Saturday, April 13, 2013

The importance of yarn

I read in a book* once that the very first yarn you spun was important, and that you should hold on to it - no matter how weird, bumpy, or uneven it may be. Granted, it was a fantasy novel, so the string turned out to have magical potential, but I still thought that it was a very nice sentiment.

The first yarn I ever spun was on a friend's drop spindle in Ireland. I was using white wool that I ordered online, and trying to figure out the wool, spinning of the spindle, drafting of the fibers, and what felt like a million other things at the same time (other spinners will appreciate this feeling - also somewhat similar to first learning the violin, with your hands needing to do such different things). It was a very lumpy, probably over-twisted single with an unintentional and uneven thick-and-thin texture.

Since I didn't own the spindle, I had to wind that bit of yarn off the spindle and onto an Altoids tin - the handiest thing we had at the time. It stayed wrapped there through my travels home, a year of college, and my move across the country.

* Sandry's Book, by Tamora Pierce

Several weeks ago, I came across my first yarn again, as I was sorting out and organizing all my crafting supplies. I figured it was a shame, letting it just sit around (but unable to throw it away), so I set about coming up with an idea on how to turn it into something useful so that I could keep it for sentimental reasons, but didn't have to feel bad about cluttering up the very tiny apartment.

Enter the chunky bracelet and some buttons from my stash. 

I actually really love this bracelet. Usually I hate big/wide bracelets, because they overwhelm my small hands and wrists, and are just plain uncomfortable. But this one is nice and lightweight, and since it's a knit, it stretches easily over my hand but doesn't at all feel like it's going to fall off my wrist. It's soft and fun, and a little bit bohemian. 

I'm in the middle of making several more, to sell on my Etsy shop, but I'll share the pattern/process (such as it is) here for those who would like to make their own. 


First off, I've only used singles so far, but they're all fairly chunky, which I think works best for the look. You can use any sort of yarn (handspun or not), but thicker is better. It's also a great way to use up those last bits of great yarn that didn't fit into a project, but you just can't seem to get rid of because they're just so soft/colorful/pretty/unique.

The pattern is really very simple (also not really a pattern) - Knit a rectangle appx. 2 inches wide (mine was 6 stitches), and 1/2 - 3/4 of an inch longer than the circumference of your wrist, on whichever needles are comfortable with the yarn you're using. I did mine in a stockinette stitch, but any stitch pattern you like would work. Stockinette stitch also requires blocking (because of the curl of the resulting fabric). I'm sure this isn't the 'right' way to do it, but my blocking method for these smaller pieces involves getting them wet in warm/hot water, wringing them out, and pinning them out flat on my dress form (the only stationary pinnable surface I have).

Once your rectangle is dry, take it and wrap it around your wrist to get the exact amount of overlap necessary to make the finished bracelet fit. I know that it looks like the bracelet buttons closed, but that's a lie. I sewed the two ends together (carefully so as to hide the stitches from the outside), and then played around with the placement of buttons until I liked what I saw. Sew the buttons on, and you have a new bracelet!


In other (related) news, I've been taking some spinning lessons on how to use my new spinning wheel. It's very exciting, and such a cool experience! My first wheel-spun yarn, however, is *very* different from the first yarn on a drop spindle. 

I used a bunch of odds and ends to spin two bobbins of singles out of different colors, types of wool, methods of preparing the fiber (and even some silk and linen!). This made for some odd-looking bobbins, and then even odder-looking finished yarn when I learned how to ply them together....

There's all sorts of color and texture in there, including some glitter fibers, and a few curly locks (of different colors). The thickness ranges from a heavy worsted to maybe fingering or sport weight. Most of it is 2-ply, but some I used the Navajo 3-ply method to experiment with that.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this stuff, but I'm leaning towards a simple scarf, and then deciding whether or not I'll wear it (or how frequently) depending on how it looks!