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Hand Spinning News

Each month I find that a particular subject seems to pop up again and again. This month it's 'default yarn'. Every spinner has a default yarn, the one you tend to make when you 'just spin'.

Maybe you're aware of this and fancy trying something new. Lace maybe, or super bulky.

Do you use a diz? This month we see more than one example of beautiful nests that have been pulled using a diz, an instructional video and an experiment to demonstrate which way round you should hold a curved diz and why.

I hope you'll find plenty to love in this Saint Valentine feast of fibrey fun, features and freebies for spinners, knitters, crocheters, dyers and weavers.

This free issue for February 2020 is brought to you in association with Audible. I'm a member and enjoy listening while I spin. Download a free audiobook with your 30-day free trial.

Find out how to receive a longer ad-free* version of Hand Spinning News a couple of weeks earlier.

Photo right: Second Verse, Reverse of the First by Knit/Wit. Cover photo: Sunday spin by strandedkiwi.



In the media

The story behind those famous mittens: meet Jen Ellis

The story behind those famous mittens: meet Jen Ellis

Jen Ellis is the maker of Bernie Sanders' now very famous mittens. Similar mittens that she has donated to charity have raised large amounts of money, and sadly has been the victim of other people selling items in her name.

They are sewn from repurposed jumpers and lined with fleece made from recycled bottles. Her own Twitter feed contains this video which is more of an advert for Singer (who have given her a better sewing machine). It does show a little of how she creates her mittems, read her full Twitter feed for more of her story.

3,000-year-old fragments of royal purple dyed textile found

3,000-year-old fragments of royal purple dyed textile found

This little bundle of wool fibres has been found in the Timna Valley in southern Israel. It has been dated to around 1000 BC, around the same time that David and Solomon ruled Israel.

Textiles of this age are rare because they decompose quickly but the ancient copper-ore district of the Timna Valley has the perfect conditions for preserving organic material.

It is the first direct evidence of fibres being dyed 'royal purple', a purple dye from molluscs, so named because it only exists in small quantities and does not fade.

Previously, the dye has only been found with fragments of pots and with the mollusc shells, proving that they were extracting the dye, but these are the first fibres to be found dyed using the dye.


Handspun stories

Drumcarding gradient roving

Drumcarding gradient roving

For this 'sweater spin', Fiber sprite has taken three colours and blended them using her drumcarder to make the gradient. She has used a diz to pull the fibre into a roving (she links to an instructional video).

After taking this picture, she realised that there are a couple of places that she needs to 'fill in' with in-between' blends.

Waltham Abbey Wool Show At Home

Waltham Abbey Wool Show At Home

On Sunday 17 Jan, the Waltham Abbey Wool Show became 'WAWS at Home'.

Diana and Kate are reporting a successful show, with related podcasts, designer Q and A, and special contributions from Exhibitors.

You can access these from the exhibition home page, but I'd specifically recommend the exhibitor pages, which I'm linking to here. Most have a page on the WAWS website including pictures and in some cases videos.

Five Secrets of Natural Dye

Five secrets of natural dye

As Anne Merrow says, "Mother Nature hides so much natural dye in plain sight". It holds secrets too.

Her factoids may inspire you to try using some of these dyes, or even collecting them yourself.

Scribble lace

Scribble lace

This is thick-and-thin yarn with the very thick knitted against the very thin. Adele calls this effect "scribble lace".

Spinners during lockdown

Spinners during lockdown

Ply magazine is collecting stories about spinners' experiences during the lockdown.

I'm not sure whether the form will still be open by the time you read this but if you have a story to tell, click the link in this blog post and see whether their form is still accepting responses.

Either way, they have given four of the responses from spinners around the world that they've received so far.

The story of the cowichan sweaters

The story of the cowichan sweaters

You may have seen the video about Dora, one of the Cowichan knitters.

This article by Jody Paterson is the result of an interview with Dora and is a much more in-depth look at authenticity, culture and tradition.

If you'd like to explore the subject futher, I was led to that article via this page by The 1764 Shepherdess which contains the Cowichan Knitter video and more links on the subject.

Learn to love your default yarn

Learn to love your default yarn

Every spinner has a 'default yarn', the one you make when you 'just spin'.

Do you yearn to get away from your default yarn and spin other types?

Jillian suggests learning more about it. Measure its properties. Use your default yarn to spin a new type of yarn.


Colour inspiration

When little needs saying except 'beautiful colour'

First skein of the new year

First skein of the new year

This yarn is notable for the lovely mix of colours, but what's surprising is that it's an eclectic mix of fibres from various batts. They include various types of silk and various wools, mostly merino, so Sarah has done well to produce such an even yarn.

Glint of sunshine

Glint of sunshine

Kim blended a wisp of tussah into Merino wool to add "just glint of sunshine to my sea glass green" She blended with her Ashford blending board and then dizzed off.

