Tag Archives: Art yarn

Life on the Outside

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Life on the Outside

Background:

These skeins were commissioned as a gift. They are what I call a Companion Set: two different, but harmonious, skeins with one deliberately simple in design, and one towards the art yarn end of the spectrum.

Here the plainer skein is inspired by dew drops on grass. It is spun from a mixture of mallard-green merino fibre blended with rainbow-dyed trilobal nylon. It was spun as a slim single and plied with a green glitter-thread. The companion skein is an art yarn. The blended fibre was spun as a gently-textured thick-and-thin single. I spun the butterfly charms straight into the fibre for stability, and the colourful flower buttons were threaded onto the same green glitter-thread before plying.

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Story:

A cosmos in every sphere. Whole worlds, as far as the eye can see. Dew drops cling to every blade, flexing in the breeze, splitting the light that crosses its path, capturing its colour. Looking further afield, there the colours come into view. Less ephemeral there, though hardly permanent. The borders are home to delicate hues, flashes of bold colours. Life in many forms. Garden creatures flash by: circling, darting, diving through air. The fauna visits the flora, life cycles uniting to allow each to continue. Today’s dance promises the future.

Information:

1. Title: Dew Drops

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Composition: Fibre: 70% merino 30% rainbow trilobal with a synthetic glitter-thread ply.

Weight: 104g / 20 WPI / sockweight

Length: 463m / 506yd

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date:  November 2016

Skein code: 0094a

Fibre: Merino, trilobal nylon

Source: World of Wool

 

2. Title: Flora and Fauna

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Composition: Carded blend of cashmere, tussah silk, merino and trilobal nylon with a synthetic glitter-thread ply, metal charms and plastic buttons.

Weight: 133g /11 WPI / Irregular, worsted weight to DK average.

Length: 320m / 350yd

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat. Hand wind only.

Details:

Date: November 2016

Skein code: 0094b

Fibre: Cashmere, Tussah silk, Merino and Trilobal nylon

Source: The Rainbow Fibre Fairy

Status: Sold

Using Art Yarn. Part 1: The Easter Chicks

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Using Art Yarn. Part 1: The Easter Chicks

The possibilities for art yarn, both creating it and using it, are limitless. However sometimes people struggle to know what to do with this yarn that may be bulky, irregular, highly textured, short of yardage and, above all, fun.

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“Easter Chick” art yarn by Taylor Made Yarns. Photo courtesy of Taylor Made Yarns.

I bought this amazing art yarn from Taylor Made Yarns, one of my favourite fibre artists, at Fibre East. It is an irregular bulky spiral-plied yarn with little chick charms plied into it. Like many special skeins, I needed to wait for the right project to emerge. As it happened, I won a skein from Cuddlebums: beautiful, subtly-speckled handdyed skinny singles. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had found the companion yarn for the Easter Chicks.

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I set about making a hyperbolic spiral scarf. I planned for gentle spiral ruffles, edged in wild art yarn. I used a 4mm hook to crochet a chain to my desired length, made a dc in each chain to form the foundation of my scarf and then started my increase rows. To create the spiral effect you need to increase stitches on each row in the following way:

  • 1st increase row: work 2 tr into each dc.
  • 2nd increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 1. Repeat from *.
  • 3rd increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 2. Repeat from *.
  • 4th increase row: *work 2 tr into the first tr, tr 3. Repeat from *.
  • Etc.

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The two yarns I used in this project were very different and I needed to find a way to integrate them. In order to work the thick art yarn into the edge I created an eyelet row using the finer yarn. My final increase row would have been a pattern of *2tr into first tr, tr 5, repeat from *. I altered this to *2tr into first tr, ch2, sk 2 tr, tr 1, ch2, sk 2 tr, repeat from *.

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These eyelets made an attractive edge and provided holes big enough to work a crocheted art yarn edging.

I was not sure that I would have enough of the art yarn to cover the whole edge of the scarf. I decided to split the art yarn into two equal parts and work from each end. I reskeined the yarn and counted 24 wraps of my niddy noddy. I wound off 12 wraps, cut the yarn and then wound off the 2nd half.

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I switched to a 10mm hook and started adding a border in a pattern of *dc into eyelet, ch 1, repeat from *. Here is the scarf with half of the edging worked:

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And here is the finished piece:

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There is so much glorious variety in this yarn, each ruffle is like its own vignette:

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And I couldn’t end this post without a close-up of the chicks!

