Thanks so much guys, for all of your amazing comments and compliments yesterday. I promise I’ve gotten more out of the blog than you have, but it’s absolutely charming that you feel like it’s a two way street.
Onward! As you will recall, when we had last seen our intrepid knitter (that would be me) she had decided to knit Little Lou Hoo a sweater, then, following a poor experience with a gauge swatch (fine. It was a sleeve) had thrown a minor hissy fit and turned her back on commercial yarn. There’s nothing like a failed gauge attempt to knock the will to knit right off of you. I decided to change to handspun, and started spinning the singles right away.
I’d talked to a few spinners, and checked in with my common sense, and I felt pretty confident that if I spun three big, full bobbins, that when I plied I would have enough 3 ply handspun. I did exactly that, but something weird happened. I plied together my singles, then sent them for a lovely bath to take the last of the oils out of the wool, and to set the twist. Think of it like a kind of blocking. After the skeins were washed I pressed most of the water out of them in a towel, then snapped them a few times to sort them out, then hung them over the railing to dry. Dry they did, and in the morning I got a bit of a shock. My skeins looked short. They’d absolutely changed length, and when I picked up the skeins to play with them, I figured out why.
This wool is merino. Merino is super, super crimpy, and crimp in wool is like curl in hair. I’ve got curly hair, and for a while I had this hairdresser who (I believe) thought my sister was really good looking. (She is.) We both went to see him for our hair, and he was always trying to convince me to straighten my hair like my sister’s. He was always saying how nice it would be, and how I would love it. (I had to work a great deal on not taking it personally that he obviously preferred her hair.) One time I broke down, and after he cut my hair I let him blow dry it and brush it all straight. It was totally creepy – and really long, once you took the curl out. For the whole rest of the day I kept passing mirrors and saying hi to my sister before remembering that it was me. By three in the afternoon I’d decided to wash it to bring my curl back, that’s how freaky it was. I jumped in the bath, dunked myself and whammo, curly girl again.
Wool works the same way – and this is merino top. Roving is carded fiber, the fibres are all jumbled, and then sold in a rope… but top is combed fibre. All the individual strands of merino have been combed so they are all parallel, and the process works a little like a hair straightener. (It still comes in a rope though.) I spun them while they were straight, and plied them while they were straight and then when I gave them their bath, they stopped being my sister and started being me, and all the crimp came back, and the yarn shrunk up – and there you have the most squishy, scrumptious, deliciously soft and bouncy yarn….
and not enough yardage. It’s crazy, because I can pick up the skeins and slip my hands into them and when I pull my hands apart the yarn is so stretchy that it’s practically an elastic. It’s like I’ve spun a hair tie or something. It will stretch out to the yardage I was expecting (or closer to it) but then when I let go, all that crimp pulls it back in. I love it.
Now, mark my words, it just so happens that I believe that I have already spun enough yarn for this baby sweater.
(I have the skeins on the floor because when I picked them off the rail they were a little damp. I tossed them on the heat vent to dry them all the way. Do it all the time. Works a treat.)
I keep picking up the three skeins I have and giving them a big squish and thinking that it has just got to be enough, but in a moment of tremendous maturity, I have decided to spin a little more.
The pattern says 360 yards, and it’s written by a nice Canadian who wouldn’t lie to me, so I’m going to take Alexa’s word for it and spin a little more. Then I am making a sweater. I am so excited.
(PS. In the interest of honesty I feel compelled to tell you that I may have already started a sleeve. Just as a swatch. You know – just to be careful. I’m not starting before I’m done spinning… I’m just checking.)