I readily admit to a deep obsession love for gorgeous, soft, luscious yarn that is handspun so that it’s both thick and thin. Love!!! I mean look at the beautiful texture above (from Knotty Handspuns on Etsy)!
Indie, artisanal yarns, spun and/or dyed by hand are such a joy to knit with. When spun well. I’ve knit handspuns that literally fall apart on me, because the twist is so loose (or non-existent) and not set. Now I know that yarns are “blocked,” similarly to finished knits. A finished yarn has been washed and hung to dry after spinning and or dying. This helps remove debris, finger oils, vinegar (if used in dying) and also “sets” the twist, so that your yarn doesn’t fall apart on you.
(p.s., you might enjoy learning more about how yarn is made – it is such an eye opener! You will definitely benefit from doing so.)
Above is the yarn I used to knit the top photo’s scarf with. I know Naomi’s work, so didn’t hesitate to snatch this right up!
Look at the listing for the yarn, though. Naomi provides a LOT of both essential and invaluable information for potential customers, like yardage, weight, fiber content, average wpi for the slub (thick parts). She also includes care instructions, the colors, and a great section on how she finishes her yarn (note that this actually isn’t blocked, but it is dried flat after washing/setting the twist).
As a knitter, I love all of this invaluable information!
- I know that 94 yards with size 19 needles is more than sufficient for a scarf. I also know that if I use size 17 needles instead, I’ll just need to cast on one or two less stitches than normal.
- I know by the fiber’s luxurious sheen in the photos that silk or bamboo is present – Naomi confirms that the fiber is 20% silk.
- I can calculate yardage used, if I knit several items from one skein, thanks to Naomi including total yardage and weight. If I knit a neckwarmer, I may need to know how many yards I used. I can just weight the neckwarmer, and calculate the yardage used. I can’t do so without a total weight and total yardage, though.
Why am I pointing these things out to you? Because I love indie made yarns so much, I want everyone to try the handspun and hand dyed yarns – at least once – so that they can also fall in love. 🙂
Fortunately, in our global economy, you can order yarns from the other side of the globe with the click of your mouse. I order yarn and fiber from Ireland, Australia, all parts of the states, Canada, etc. I have bought lots of yarn that’s nearly unusable: not spun well, so much vegetation (plant debris) that it’s really not knittable, really poorly dyed, to name a few. I am now much more careful in my online purchasing of yarn!
If you’re ordering from someone you’re not familiar with, make sure they include lots of detail, but at LEAST:
- Total weight and yardage
- Fiber content (percentage is preferable)
- Weight (super bulky, chunky, worsted, etc.)
- Wraps per inch (wpi)
Bonus points if the spinner/dyer includes something about their process, the colors, etc.
I’ve seen many a beautiful looking yarn with a listing very similar to this:
“Wool yarn, purple and pink, handspun, about 50 yards”
Oy! What kind of wool (merino, falkland, blue faced leister are just a few)? The type of wool tells me how I can use the wool (merino is super soft but also a bit delicate, while falkland is sturdier, retains color super well, but isn’t very soft). What’s the weight (both actual weight and fiber width weight)? 50 yards of 3 oz yarn is going to be VERY dense if twisted tightly or VERY bulky if twisted loosely.
Look at the yarn maker’s feedback (if available). Does the spinner/dyer have a lot of regular customers? Look at those customer’s finished items, to see how the yarn looks used! Even if the knits aren’t that great (we are all learning at any given point!), you can usually tell if that’s the fault of the knitter or of the yarn. 🙂
This is one of my very favorite topics!
I would love to know what questions I can help you with about handspun yarn. I’d love to interview some of my favorite yarn makers here – is that something you’d be interested in, and if so, what would you love to learn?