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This was such a fun project to work on. I hope it’s given you some art-yarn inspiration.

Dark Side of the Swoon

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Dark Side of the Swoon

Background:

I made this skein for a mystery Valentine’s Day swap. I tried to disguise it as best I could with an anonymous label but, needless to say, I was caught out straight away!

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Both the yarn design and the name were inspired by the iconic Pink Floyd album cover. This was a really fun yarn to spin and I loved the result.

Story:

Maybe dancing butterflies and bluebirds on your shoulder is not your thing.

Maybe it’s the hidden, the unknown, or the unwise that pulls you in.

The secret known to only two souls. The destructive pas de deux. The live fast, split young experience. The intensity of life ruled by wild impulse. The same basic instinct that drives many beings to seek out one who makes us realise we’re understood, and part of a greater whole. It’s just some like things to be … that little bit darker.

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Information:

Title: Dark Side of the Swoon

Composition: Black Welsh wool, commercial glitter thread and beads.

Weight: 100g fibre weight / 13 WPI / DK

Length: 210m / 230yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat. Hand Wind

Details:

Date: February 2016

Skein code: 0087

Fibre: 100% natural Black Welsh wool

Source: World of Wool

Status: Swapped

What’s my job?

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What’s my job?

It’s only three years since I was a new spinner. I’ve reached the point where I find myself mentoring other new spinners as they start exploring this fascinating craft.

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One of the most common complaints I hear (often offered as an apology for the perceived deficiencies of the new spinner’s own yarn) is about irregular yarn. It’s something I remember about my first efforts at the spinning wheel too. I thought my first yarn was quite ugly. But at the same time I was so proud of it because I made it all by myself!

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There seems to be a common journey for spinners, with early efforts being thick and irregular, and subsequent yarn gradually becoming thinner and more consistent. Then you reach a stage where you want to spin thicker yarn again, and almost have to re-learn how to do it. And you may want to spin irregular, or thick and thin, or even more exotic yarn and so you go about learning those techniques, continually refining your knowledge, your practice and your control over the process.

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What I’ve come to realise is that, as spinners, it’s not our job to replicate machine-spun yarn. When we judge our early efforts, that’s the yardstick most of us use for comparison.

But the thing is, if I wanted machine-spun yarn, I could just buy it! It has its place and I use plenty of commercially-spun yarn, but it is a different beast from handspun. There is a sense of satisfaction for the spinner to know that, if you choose to, you can replicate the fine consistency of machine-spun yarn. But my plea to spinners (new or otherwise!) is to see consistency as a design choice, rather than a value judgement.

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I often think of handspun yarn as being full of life. And I think that relates to this question of what is my job as a handspinner. I see my job as creating something unique every time I go through the process, from inspiration to yarn design, to the final skein.

What commercially-spun yarn can never replicate is that sense of the unique creation of every millimetre of yarn: the possibility of a story in every stitch.

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Milky Way

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Milky Way

Background:

I made this skein for a competition winner. I wanted to do something really special for her, and was inspired by the “Constellstion” range of fibres. What Sarah did with this yarn made it even more special, and is one of my very favourite memories from the first year of Story Skeins.

Story:

Trace the constellations telling stories in the sky: the distant, fiery hearts of other worlds. 

Would our stories make sense to them?

Would they recognise the warrior, the queen, the beasts of myth?

Does our sun play a part in their stories?

What do we look like to them; all those thousands of light years between us?

Such are the questions the heavens can inspire.

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Sarah did beatiful things with her yarn, and even continued the story:

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As the atmosphere shifted the stars aligned and the stories as old as time were drawn into the skies.

Pictures were shining out to the eyes wide with wonder.

In those bright eyes history and amazement fought to shine through and she knew then that the night sky was her truth.

She wondered if the stars knew she was there, what they thought as they watched over her.

As her eyes began to close with the sleepiness of a fulfilled 3 year old, the night sky became a wrap that enveloped her in all its warmth and kept the terrors at bay.

The girl could finally sleep, ready to wake when the sun made its appearence the very next day.

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Milky Way as a Road Trip Scarf, expertly modelled.

Information:

Title: Milky Way

Composition: 70% Merino, 30% Silk plus nylon thread and star beads.

