Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns

Part of any fiber enthusiast's hobby is an appreciation of yarn. Choose two yarns that you have either used, are in your stash, or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them

By Michaela McIntosh

At the time, I was in a hurry, wanted something to knit on an eight hour plane trip and needed to be able to finish. I wanted, for once, to buy the yarn and the pattern for it at the same time. I even was going to buy the recommended yarn for the pattern. Well, doesn't everybody?

Well, no. Not if  you are a spinner and used to making your own yarn. Nor does being a spinner keep you from buying yarn you fall in love with but don't have project for. So, this time I was going to get the pattern for the yarn I had chosen or vice versa, depending on which came first.

So, out I went to our wonderful Village Knittery in Summerville. Emily, the shops most knowledgeable proprietress, was happy to stop what she was doing and help. I told her I wanted something easy, fast, and luxurious feeling. She suggested a shrug, and produced the pattern and showed me where the particular yarns for it were. There were skeins of blue, rose, and soft sage green; all with just a touch of heathery slubs. It felt delicious.I could picture the recipient snuggling into it and thinking what a wonderful solution to the chill of a wet Northwest winter.  I selected the blue and purchased the skeins, pattern, and a few other items.

It knit up beautifully to gauge. It felt so good in my hands I didn't want to put the project down. I didn't want to give it away, but that was the purpose of this not-so-cheap foray. I got a beautiful yarn and expert advice. It was heaven, the kind of project that makes you want to keep knitting forever! When I gave it to my friend, you can imagine my disappointment when she said without enthusiasm, "Oh, now nice, homemade." Well, maybe it wasn't her color.

I took that pattern and decided to substitute some hand-spun, hand-dyed Shetland that I had plyed with sewing thread to make my hand-dyed yarn go further. At the time, my employment was as a demonstration weaver and historical interpreter from the 1700s. Using some odd skeins of other shades of hand-dyed yarns that were not Shetland, but from the plantation sheep, yarn that had been spun mostly as demonstration yarn, with much stop and go, I started another shrug.

The gauge was slightly different, but I didn't make any adjustment for it. There was really no fitting to this garment. While the texture was different, I was enjoying this project just as much as the first. The rusty, reddish Shetland I used for the first three inches, then added in madder-dyed yarn from the second batch out of the dye bath, then I totally dropped the Shetland and continued with the madder-dyed for most of the way up to where the should seam would be if there was one.

Here, I switched to a skein of light gold yarn and finally to a dark gold that I know was dyed from coreopsis plants. The fabric was quite stretchy and springy, perfect for stretching over your shoulders and very apropos of the setting I was going to be wearing it in. I can wear it with the rusty red end as the collar portion or turn it upside down so the yellow-gold shades form the collar (which I don't do, but only because yellow is not one of my colors.) I've received many compliments on its authenticity.

This project also gave me a greater appreciation for the value of spinning intentionally. None of the yarns that I used had been spun with a project in mind. It shows. In this particular instance, it didn't really matter, but I will make it matter in the future. Whether your yarn is spun commercially or hand-spun, using the correct yard for a projected outcome is key to being satisfied or even thrilled (as with the blue yarn) about the end result.

(to find other blogs participating in the 2nd Annual Knitting & Crochet Blog Week, enter
" 2KCBWDAY1 " - without the quotation marks, into your search engine.)

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