Use Your Yarn

I teach a lot of classes and I am always surprised at how many spinners I meet who don’t use their handspun yarns for projects. They give me lots of reasons for it. (1) They don’t think they have enough yarn for a project or (2) they don’t have enough matching skeins or (3) they think their yarn is crappy or (4) they don’t really know how to use it or (5) they sell it.

I have answers for all of this and I hope if you are a person who doesn’t use their hand spun yarn that I can help you change your mind. Let’s go through the reasons one at a time.

Number 1: Not enough yarn for a project. 2015-11-29 12.06.07

For this problem, if you are a knitter or crocheter, I love Ravelry. If you go to the Patterns section you can search based on yarn size and yardage for projects and you would be amazed at how many projects there are available for small amounts of yarn. I just finished this Lucky Cowl  designed by Amy King with a teeny tiny skein.

 

Number 2: Not enough Matching Skeins

pinkorangeshawl

It’s funny how we all have some kind of color scheme that we stick to when we buy fiber. what that means is that most of your fiber will coordinate. It doesn’t need to matche exactly to make a project. In addition, this shawl was made with 3 different thicknesses of yarn. and it worked and it’s warm and I love it. This shawl was made using the Knitting Lace Triangle Shawls book by Evelyn Clark

 

Number 3: The Yarn isn’t Good EnoughIMG_20140128_164238

This is a terrible excuse! Here’s the great thing about using your yarn – The lumps get hidden in the fabric or make a nice texture. See the yarn on the right? It’s Columbia, three ply, spun with a long draw which is less consistent than short draw. It also is a roving that has a lot of neps in it so that adds to the texture. I used it for the Hiro hiroSweater which was designed by Julia Farwell Clay. But check ouot the finished sweater! All of those lumps disappear!

I wear this sweater all the time! You can even see the dirt stains in this photo because I don’t want to take it off long enough to clean it. I love it so much I’m thinking of making another one. Probably with lumpy yarn, too.columbiaskirt

I used the same fiber for a weaving project I’m working on. I made the yarn a bit thinner but it still is not very consistent but I made a beautiful skirt from the woven fabric! (Ignore maggie’s messy room behind me.)

 

Number 4: Not Sure What to Do With It

This is where sampling or trying things or just swatching comes in. Maybe you need a beginning knitting/crochet/weaving lesson. Maybe you need to find a group of people who are also interested in yarn. Maybe you should pick out a project from a Ply Magazine issue and work on it.Most of us are spinning smooth yarns and the magazine reflects that but there are plenty of articles, the current issue and a couple of issues coming up that will inspire those of you who love textured yarns.

Number 5: Sell The Yarn

Here is where I will climb atop my very tall soap box. And these words go for even those who don’t sell their yarn but aren’t using it. How can you know how to improve your yarn if it isn’t being used in any projects or swatches? How do you know that it even works as intended? Please, please, please! Use your yarn. See how it acts in the fabric. See if it softens or gets more firm. check if the plying is too tight or too loose. Make sure it doesn’t fall apart or begin to pill before the skein is even used up. These things will make you a better spinner.

If you don’t know how to weave/knit/crochet, ask a friend to try some out and give you feedback. You can always use these samples and swatches to help sell future yarns.

Yarn is not a finished object.

What are you working on with your handspun yarn? Let me know!

And the Winner Is!

Thank you so much for all of you who took the time to review the Texture Issue of Ply. The winner of the batts is Christina Bowers!

 

 

26 replies
  1. Juliann
    Juliann says:

    I love knitting with handspun yarn. I have made sweaters, socks, gloves, shawls, cowls, scarves, and hats. If I am going to sell it, I have to show folks how it looks made up. I agree with you that the imperfections work themselves out in the finishing. I love my merino/alpaca sweater the best. It bloomed into the warmest, prettiest sweater. I wanted the red in the sweater to darken, so I added some black alpaca and blended it in with the red. Perfect color.

    Reply
  2. Kim Montgomery
    Kim Montgomery says:

    What a great article!! I find my self spinning for the shear enjoyment and have now just recently started using my own yarns. I gave it away to friends that loved it!