Weight: 130g fibre weight. 237g total. 13 WPI / DK

Length: 231m / 253yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat. Hand wind.

Details:

Date: June 2015

Skein code: 0045

Fibre: 70/30 merino/silk blend.

Source: World of Wool – Constellation range.

Status: Gifted/Won

Remembrance

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Remembrance

Background:

I was gifted these beautiful fabric poppies. November came around and it was clear what had to be done.

Story:

They shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old.

Such haunting words, whose undeniable truth brings forth tears.

We remember a hundred and more years since the ‘great’ war.

Not the first and not the last.

Year in and year out.

Respects paid, tributes laid.

“Lest we forget” written and spoken over and over.

And yet what do we really learn?

‘Lest we forget’ seems so easily forgotten.

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Information:

Title: Remembrance

Composition: 100% Merino with fabric flowers.

Weight: 100g fibre weight / 11WPI / Worsted weight.

Length: 205m / 225yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: Novembwr 2015

Skein code: 0075

Fibre: 23 micron merino.

Source: Wingham Wool Work

Status: Sold

Maelstrom

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Maelstrom

Background:

A first experiment in core spinning. I love the swirl of ocean colours in this art yarn.

Story:

Storms approaching

Waves start to swell

Slowly at first

Gentle mist surrounds us.

We are not worried, This is our life, we know the terrain, we understand the fickle personality of nature out at sea.

Clouds darken. Now deep blues and purples, more ominous hues to the seafolk.

Waves start to roil

Rising and crashing

Tossing us about like beads of sweat as the grand ocean flexes her muscles.

We steel ourselves for battle.

Only one of us shall win this day.

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Information:

Title: Maelstrom

Composition: Merino and silk noil on a mohair core.

Weight: 72g / 6 WPI / Bulky

Length: 36m / 40yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: July 2015

Skein code: 0061

Fibre: Merino, Silk noil, Mohair

Source: Unknown

Status: For Sale

Tutorial: Spinning Seed Beads into a Single

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Tutorial: Spinning Seed Beads into a Single

December’s rolag club, seen here, featured ‘Evergreen’ rolags and ‘Holly Berry’ beads. I have done quite a few beaded yarns in the past and there are several ways to add these kind of inclusions into yarn. In a plied yarn it is easy enough to thread your beads or sequins onto a thread and ply that thread along with the singles, as in this yarn, or you may be able to thread your beads directly onto one or more of your singles, but sometimes you want to spin your beads directly into the yarn. Here’s how:

Assumed knowledge

  • Staple length of fibre: refresher available here.
  • Basic Spinning: refresher available here.
  • Park and Draft for the Wheel: refresher available here.

Materials

  • Fibre
  • Beads
  • A beading (or very fine) hook if you have one, and
  • Cotton thread if you don’t.
  • Something to spin on! A wheel or spindle.

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Method

I don’t have a hook fine enough for seed beads, so I am going to show you a method for threading beads onto fibre using ordinary sewing thread.

  1. Cut a length of cotton, around 20cm long.
  2. Thread the bead onto the cotton, just as if you were threading a needle.
  3. Pull a reasonable length of thread through the bead, so that the bead sits roughly in the middle of the thread.
  4. Now take the end of the cotton once more and, leaving a large loop, thread it back through the bead. Take it slowly at first, and leave yourself plenty of length on either side of the bead.
  5. Now you should have a seed bead threaded such that you have a large loop on one side, and two ends of the thread on the other side.

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Now let’s consider the fibre:

  1. Take the fibre you wish to spin and draft out a few fibres from one end.
  2. Pull out a few fibres. Just pinch at the very top as you pull gently, so that the fibres removed are a single staple length. Your bead will sit in the centre of this staple length.
  3. Twist them with your fingers, just as if you were spinning them, to make them easier to handle.

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  1. Carefully thread your twisted fibres through the loop of your cotton thread.
  2. Move your bead along the thread, towards your fibre.
  3. Pinch your fibre back on itself, such that your bead can slide from the thread to the fibre.
  4. Move your bead along and then gently pinch one end of the fibre, so that the bead cannot come off, and ease the other end of the fibre right through the bead so that the bead ends up placed in the middle of your staple length of fibre.

