This little cardigan has been a marathon in the making because I saw a sample at Knit City 2019 with my friend, Mairi, and then continued to think about it throughout the festival. I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I just loved the look of it and thought the pockets were brilliant.
The question was: Spend money on some commercial yarn or spin the fibre for the sweater? I waffled. But when I saw some Falkland at my friend, Lynne’s booth – Westcoast Colour, I thought, “Done.” I even started spinning the next day at the SweetGeorgia Spin-In on Sunday afternoon!
The only piece left was finding some Mohair/Silk yarn that I would hold double with the finished handspun but that was fixed by stumbling on some in the Farmers Daughter Fibers booth on their Mighty Mo (70% Kid Mohair, 30% Silk) yarn, Warm Melted Butter.
The fibre I started with was just balled up by Lynne, which I love because there’s no guessing about colours or repeats or anything – you can just unravel it and look! Lynne broke off about 350 grams for me since I knew I needed about 300 grams for my project based on my suspected grist of my finished yarn. I wanted the cardigan to be light and airy so I knew I’d spin this short-backward, smoothing the fibres gently so as not to create a very dense yarn that I would have with a short-forward. My yarns spun short forward are always more dense than my short-backwards yarns.
The fibre held many colours, such as dark purple, yellow, brown and gold. It was a tonal, analogous length of fibre and would be described overall as ‘yellow-brown’ (my favourite colour!). I broke up the fibre by creating many, many small nests of fibre and spinning randomly. I love this type of auto-pilot spinning – it’s relaxing, meditative and quite fast.
I spun through the fibre relatively quickly and as I came to end of the spin, I worried that the yarn wouldn’t suit the cardigan pattern I’d planned. I decided, after airing my thoughts on the podcast, to just shelve these ideas and continue with the plan.
The thing with holding a yarn like mohair/silk with a spin like this is that the fuzzy nature of the mohair evens out the stitches and creates a blending. This creates an overall homogeneity to the fabric, and while the tonality of the underlying yarn is still visible (photo below), by changing the appearance of the stitches themselves, which appear fuzzy. I love this effect (although I didn’t love it when this current trend started on Ravelry).
Sometimes I hear people complain about holding two yarns double because it can be a slightly frustrating experience for newer knitters but create even tension on both yarns and stick with it – I promise, it gets easier!
After my singles were spun, I plied all of the singles into traditional 2-ply yarn. I’d waffled about making a 3-ply yarn but due to the strength of the Mohair/Silk yarn, I decided to stay with a 2-ply. This also limited the bulkiness of the yarn, and allowed it to remain light and airy. I think if I’d made a multi-ply yarn I would be disappointed with the results to be honest.
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know how important I think it is to swatch and sample. I don’t often use my swatches for gauge (which many might find surprising). I find that when I knit cardigans from the top-down, I can try it on and adjust the fit as I go. This means I am not hamstrung to a stitch or row count – I can adjust and fine-tune as I go. No, knitwear doesn’t fit exactly when finished as it does with needles in it during the making process but I am able to get a good idea of how things will fit. I also don’t like my knitwear to be super tight so I’m okay with 2-5″ of positive ease.
As you can see, there’s a lot of variation between the yarns that I made – even though I spun and plied randomly! This is easily overcome by striping the yarns as you knit, and I will discuss this in more detail in the next post tomorrow!