Dragon scales

Dragon scales

This clever colour combo reminds me of petrol on water. It's called 'dragon scales'. hoodedcrowcrafts is using rolags made by Iris Eenmäe

Bird of paradise yarn

Bird of paradise yarn

It's a good idea to use colours from nature as your inspiration, as saltwater_stitches has done here

All that glitters

All that glitters

threadbender calls this a 'beauty shot'. She loves the gold streak. The fibre is Malabrigo Nube in Glitter.



Weird Knitted Sh*t Throughout History

Weird knitted sh*t throughout history

Fashions and ideas change. What seemed sensible or fashionable a hundred years ago now seems baffling or hilarious.

I would usually far rather read text and see pictures on a page than listen to audio or watch a video.

But in this case, Liz Kristan's presentation is much more entertaining than the information would be on a page. It really is worth the hour it takes to watch.

Tips and tutorials

Ask Jacey

Ask Jacey

"It seems like it's easy for spinners to spin fine but harder to spin more bulky. Any secrets?" asks Elaine.

I discovered just how difficult it is to make very bulky but even yarn when I made my own Cowichan-style jacket.

Jacey's answer also discusses a spinner's 'default yarn'. It takes some work to move away from that and make something very different.

Here are her tips.

Decisions, decisions: how to choose the right yarn for your sweater

Decisions, decisions: how to choose the right yarn for your sweater

Everything in this article about choosing a suitable yarn for a jumper also applies to choosing how to make yarn for a project; construction and ply, fibre, what care it will need.

Emily's current favourite yarn is her own handspun and we can't argue with that.

The ins and outs of diz design

The ins and outs of diz design

You wouldn't think that it would matter which way round you hold your diz. Kim McKenna knew that it did and put it to the test.

The difference is apparently more notable with smaller orifices and these results really do show a difference.

The article contains lots of information about choosing and using a diz.


True love

Diplomatic negotiations.

If you like Yvonne, click the image to find her page, you can use next and previous to explore more cartoons.

Keeping this wheel spinning

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Squares, Stripes and Lice  by Hanne Dale and Siri Angela Gamborg

Squares, Stripes and Lice by Hanne Dale and Siri Angela Gamborg

The title refers to different patterns that appear in northern European knitting. This book is based on a history of the Norwegian knitting and textile industry, as exemplified by the Salhus Knitting Factory, which is now the Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum. There are knitting patterns based on patterns taken from the factory's archive.

Yes the title says 'lice' and not 'lace'. There's no explanation for this in quiteayarnblog's review. Perhaps we have to read the book to find out about the lice.

If this book appeals to you, she recommends another similar book in the same post, and has also reviewed Scandinavian Sweaters by Kristin Wiola Odegard here.


Sometimes just a picture is enough

Slightly warmer

Slightly warmer

Guzzisue has finnished this hat. I've checked back through her posts as far as the cast-on and the only thing she gives away is that the wool is from non-British breed(s). She has deliberately made the hat a little larger to accommodate a French plait.

Second Verse, Reverse of the First

Second verse, reverse of the first

Knit/Wit enjoyed making the first of these Bousta Beanies so much that she made the second, with the colours reversed.

The pale colour is undyed roving spun semi-worsted. The colours come from a single batch called Scarlet Woods, spun worsted end-to-end and chain-plied.

Elena Sweater

Elena Sweater

Although the main yarn here is mill-spun, it is small farm sourced, organic and uses traditional Romanian milling methods (Elena Single by Moeke Yarns).

The contrast yarn is handspun from Shetland grey wool, lightly dyed with indigo.

The pattern is also called Elena, it's by Junko Okamoto.



angiebee hand-dyed the roving, handspun the yarn and has finished knitting her Ranunculus Sweater.

The pattern by Midori Hirose is very popular with handspinners and is often made with acres of positive ease, although not here.

Angela says "So satisfying to take flooff through the entire process to "stuff" by hand! up ...shear my own sheep?"

There are many pictures behind this one (swipe) of the dyeing, spinning and knitting.

Cat lover handspun vest

Cat lover handspun vest

This is Fred, owner of the sheep that produced the wool for the vest he's wearing.

He is a remarkable person, as well as a shepherd he is a wood worker, cat lover, chicken caretaker, pick-up truck driver and spinner.

His friend recycledyarnco loves to knit. She designed and made the vest.

Scent of Water

Scent of Water

Here's an example of a neatly-wound cop, as discussed elsewhere in this issue, made here by NancyH

The colour is Inglenook's "Scent of Water", merino / silk / flax/

Handspun Hitchhiker

Handspun Hitchhiker

This is Kat's handspun Hitchhiker. She thinks that it may be the most favourite thing that she's ever made.

She spun yarn that she bought some time ago from Amy King. Her goal was consistency.

She feels that knitting with handspun yarn takes her love of knitting to a new level. "If you don't spin," she says, "I am sorry for you, because knitting with yarn you made is just incredible."


Free patterns

A selection of free seasonal patterns which will work well with handspun yarn.