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Here is a close-up showing the bead being threaded into the fibre. You can see that, having twisted the fibres, they show a clear distinction between each end of the fibre, as if it were a thread. The loop which has just passed through the bead has distinct ‘legs’. As you hold one end of the fibre, pull gently on one of these legs. If you feel a firm tug on the fibres you’re holding, try the other leg. It should connect to the free end of the fibre and allow you to pull that free end right through the bead.

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Follow this procedure for each of the beads you want to spin into your yarn:

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Now put the beads aside and start spinning your fibre. Here I am attaching my fibre to my leader:

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I like to get the spun single established first before I think about spinning in the beads. Here I am checking the gauge of the singles yarn against the commercial yarn (a worsted weight single spun yarn) that I am using in my project.

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Now it’s time to start adding the beads into the yarn:

  1. In order to control the spin, I will stop the wheel when I get to the point of attaching the first bead, just as in the Park and Draft for Wheels video, seen here.
  2. When I want to attach a bead, I stop spinning the wheel and draft some fibre out to my desired thickness, just behind the pinched off twist.
  3. I take a pre-threaded bead. (It is easier to handle these by picking the beads up, rather than by picking the fibre up.)
  4. I hold the end of the fibre that passes through the bead with the thumb and fingers that are holding the twist in place, and lay the beaded fibre parallel to the section just drafted.
  5. I restart the wheel and allow the twist to run up the drafted fibres, capturing the bead and the fibre onto which it was threaded in the process.

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  1. Repeat as often as desired, and the result is a beautifully beaded singles yarn:

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Adding beads whilst spindle spinning

This is slightly trickier as you have to control the spin, as well as the beads, with your hands. Review the technique of Park and Draft on the Spindle, shown here. I would spin this sitting down so I could hold the spindle between my knees to keep it still when needed.

Follow the steps as above, to the point you want to add your first bead into your yarn.

  1. Stop the spindle and hold it still.
  2. Make sure you have your pre-threaded beads to hand.
  3. draft out a length of fibre to your desired thickness.
  4. Pick up a bead and lay the threaded bead alongside the freshly drafted fibre.
  5. Position your hands such that the finger and thumb that are pinching off the twist can hold one end of the threaded fibre in place, and you have other fingers available to stabilise the other end of the threaded fibre.
  6. Use your free hand to restart the spindle spinning and let the twist travel into the drafted fibres, capturing the bead as you go.

A video tutorial will follow as soon as possible and I will add it to this post.

The Single Skein

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The Single Skein

As a handspinner, my creative path has led me to specialise in unique single skeins. Often the indie dyers I follow also have single, sometimes one-of-a-kind, skeins available. Or sometimes, the budget will only stretch to one luxury skein from a spinner or dyer.

I often see knitters and crocheters searching for that perfect one-skein project for their special yarn. This post explores ways of using small amounts of special yarn. (I will confine myself to knitting and crochet for now. Weaving is a whole other topic!) We will look at one-skein projects suitable for different yarn weights, but also think about more imaginative ways to show off that extra-special yarn.

The one-skein project

The key here is knowing what the essential information is, and knowing where to look for patterns.

If you have received a skein from me, or have read about my skeins on this blog, you will see that every skein is categorised according to its WPI (wraps per inch) – from which we calculate the yarn gauge – and the total length of the yarn. Knowing these measurements allows you to search for a project to suit your yarn.

Undoubtedly, the best place to find patterns is Ravelry. It is free to sign up, and as a member you can use the excellent pattern search facility. Simply go to the advanced pattern search, select the appropriate options for meterage or yardage and yarn gauge, and see what comes back. It’s likely you’ll have dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of options to choose from.

Now let’s think about typical yarn lengths for different gauges. Approximate values are given below:

Aran weight: ~160m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: Fingerless mitts or ear warmers.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Truly Hooked. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn handdyed by Story Skeins. Pattern.

DK: ~220m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: Scarf or cowl.

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Photo by Heather Young. Yarn by Devon Sun Yarns. Pattern.

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Photos by Laura-Jo Webster. Yarn by Story Skeins. Pattern.

Sock weight: ~400m per 100g skein.

Ideal one-skein projects: socks or shawls.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Excelsior Yarns. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Lang Yarns. Pattern.

Laceweight: 800-1200+m per 100g

Ideal one-skein projects: Large shawl or wrap, for example this Wrapped in Lace Shawl.

Please note that these measurements are a rule of thumb, and most appropriate for yarns which are predominantly wool. Fibres with higher density, such as many plant fibres, may give less length per 100g for an equivalent yarn gauge.

