navajo plied a couple of times and the yarn comes our rather stiff. Your yarn always looks so soft and pliable. Any tips?

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    1. Thank you! I found this when I started Navajo plying too — it may be one or two things. Your singles might be overspun. Or, on the flip side, you may have too much ply twist. If you’re Navajo plying BFL or another long wool, they can often feel very stiff once plied and there are other ways of spinning BFL to avoid this (next episode will touch on this). To decrease your ply twist, go to a larger pulley, slow your feet or speed up your hands. Doors that help? Let me know how it goes!!!

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