Rainbow Indigo Fisherman's Beanie by Janet Stimson

Rainbow Indigo Fisherman's Beanie by Janet Stimson

Sarah Matthess has made this gansey-inspired hat from her own yarn. her blog post tells of the history of the fisherman's gansey.

The hat is made using DK yarn at a tighter gauge than normal. Ganseys were made from a denser fabric to keep the weather and waves out.

The name of the hat comes from this being one of seven hats that Janet Stimson has designed during the pandemic, named after the colours of the rainbow.

(Ravelry link)

Earth Mama Leg Warmers by Nat Raedwulf

Earth Mama Leg Warmers by Nat Raedwulf

I can heartily and personally recommend these legwarmers because I've just finished my first pair in handspun yarn - here's a cheeky link to my project.

They feel lovely and warm and stay up. I really enjoyed knitting them, all of the different cables and twists ensure that you don't get bored! Even the lower rib has a twist.

They use around 500 yards of sport-weight (12WPI) yarn.

LED Lit Felted Mushrooms

LED Lit Felted Mushrooms

This is not so much a pattern but a tutorial. Even if you're not well-versed in needle-felting or electronics, it should be possible using these instructions.

If you are interested in electronics, then there is scope for adding sensors or switches for a sensor-triggered nightlight or a programmable porch light.

"Blue Fish" Decorative Leno on a Rigid Heddle loom

Leno is a hand manipulated weave where a pair of threads are twisted, and the weft goes through them.

This project, nicknamed 'blue fish', is an example of Leno woven by Maria Shtrik. It's made on a rigid heddle loom and all details are given in this blog post, introduced by Kate of Ashford.

Changing Shape Shawl by Laney Engle

Changing Shape Shawl by Laney Engle

This is the second of two weaving projects. This shawl is made using a strong warp yarn, as it uses the pulled warp technique, You can use any yarn for the weft, but more grabby yarn will require more force when pulling the weft.

This pattern is interesting for its warp fringe, and the pulling, which creates the wrapping shape.

Vermont's Finest (Bernie's Mittens) by Meg Harlan

Vermont's Finest (Bernie's Mittens) by Meg Harlan

At the top of this issue we learned about Bernie's mittens, and that they're sewn from fabric cut from knitted jumpers.

If you fancy knitting a pair rather than sewing a pair, then naturally there is now a wealth of patterns to choose from. Here is one that uses stranded colourwork, 200-600 yards of aran-weight yarn in four colours.


Not-so-free patterns

Love Note by tincanknits

Love Note by tincanknits

As I write this it's very cold and wintery outside, but unless you're a much faster knitter than me, it may be time to think about lighter tops for Spring.

This pattern has a lovely lacey yoke. It's designed for fingering weight held double, so use your imagination (and check for gauge). There's a suggestion of mohair lace with single-ply merino. Yardages given are for the combined yarn.

The pattern has a varied-length hem and a choice of two lengths. It also suggests that the pattern looks excellent "with 4-12" of positive ease" which sounds a lot to me but it's an option. The 3/4 sleeves have a little bit of ballooning.

Alexa Ludeman writes a diary entry here called A Love Note for Mum, in which she writes about knitting this pattern for her Mum.

Lofoten by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence

Lofoten by Kerin Dimeler-Laurence

This is a challenging pattern, it involves colourwork and steeks (cutting your knitting - eek!) The patterned section of the sleeves is knit in the round and then steeked.

This does have scope for using commercial yarn for the main background colour and handspun for the accent colours.

Autumn Forest by Fine Lightness

Autumn Forest by Fine Lightness

The dropped stitches add interest to this simple, classic design. The picture shows Propolis' project which she made from handspun which used alpaca and a mixed fibre batt.

The pattern is from Laine issue 3, which is a substantial publication that includes articles and 11 patterns.



2021  UK yarn and fibre festivals

2021 UK yarn and fibre festivals

It seems a long time ago, but I used to keep a list of the larger UK yarn and fibre festivals, particularly those that would be of interest to spinners.

Some organisers are holding online events. Some are still hoping to go ahead, and very soon.

For obvious reasons, this picture is ever-changing. Being Knitterly has put together such a good list of these events, for now I'm going to simply link to that list.

Enjoy and stay safe.

But is it art...?

Alison Watt and Dovecot Studios, Butterfly

Alison Watt and Dovecot Studios, Butterfly

This is a behind-the-scenes video showing the making of Alison Watt's tapestry, Butterfly, commissioned by Scottish Opera.

Thanks to MDK for highlighting this video.


All that remains is for me to thank everyone who blogs, writes articles or posts pictures on the subject of spinning, knitting, crochet or weaving. This newsletter wouldn't exist without them.

If you enjoy Hand Spinning News, please do share a link to by email or on social media with anyone who may be interested. Obviously this full version is a benefit to you as a paying subscriber. An edited version of this particular issue will be mailed to free subscribers and visible at towards the end of the month.

It's always good to hear from readers for any reason (or no reason!)

Happy spinning!

- Editor / curator

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