Feature Yarn

Another option is to use your special yarn as an accent in a larger, plainer piece. My favourite example of this is my Nordic Shawl, which makes me smile every time I see it. The rainbow stripe is “Six Colour Rainbow” from Unbelieva-wool. The oatmeal yarn is Stylecraft Life:

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Further examples:

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Photo by Clare Davidson. Accent yarn handdyed by Clare.

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Photo by Becky Shay Pollard.

Patchwork

This option uses small amounts of a variety of yarn to build up a project. It’s a great option for mini skeins, or ends of yarn. Try to keep the yarn gauge consistent, and choose to do your project entirely in animal fibres (or predominantly animal fibre mixes), or entirely in plant fibres (cotton, bamboo, etc), or entirely in synthetics.

My increasingly large collection of mini skeins (again from Unbelieva-wool. I’m quite a fan!) are destined for a Beekeeper’s Quilt. I am using my 30g of rolags from my monthy rolag club to make a wrap based on the When Alice Fell motif pattern. And one day I will make myself a Log Cabin Scrap Blanket.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn handspun by Story Skeins. Pattern.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn and pattern from The Art of Crochet.

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Photo by Sonia Bowmar-Scothern.

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Photo by Stacey Galbraith.

Scrap projects

For even smaller amounts of yarn there are many options for scrap projects, made of tiny lengths of yarn. My favourite is the linen stitch scarf.

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Photo by Rox Driver. Hook by Hooklicious! Pattern.

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Photo by Shadow Gilboa-Way.

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Photo by Alison Horne.

Using textured and “art” yarn

Hanspun yarn has so many delicious possibilities. It can be smooth and balanced and regular, and mimic machine-spun yarn. But can also be so much more.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Yarn by Weird and Twisted. Pattern.

The only limit to using these yarns is your own imagination. A small amount of textured yarn can make a great trim, or a pair of cuffs, transforming an otherwise plain garment into something really special.

For her Road Trip Scarf, Kirsty has combined the irregular button yarn I spun for her with a second skein of handspun to create a bulky yarn for a quick project.

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Photo by Story Skeins. Handspun yarn by Story Skeins.

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Photo by Kirsty Rodger. Yarn by Story Skeins. Pattern.

Close-up:

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I have an inspiration board on pinterest called “Great for Handspun” which includes all sorts of projects, using yarns from the conventional to the wacky. This is my particular favourite.

My general advice to my customers is: the more that’s going on in the yarn, the less there should be going on in the pattern. Just as complex lace or cable patterns are shown to their best advantage with a plain yarn, so complex yarn is at its best advantage when used with a simple pattern. When the yarn is creating the intetest for you, the pattern should stand back and allow the yarn to show off!

Freeform

Finally, don’t feel the need to be constrained to a pattern. You are making art and have the freedom to explore as you please. If you don’t like it, just pull it back and try something else.

The world of freeform crochet has really taken off over the last few years, and this article explains how hanspun yarn is a perfect match for this art form. Here is an example of a stunning freeform crochet blanket.

I hope you have found inspiration for your beautiful, unique skeins here. I also have a gallery on my facebook page of fantastic creations made from handspun yarn. Please feel free to send me pictures of your work if you would like to futher inspire your fellow crafters.

Abstract Expression

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Abstract Expression

Background:

I was given these rolags to spin for a swap. There was so much interesting texture hidden within, it was invariably expressed as an irregular textured single in the spinning. The commercial glitter thread sets it off perfectly.

Story:

Ideas, thoughts, concepts come or arrive or happen or were always there. Sometimes they are fleeting, sometimes more persistent. Some demand to be made. They care not that there is no vocabulary, no construction that can express them. They demand innovation to bring them to life. And the concept that revealed itself to you, which cannot be contrained by conventional lines, may appear differently to each observer. You brought it into being. Now it grows and changes with each interaction. Abstract expression is never static.

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Information:

Title: Abstract expression

Composition: Merino, Alpaca, Silk and Angelina

Weight: 100g / 10 WPI av. / Worsted thick and thin.

Length: 219m / 240yd approx.

Care: Hand wash only. Dry flat.

Details:

Date: November 2015

Skein code: 0080

Fibre: Puni rolags of merino, mulberry silk, alpaca and angelina.

Source: Bits and Hobs

Status: Swapped