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Posts Tagged ‘knitting’

The 100% Handmade Sweater

The 100% Handmade Sweater

As I was tagging and reorganising my blog posts into fibre journals I realised I had never written about my 100% handmade sweater. I couldn’t quite believe that I hadn’t written a word about the project that had taken over all of my making time and headspace for a year or so and which was the pinnacle of my wool spinning and hand knitting achievements.

Then I remembered that I had made the sweater at a time when I was using social media a lot. The photo of the finished sweater was my most liked post on instagram with hundreds of likes and comments and instagram was where I had shared my journey with the 100% handmade sweater, but I deleted my instagram when I decided that social media was getting in the way of my mindful making and could no longer accept the harm it does to mental health and wellbeing, society and democracy.

Realising there was no longer a written or photographic record of the 100% handmade sweater made me stop and think “was I wrong to have abandoned social media ?” 

As I pondered the question I reflected on the fleeting nature of social media. Yes people had liked my post, and then they had scrolled on, seconds after they had seen it, liked it maybe even commented on it, the handmade sweater was old news. Did anyone really engage with me or what I had done and was I more focused on the likes and comments that I knew it would generate than the process of making ?

I thought about my current projects, being made without social media involvement. Honestly, I feel more connected to these current projects. I’m more focused on the making and not thinking about needing to take progress shots, explain what I’m doing or think about likes and comments. As a result I’m finding it easier to immerse myself in the making and achieve that elusive flow state and with it the benefits for my mental wellbeing. I think that extra headspace to focus on my making has helped me improve my skills as well. I’m taking my time and rediscovering joy in my making.

I do want to share my experience of making the 100% handmade sweater mainly in the hope that it will inspire you to try something similar or give you the confidence to take on that making project that seems too much, that challenge that you can’t imagine yourself completing but … Oh imagine if you did.

The 100% handmade sweater started with our Jacob sheep. We’ve always sheared the flock ourselves after going on a hand shearing course at Wimpole Farm near Cambridge soon after we bought our first three sheep. When I talk about hand shearing I mean without electric. We do now have an electric shearer but still use the hand shears for the difficult bits.

So, the sheep are raised by us and sheared by us on our smallholding. Then I wash the wool and card it into fluffy batts for spinning. Jacob sheep are white with black patches, some of the black wool is bleached by the sun to a dark brown with golden tips but when blended with the white wool you get a consistent grey wool.

I spin the wool batts on my spinning wheel. I’ve got an Ashford Country spinner that is designed for chunky yarn and production spinning so I’ll usually spin 500g-1Kg at a time. I decided to spin a chunky 2 ply yarn in natural blended grey.

I didn’t have a set pattern in mind but knew I wanted to knit a top down sweater in the round. I thought it would be easier to work out sizing, getting my husband (the lucky recipient of the sweater) to try it on as I went using the top down approach. This worked quite well. I did end up narrowing the sweater a bit too quickly which is a bit obvious when it is laid flat but it fitted nicely when on. Getting the sleeves the same length also proved more challenging than I expected but I persevered and got there in the end.

Was it worth it ? Yes definitely, the sense of achievement was wonderful, the experience of making a garment entirely from hand was both enjoyable and confidence building. When it comes to knitting I feel like I could make anything now if I have the time.

What were the benefits ? For my husband a sweater that is very warm and cosy, fits perfectly and also a great conversation topic, for me confidence in my spinning, knitwear design and knitting skills as well as the satisfaction of making it all myself. I already had my knitting needles and spinning wheel so I didn’t buy anything to make the sweater and the wool was grown by my sheep eating the grass on our smallholding. If we ever move from here that sweater will hold all the memories of learning to shepherd my flock and turn their wool into yarn that can be made into a garment.

What were the negatives ? The time it takes. Feeling like knitting but knowing you can’t do the next bit of knitting until you’ve washed, carded and spun the wool. It is very easy to put the project to one side in favour of something that gives you that completion dopamine buzz more quickly. Getting frustrated when I couldn’t get the design to work. I dealt with this by taking a break and doing something else for a bit.

The major negative though is that at first glance this is a very privileged project. I am well aware of the privilege of having the land to keep sheep on and being able to afford the time and tools to make the 100% handmade sweater but I think the principle of making a garment entirely by hand is something that can be achieved in a variety of ways you don’t have to own your own flock of sheep, you don’t have to have a spinning wheel to make yarn (drop spinning is much more affordable). 

Would I do it again ? Now, with the benefit of a bit and time since I finished, yes I think I would. Maybe one day I’ll make myself a matching 100% handmade sweater.

Hooters Hall Handspun Infinity Scarf Knitting Pattern

If you fancy a super speedy knit using our Hooters Hall handspun yarn this infinity scarf is the pattern for you.

What you need.

100g bulky weight Hooters Hall handspun yarn. The pictures show a scarf knitted using our Fenland Mist bulky weight yarn.

10mm (US size 15) knitting needles

Pins and a towel or blocking mats

Tapestry or weaving needle

How to make it.

Leave a tail of about 18cm of yarn and cast on 5 stitches.

Knit every row. Don’t knit too tightly or you will struggle to move the yarn along the needle.

Cast off when you get to the end of the ball of yarn. Remember to leave enough yarn for your casting off. If you misjudge it just undo a couple of rows and try again.

