handspun still

From a small albeit quite comfortable chair in a laundry mat in Jasper, I can hear the many people around me doing the same thing on this dreary Wednesday morning. There’s a moisture in the air from the washing machines that never stop – it’s quite a busy place, I must say. This is one of my favourite places in Jasper, and when our family talks of moving here, I often think of this place. I’ve spent a lot of time here over the years. I actually finished knitting a sweater here once and wove in all the ends. The things we do when we are waiting …

Today, I am working on a shawl that I started when we pulled out of our driveway less than week ago. It was a lovely hot day and the kids had had a good sleep. The next few days, however, were another story. They didn’t sleep well in the trailer the first couple of nights, which we always expect but find difficult none-the-less. We ultimately have to go to bed with them and are forced to have more sleep than we normally do – 10-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep for the first few nights. What always surprises me about this is that we really need this sleep! We are grumpy and tired for the first 3-4 days as a result of the pace our life takes most of the time. In response, our bodies are slow and groggy from this inflicted rest. Slowly, though, our muscles relax and ultimately, from all the fresh air, we start to feel restored. Part of feeling restored is working on projects I have long wanted to both complete and cast on. This is one of those such projects.


Last night, I made it to the last two sections of lace that I need to complete before miles and miles of garter stitch. I’d like to use up the remaining yarn to minimize waste because I know the little bit left will be thrown into my stash of handspun minis and still, I don’t know what to do with them. The stack had to be moved into an XL Ziploc bag and I had to breathe deeply to calm myself. You may have noticed in the time you have been reading here or watching the vlog, I’m not a huge fan of stash. I don’t like the amassing of stuff*. I can spend money like the best of them, don’t get me wrong! But I definitely prefer a smaller stash of fibre and handspun. As you may know, I don’t buy a lot of yarn** anymore.

*I am actually a natural hoarder. I love collecting things and hanging onto them for sentimental value but it’s something I have worked hard to change about myself. Both my husband and I prefer a cleaner, more minimalist living environment, and part of creating that is minimizing the stuff we bring in – from paper to shoes to clothing to food to hobby-related paraphernalia. It’s not a natural state for me but I’m trying!

** I haven’t bought a skein of yarn since KnitCity 2015 and I haven’t knit with it yet.


This shawl is one of those precious items that started on a whim to re-create a concept that Grace Shalom Hopkins had created on one of her SPIN Weekly episodes, which you may remember. I wanted to see what combination drafting combed top and roving would be like in practice. Fun? Awkward? Annoying? Wonderful? Easy? In a nutshell, it was all of those things. It started quite awkward as one, either the combed top or roving, would inevitably want to take over. I’d be spinning away, thinking life was great, and look at my fibre-supply hand to see that either the combed top or roving had shifted to the side and was no longer being drafted. I spun all of this yarn on my Sidekick, which has started to break-in as I’ve used it more and more these past number of months. It was quite stiff until recently – the Scotch tensioning system was difficult to use until I switched it out for an elastic band and cotton thread. I much prefer an elastic to a metal coil any day but that’s my preference!

I’ve also found that the Sidekick likes a lot of oil to keep it moving nicely. My Matchless is that same way, so I’m not surprised with this finding. The portability of this wheel cannot be beat so while it’s not my personal favourite, it is a staple in my fleet. If I was pushed to say which is my favourite wheel in my fleet currently, I’d say that the Matchless is due to it’s versatility but my Lendrum is like my third arm. I’m incredibly in tune with it and love teaching on it. After sending out my whorls and flyers to Schacht, I’ve noticed a big difference as well because my whorls don’t ‘chatter’ now, which is lovely. All is now quiet when I am spinning!

As usual, I have become side-tracked. I was telling you about my shawl. The original combed top was from Hello Yarn as part of a Completely Twisted and Arbitrary SAL from a couple of years ago. I never had a chance to spin it as I was working on other things. The yarns that were submitted were beautiful and I liked them but the marling of the evergreen wasn’t my favourite. I wanted to create a gentler, more homogenous skein that still highlighted the colours from the original fibre. I created a roving on my drumcarder that I filmed here. I used some odds and ends from my stash that had a very teal-green, soft sky-blue palette. I loved the roving. I’d like to make some more and spin up just the roving as I have some odds left in my fibre stash. Mostly, the roving was Merino and firestar, silk noil and pulled sari silk. I threw in some sari threads as well. I’m surprised how much I love the effects of the thread in the knitted fabric. They add texture and interest, as well as sheen.

The blog post I wrote about the yarn itself is here but I plied the yarn very loosely. I almost wish I had thrown it back through the wheel one more time – it was barely balanced. After washing and snapping gently, it was borderline under-plied. The same thing happened with my Polwarth + Silk that I overdyed and knit into the Featherweight Cardigan. There are two problems that I see with these yarns:

  1. The under-plied or barely balanced yarns don’t have a nice twist angle so I don’t find them particularly nice to look at – the plies almost look like they are going to come apart (even thought they aren’t) because they lay next to each other, which is the case with 2-ply yarns anyhow but in an under-plied/barely balanced yarn, it is even more distinct. It’s almost offensive. I use these yarns as examples with my students of yarns that aren’t plied enough! They look overtly oval and flat.
  2. The lack of ply twist creates a lovely knitted fabric but not a particularly hard-wearing fabric. Although I haven’t worn it much, due to our warm weather through the Spring, I know that once I start wearing my Featherweight cardigan a lot, there will be pilling. But on a shawl, I don’t think it much matters.

The lovely thing about these under-plied yarns is that the lace opens up nicely with blocking. There’s something unbelievable about a 2-ply yarn and lace. When the yarn itself is kind of unremarkable, the finished and blocked lace is unreal! I don’t like the really fine, soft wools for this though. This shawl is mostly Rambouillet and Merino. These fine wools have so much crimp that over a relatively short period of time, they start to ‘bounce’ back to their original unblocked state. I think I prefer wools that are blended with a long wool. I’d like to see Corriedale blended with Wenselydale in a shawl. I think that would be amazing. It’s an experiment I’m hoping to try soon.

In the meantime, Isabell’s Paris Toujours is a lovely shawl pattern that grows outward, becoming longer and longer as you knit across. The final rows are a bit treacherous due to their length but I found it moved very quickly. And guess what? No modifications.


Pattern :: Paris Toujours by Isabell Kraemer

Yarn :: Handspun, Hello Yarn Combed Top in Lengthy Fibres Dew with drumcarded roving, ~650 yards fingering weight

Needles :: 4.5mm


As I wait for the last couple of moments for the dryer to finish, I can see that the colour transitions of this shawl were exactly as I was hoping for – the simple movement of the lace creates a lovely platform for the handspun to shine. I’m kind of in love with this shawl. Thank you to Isabell, who’s patterns I’m a huge fan of, for another lovely pattern.


Leave a Reply

Scroll to top
Browse Tags
%d bloggers like this: