One – photos don’t lie
If the photos look soft and inviting and sumptuous … the yarn very likely will be also. (Clear, well lit photos also show that the seller takes great pride in her work.)
Above is a handspun from Knotty Naomi on Etsy, which I immediately fell in love with. Doesn’t it look soft? And I knew immediately from the rich sheen that the fiber contained silk (which it does). The yarn was even lovelier in person – you can see the finished scarf at the very top of this post!
Two – a secret to help reduce curl
I’m sure you’ve been frustrated before when knitting stockinette scarves by the dreaded scarf curl. There’s really no way around this if you’re knitting straight stockinette, but you can make it a little less curly.
Stockinette fabric curls with the stockinette (knit) side facing out, and the purl side curling in to itself. Purl stitches use more yarn than knit stitches. If you knit in the round, you’ll get a much different gauge than knitting with straight needles, because all of your stitches are knit stitches.
Making your purl stitches take about the same amount of yarn as knit stitches will reduce curl. It’s that extra yarn in the purl stitch that creates the curl. One way to do this is to use one size smaller needle on the purl side of your scarf. Or if your tension is pretty loose, try two sizes smaller. See what works best for you – and let me know how it goes!
Three – how to deal when your yarn breaks
The beauty of knitting with handspun is that it’s handmade. A real, live person actually made your yarn. Spinners and dyers get this: when you start making yarn, you understand the magic in this statement. We’re all so used to commercially spun yarn!
Because your beautiful thick and thin yarn was spun by a living creature, there’s a good chance that your yarn might break as you knit it.
Why does this happen?
Handspun yarn too loosely spun (not enough twist) can literally fall apart on you. If there’s not sufficient twist to lock the fibers into place, the fibers slide right past each other and – oops – you have two separate pieces of yarn.
Also, if your handspun wasn’t set or blocked, the same thing happens. When you finish spinning your yarn, you need to set the twist with a little bath. Some spinners “full” or very gently felt the slubs (the thick bits), making your yarn a bit sturdier.
Even then, your yarn could break, maybe because your tension is really tight or your cat was chewing on the yarn overnight or for any number of reasons. Luckily, you never need to panic. Because you can simply felt the ends together.
Here’s what you do. Most often, thick/thin handspun breaks at the thin point. Use a little water to thoroughly moisten both ends, lay them alongside eachother on your open palm and then rub your palms together with the split ends. You should feel a little heat build up from the friction. Check the ends – are they starting to meld together? If so, continuing this until the ends feel securely felted together when you gently tug on the yarn. What you’re doing is felting the ends together via moisture (the water) and heat (the friction). (This is also a great way to attach a new skein or ball of yarn.)
But like all felting, this only works with feltable fiber, which should have at least 50% animal hair (wool, etc.).
Try knitting with thick and thin!
If you haven’t tried knitting with thick and thin before, I highly recommend doing so! You can knit up a scarf in just an hour or two that will be full of beautiful color and wonderful texture, and you didn’t even have to follow a pattern.
Let me know what other questions you have about knitting with thick and thin handspun in the comments!