Much of my spinning and making comes in waves. If I’m spinning for a big project, I’m not knitting much, or vice versa. During busy or stressful times in life, I can suddenly find myself between projects. I’ve finished one project, but I might not have the focus to plan and begin the next one. Have you been there?
One of the most important things I did early in my spinning life was give myself permission to just spin. Just sit down and spin—no worries about gauge or pulling out that bit of straw or how I would use the handspun yarn. I find this is especially fun and indulgent when I use up odds and ends: a half braid of a luxury blend I’d been saving or that 3 ounces of gorgeous handpainted fiber languishing in my stash.
Lately, however, I’ve wanted to merge this practice with my project-focused spinning. I’ve set some parameters on my solace spinning that will help me create a sweater without much planning at the outset.
1. Spin first, ply later. I’m working with many different fibers, blends, and preparations. By spinning a sweater-quantity of fiber and keeping the singles on storage bobbins, I can mix the whole lot up during plying. This will even out the final product and distribute colors or fibers that would pool throughout the garment otherwise.
2. Add a uniting ply and contrast yarn. I talked a bit about this in the past when carding scrap fiber into gradient batts. It’s amazing how many color oddities and unplanned slubs can start to feel like charming design elements when they are smoothed and surrounded with something constant and consistent. By taking two scrappy singles and plying them with a solid color fiber that is used throughout an entire project, everything feels more harmonious. For garments, I like to create a 3-ply with two scrappy singles and a ply of gray natural color wool. Once I'm knitting the project, I also alternate the scrappy yarn and plied solid gray in the final garment.
3. Pick your pattern later. To really take the pressure off spinning for sweaters, spin first, swatch later. With so many pattern resources today, most of us can just spin our default gauge and determine the gauge of the yarn later. Books such as The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd allow you to create a sweater based on the stitch gauge of a knitted swatch.
I’ll share my solace sweater progress soon!
Budd, Ann. The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press, 2004.