    I made a hat with some yarn spun while getting to know my new Pocket wheel. It was by no means my best but I trudged on with making a hat for one of my EMS drivers. (I’m an EMT in my regular life) He shaves his head and recently commented that he needed to find a really warm hat while we were out on calls. I surprised him by slipping it into his locker, and he loves it!

    Reply
  3. Aileen Sitero
    Aileen Sitero says:

    I love knitting with my handspun. I have a Hitchhiker and a pair of vanilla socks on the needles in handspun. It’s magical!

    Reply
    • Katherine Henry
      Katherine Henry says:

      Hitchhiker is such a GREAT hand spun project. I am currently spinning on a new Turkish spindle making singles and knitting as I go. I love doing a bit of spinning and then knitting straight from the ball the spindle makes. Each time I pull it out of my handbag I decide if I am in a flicking, spinning, or knitting mood/location.

      Reply
  4. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    I use mine! I’ve done a lot of scarves and shawls, socks, and I’m working on my first hand spun from fleece sweater now. I do need some help on using more of my funky textured skeins though.

    Reply
  5. Katherine Henry
    Katherine Henry says:

    This is such great advice and a good reminder. I fondle my yarn dreaming of a project, untwist the bundle, contemplate, but then too often set it back on the shelf and shut the cabinet. Each time I knit/weave with my handspun, I learn something very important. A cowl from a beautiful Romney was the latest.

    Reply
  6. Tanja
    Tanja says:

    > Yarn is not a finished object.
    *takes a deep breath and tries to calm the panic attack*

    😉 Just kidding. I use my handspun. My current spinning will become a woven shawl. My spinning is not that consistent with this set of mini-batts, which is annoying, but I figure if I don’t care then neither will anyone else.

    Reply
  7. Danielle Clarke
    Danielle Clarke says:

    I only spin what I need for a project. Seriously. I don’t have any yarn stash, save a few leftover bits and bobs. And I only have 1-2 projects going at any one time. So I decide what I want to make, source the fibre I want to use, spin a little, swatch it, spin enough plus a little extra, then knit while I start planning the next project 🙂

    Reply
  8. Agatha
    Agatha says:

    This was a great post and it really did help! I am currently using a textured handspring (new for me) and I’ve got a project lined up for weaving with another. Thank you and keep being awesome!

    Reply
  9. TC
    TC says:

    I took up spinning in Feb this year and for the first couple of months just had skeins of lumpy yarn strewn around the house. I used several of the excuses above until one day I was asked to donate a real wool hat for a homeless person. What a revelation! My lumpy yarn became a beanie hat and miraculously most of the lumps were no longer an issue. My hand spun yarn was real yarn! We all make excuses, often because we don’t have faith in our own abilities, I know I do but since then I have used my yarn in tapestry, knitting, crochet and weaving. I love it, I am in control and as long as I like the result then it’s all good. Great article and some great advice!

    Reply
  10. Mellissa Uber-Lopez
    Mellissa Uber-Lopez says:

    Use friendly Jacey! Thank you, with your book I have learned to spin! My over twisted first time yarn, that I hate, then love as its became an art yarn! My art yarn, and now PLY magazines, that only talks about yarn, Fibers, spinning etc. Love it ! Keep up that good work!

    Love from down under New Zealand.

    Reply
  11. Stephanie Land
    Stephanie Land says:

    Great blog post! I have used my hand spun yarns from the very beginning of my spinning life….mostly I weave with it but I have knitted and crocheted with it as well….my very first yarns from the first raw fleece I processed became a woven long vest sort of thing that I love still…it is 10 years old now….I agree with you, why spin it if you aren’t going to use it!!

    Reply
  12. Kimberly Burnette-Dean
    Kimberly Burnette-Dean says:

    My bigggest problem is that I spin WAY faster than I can knit! I have a huge stash and I sell a lot of my yarn because I enjoy spinning so much. However, when I do knit, I exclusive use my handspun because I get a real charge out of looking at the finished project and knowing that I not only knitted the item, but I MADE THE YARN! Hee-hee!

