I like it

Taken by roomlight on the kitchen table so the colours aren’t quite right, that’s almost all of my spinning to date. The white is my very first yarn (undyed blueface leicester), the rest is the merino and silk I posted about on the weekend. These have been treated according to the method in Priscilla Gibson-Roberts Spinning in the Old Way: the skeins were heated in water with a little woolwash slowly to simmering point, then allowed to cool naturally before rinsing carefully. I put a little vinegar in the last rinsewater, as I’ve read that wool and silk prefer to be slightly acidic. I allowed them to drip-dry a bit, then ‘set’ the twist by putting my hands into the skein and pulling them apart, smartly, several times. After washing, the wool and silk plies had become a bit limp, separated in places, and the end result looked a bit sad. I was astonished by the effect of ‘setting’ the twist: everything just snapped into place insofar as my spinning allowed it to do so. Joanne has very kindly and patiently been answering my plaintive queries about spinning (that’s the third time I’ve had to go back and insert the ‘p’ in ‘spin’. Are my fingers trying to tell me something?) via email; she commented that merino is more difficult to spin (I thought it was my incompetence), and that it tends to bulk up a lot after washing. Which it did — it became incredibly puffy. And this is what it looks like knitted Not so bad. In fact I like it a lot. I’d like it better with less lime, but still… the colours are true in that picture, but a bit washed out by bright sunlight. In my hands it reminds me of the northern lights, sheets of colour sliding across the night sky. I like it enough that I’m not going to knit that sample anymore, I’m going to frog and wind it back into a tidy ball to wait until I’ve got enough to knit a hat. Which means I get to play with the colours more. Making one length of randomly-selected wool and silk, then plying it back on itself made my inconsistent yarn even more inconsistent, as two thick or two thin bits together rather emphasise their presence. Plying a length of wool (of more carefully selected colours) with a length of silk (similarly selected) will result in something a little more even, and every bit of it will have silk shimmering in the light. While knitting this I realised it is possible to paint with hand-spun yarn: a consistent spinner/knitter could actually do the math to work out precisely where to change colours to make a garment coloured precisely as s/he wished. The rest of us can settle for planned colour combinations and hope for serendipitous intersections.

And this is what’s been eating my knitting time recently. I just can’t leave them alone!These are socks, started as Widdershins to learn toe-up with heel flap, but rapidly metamorphosed into something different. Still toe-up, but I had to re-write the cables to accommodate more stitches due to my liking for smaller needles and finer yarn. (Mountain Colors Bearfoot wool/mohair from Caryll in Ruby River. This was one of the yarns waiting for me in Canada, but she does ship to the UK.) The two outermost cables are from Widdershins, the rest are mine. And I utterly adore the result. I think the cable combination works well (I’m so proud) and the colour… it’s scarlet and burgundy and crimson and carmine and vermilion and murrey and minium, with dashes of copper. It’s the very essence of red, and the colour and cables combined make me think of ‘opulent’ and ‘baroque’ every time I see them. After making my ‘class sock’ and reading Mim’s detailed instructions, I am looking forward to the challenge of the toe-up heelflap as I work doggedly up the slope of the gusset.

And what might be a useful link if you’re looking for cards, or a Christmas gift for the person who has everything: get them some special paper on which to write thank-you letters. I bought some; sadly it’s too thick to feed through a laser printer, but it has a lovely texture, takes ink well, and doesn’t smell at all.


6 thoughts on “I like it

  1. Joanne

    You’re doing it! You’re making beautiful yarn! More importantly, I think I hear a small soupcon of pride in there? Good for you. Be proud. You are now a very clever spinner. :)


  2. Debby

    I love the way you describe your wool in natural terms…northern lights…you make “green” “blue” etc sound so much prettier and more magical. I’m very impressed with your cable socks. They look so nice and warm!


  3. Cassie

    I love the socks (I swear I have some in that colorway that looks nothing like yours), and your spinning looks fabulous. I still need to learn toe-up – its a lack-of-skill that’s been nagging me for years now. Beautiful work!


  4. ted

    The thing to remember about “barberpole yarns” — as they’re called — is that what you do with them will also effect the eye’s perception of the colour blend. Your lime-green blend has toned down in the knitted sample, and from a distance it will be even more toned down. Would be interesting to see what happens if you crochet with it.Do you have Deb Menz’s book “Color in Spinning”?


  5. sarah

    All these comments and I’ve not been back to bask in the warmth :-)Ted, I don’t — but I’m off to look at it as soon as I publish this. You’re right, I need to think about what the spinning and knitting process does to the colours. I like the way the ‘barberpole’ (good name, that) works on related colours, but the distinct patterning on the lime isn’t what I wanted, although I didn’t know that until I saw it. I think I’d prefer occasional thin dashes of pure lime. Experimentation is required… sample, sample, sample, as my weaving teacher said.



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