Block your scarf. Fill a sink or bowl with warm water. Put your scarf in the water for a few seconds holding it under the water. Remove and roll up your scarf in a dry towel. Give it a quick squeeze.

Lay your scarf on another towel or blocking mats. Pin at one end and work your way along the scarf gently stretching it out and pinning as you go.

Once you’ve finished it should be at least 1m in length. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bit longer. Leave to dry for a few days.

Sewing Up

Fold your scarf in half so it in a V shape like this

Fold the ends inwards so they line up with each other like this

Your scarf should look like this

With a tapestry or weaving needle sew the two ends together using mattress stitch. You can use the long tail of yarn from your cast on edge. Alternatively you could use a different yarn but you will need to tie it to a stitch on  the edge of your scarf first.

That’s it. Your scarf should look like this. You can wear it as a single loop or twist and loop it around your neck twice.

 

 

Happy Knitting

Using Hand spun Yarn

Being a spinner I’m quite happy knitting with hand spun yarn but the world of hand spun can seem a bit daunting especially to those new to knitting.

I think for most knitters part of the reason for knitting is to make something special and different to mass produced, shop bought things and what could be more special and less mass produced than hand spun yarn.

It’s true that hand spun yarns don’t usually come with all the details you get on the label of commercial yarns but it’s easy enough to work out what you need to know. It’s also true that there is usually some variability in hand spun yarn but that’s what makes it and your knitting unique.

To get the best out of your hand spun yarn you need to take the time to consider its individual characteristics. What does the yarn feel like ? will it suit being next to your skin? will it stand up to regular washing or does it need a gentle handwash? Yarns can be spun in different ways to create yarns that are smooth, lustrous, fuzzy, light and fluffy. A fuzzy yarn is likely to get even fuzzier over time which will lead to a less well defined stitch pattern. Woolen yarns have a softer look compared to a smoother worsted yarn. So consider these points when thinking about which projects to use your hand spun in. The number of plies in a yarn will also have a big impact on the look of your finished project. Three ply yarns will have much greater stitch definition but being quite round will tend to fill in the holes in a lacy knit. Strength of yarn is also affected by the number of plies, the more there are the stronger the yarn.

Lots of hand spun yarns are fat singles. A fat single is a single yarn that hasn’t been plied with another single to create e.g. a double ply. Of course because it is a single the yarn won’t be as strong as a plied yarn but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a lot with it.

Straight off the spinning wheel fat singles turn into a curly, twirly mess, they’re usually described as having a lot of energy. The reason for this is that there only twist in one direction. With a double ply yarn two fat singles are spun the opposite way when plied together, reducing the energy in the twist. It’s really easy to tone down the energy / twist in a fat single though, you just need to give it a nice hot soak after spinning. I wash all my hand spun yarns after spinning but if you have a yarn that you’re not certain has been washed just dunk it some hot water for a bit of a soak.

Commercial yarns will generally have a description of the yarn thickness  as well a weight in grams and perhaps a guide to length / yardage. Some hand spun yarns might come with some,all or none of this information but it’s easy to work out yourself.

Quite often you will see the wraps per inch (w.p.i) for a hand spun yarn. This is a very simple measure to indicate the thickness of the yarn. To calculate wraps per inch simply wind the yarn around a ruler over an inch and work out how many wraps there are per inch. Here’s a rough guide to w.p.i, type of yarn and stitches per inch.

  • 4-8 wpi = bulky yarn = 3.3.5 stitches per inch
  • 9-12 wpi = worsted yarn= 4-4.5 stitches per inch
  • 11-13 wpi = DK yarn = 5-5.5 stitches per inch
  • 14-18 wpi = sport yarn = 6-6.5 stitches per inch
  • 19-22 wpi = fingering yarn =7-8 stitches per inch

Often you will get an approximate weight for hand spun but you can weigh it yourself on the kitchen scales. To work out the length of your yarn you can weigh specific length e.g. 1metre and then calculate the length of the remaining yarn e.g. if 1m of yarn weighs 2grams then 100grams of yarn is about 50metres long. You can also buy yarn calculators (they have some on amazon) that will tell you the length of your yarn.

So, once you’ve found out about your yarn characteristics what can you use it for ? the simple answer is anything if you have enough of it. But if you’ve only got a small amount why not use your hand spun yarn together with a commercial yarn to add a bit of an extra special something to your project. Use your hand spun yarn as an accent, as an edging or for a specific part of a pattern.

If you want to use hand spun yarn for an entire project here’s a rough guide to how much you might need.

Project yarn 7-8 wpi yarn 6-6.5 wpi yarn 5-5.5 wpi yarn 4-4.5 wpi
Scarf 8inch x 60inch 675 yards 617 m 575 yards 525m 450 yards 450 yards 411m
Hat 20 inch 300 yards 274m 260 yards 237m 200 yards 183m 150 yards 137m
Adult size mittens 300 yards 274m 260 yards 237m 200 yards 183m 150 yards 137m
Socks adult size 8 400 yards 365m 350 yards 320m 250yards 229m 200 yards 183m
Socks size adult 11 500 yards 457m 450 yards 411m 350 yards 320m 250 yards 229m

Feeling more confident about using handspun now? Here’s some pictures of Hooters hall handspun yarn to whet your appetite

You can buy Hooters Hall handspun yarn from our website www.hootershall.co.uk

Folksy http://folksy.com/shops/HootersHall

or Etsy http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/HootersHall