    Reply
  13. Lisa Wyatt
    Lisa Wyatt says:

    I haven’t been spinning very long and I don’t think my handspun is that great as yet, but I am learning to embrace its quirkiness and use it. I have just tonight finished a newborn photography prop using my handspun and some wool locks 🙂

    Reply
  14. Karrie
    Karrie says:

    I use my handspun. I’ve knit hats, fingerless gloves, socks, sweaters shawls. I even knit a shawl from a pattern in PLY- happy to report I won a first place ribbon in our local fall fair. I’ve recently bought a RH Loom and have been weaving with my handspun.
    I agree with other comments here I can spin it faster than I can knit it.

    Reply
  15. Laura W
    Laura W says:

    I have four skeins (well five, but this fifth one is my very first tiny skein ever and it’s going to be my “see how far I’ve come” skein) that I’ve spun so far. One has been turned into a gorgeous cowl, and the other three will be knitted into something over the next few months. I love knowing that my cowl (and eventually the other things I make) have gone from floof to finished object by my own two hands. 🙂

    Reply
  16. Sylv
    Sylv says:

    Not sure I could pinpoint why I don’t use my handspun, but it’s probably both because somehow it’s “too special” to be waisted on any project that wouldn’t be exceptional, as most of it was spun using fiber given or swapped.. And I’m afraid a knitted/crocheted items wouldn’t do it justice.
    Also, finding an exciting small project to use up 100g skeins isn’t easy, as I’d want to use up every tiny bit of it. And apart from a cowl or scarf, this would hard to achieve.
    Finally, most of my handspun was the result of experiments: break up the fiber into several bits, each spun with a different technique. Thus I’ll have 100g of a very dear colorway spun partly thick-and-this, parly worsted weight 3-ply, and parly thinner 2-ply. Not easy to decide what to do with those…

    Working on it though, as I’m now spinning for a sweater. Let’s hope it will work 🙂

    Reply
  17. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I love knitting with my handspun and might try weaving some in the near future. Right now tho, I have some super bulky on the needles making Christmas mittens. Next? Not sure, as I have 3 skeins I simply could not part with and want to do something for meeeeeeee!

    Reply
  18. Lindy Barnes
    Lindy Barnes says:

    I am knitting a pair of mittens using someone else’s handspun. It is a “ah-ha” moment for me. This yarn is consistently inconsistent – skinny and smooth in spots, thick and and almost not spun in others – just like my own handspun. If this person can spin this way and sell her handspun for a very decent price and then I bought it and am knitting with it then surely I can knit with my own. An awakening for me 😀

    Reply
  19. Dorothea
    Dorothea says:

    GREAT POST! I couldn’t agree more! And what a great slogan for a sweatshirt: “Yarn is not a finished object!” You can’t see it, Beth, but I am TOTALLY doing the happy dance over here! Thank you so much for saying out loud what I think LOUDLY all the time!! XXX

    Reply
  20. Donna
    Donna says:

    when I started spinning 40+ yrs ago, I just used what I made lumpy bumpy thick, thin, smooth not, it really didn’t matter, we were new at this old game.
    I went though a stage where it wasn’t good enough, another where all I did was spin and sell,
    Now many many years later, it all makes me laugh!
    I spin, I start a project if I don’t have enough no worries, I know I can create more !
    so I have learned to relax and enjoy !

    Reply
  21. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    My handspun typically becomes its own FO simply because I can’t seem to knit fast enough! I have several skeins that are sitting on my desk just waiting for me to cast them on when I finish some of my current FOs… and they have now been staring at me longingly for about 6 months.

    Reply
  22. Aaron Lewis
    Aaron Lewis says:

    I started spinning because I was not happy with the knitting yarn I could buy. Now, I can spin whatever I need. It has taken 5 or 6 years, but today the yarn I spin is better than the yarn I can buy.

    I buy fiber in bulk, and if I need a more yarn for a project, I just spin more yarn.

    I now have a loom, and usually have 50,000 yards of fine singles around for the next weaving project, but I find that those singles often get retasked and plied up into knitting yarns,

    Reply
  23. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    The best thing I ever did was start knitting with my handspun. I only wish I’d done it earlier. It has life! It feels different in my hands than commercial yarn and is a joy to work with. I’ve graduated to weaving on my rigid heddle with it and soon I’m going to banish all fears and warp up the floor loom with handspun. Truly unique, truly individual. No one else can possibly produce the same finished object and that in itself is a major attraction for using handspun.

    Reply

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