Reader Feature: Johanna Carter

We asked long-time PLY reader Johanna Carter a few questions about her spinning and crafting life.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started spinning.

I knit quite fast and wanted to slow my knitting down, as it is not so cheap to buy yarn, so I asked a friend to show me how to spin on a spindle. We only had a short time, and then she left me with a spindle and some fibre. The next day I ordered a small spindle, fibre, and Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle.

The first fibre I spun was Merino and BFL. After 3 weeks, I finished making my first sweater from my handspun. I had no idea about plying or finishing the yarn; I just made balls of wool and knitted a sweater. Though now it is old, it is very soft, a little bit felted and pilling, but I still like it.

After spinning on a spindle for 6 months, I had made 3 sweaters, a cardigan for my husband, and lots of other things. That Christmas, my family gave me an Ashford Traditional double drive spinning wheel as a present.

Do you have a favorite type of yarn to spin?

My favorite fibre is Shetland. We even went to Shetland for a holiday! All the natural colors are just so nice, and I love to do Fair Isle and stranded knitting. I also like to work with soft yarns, such as Falkland, Rambouillet, alpaca, BFL, Chubut, cashmere, and silk.

What do you like to make with your handspun?

I love making soft sweaters I can wear next to my skin, tams, wristwarmers, and cowls, all with lots of color.

I knit without patterns, and I invent the sweaters as I knit. What I don’t like to do is follow a pattern or knit plain sweaters as I get bored too quickly.

How long have you been reading PLY?

When I started spinning in the summer of 2013, my friend left me a copy. I liked it so much that I ordered it and have all the issues from the beginning.

What do you look forward to most when you get an issue?

I look forward to everything. I like to read about different sheep and their fleece or about spindles. I like the articles about history or different ways to spin. What I miss are the Stealth Reviews; for me they were really helpful. I loved the one about spindles, which is how I got to know Bosworth spindles, which are my favorites.

Tell us about a project you worked on that was inspired by an article, project or issue of PLY.

I made a sweater with natural dyes – madder, onion skins, rose petals, cochineal, and especially indigo – which I have not tried before.

The project started with carding different fibers and colors on my drumcarder.
I used mostly Falkland and blended it with a bit of grey Shetland, baby alpaca, and recycled Sari silk. I also blended different colors together to get various colors and shades; in total I worked with 24 different shades. I used traditional Fair Isle motifs but also made up a few. I knit the sweater from the top down, which is my preferred method.

For this project I learned a lot about blending and mixing fibre on my drumcarder; it was nice to see the colors transform into a new shade. I learned how to make a tweed yarn with the recycled Sari silk, which I like very much. The yarn I spun is very soft, and it has a bit of a halo because of the baby alpaca.

As I used lots of little balls of wool, I just spun small amounts and did a ply ball so I only needed one bobbin and there were no singles left over.

It is very difficult to pinpoint which issue or article inspired the project because I’ve learned so much from PLY and get so many ideas. I guess lots of articles about blending or color gave me inspiration for this project.

For more of Johanna’s projects, check out her Ravelry page: johannarichard

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