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Hand Spinning News

Did you know that King George III kept a flock of Spanish Merino at Kew? Or that prior to that, exporting the Spanish sheep was punishable by death?

Fortunately for us, the noble Merino wool is no longer 'the gift of kings'.

Wool of all breeds is once again getting a hoofhold in the clothing industry, and a welfare standard is encouraging responsible practices.

It's that time of the year again, just a few short weeks away from the shortest day. This month's pattern suggestions include plenty of warmer projects and some gifts. As we dig out our woollies, a bit of mending might be necessary. Are you keen on the visible mending movement or do you like your surgery to be invisible?

The tips and tutorials this month include spinning silk hankies, achieving a balanced yarn.

Read on for all of this and the rest of this month's cunning curated collection of inspirational information and entertainment for spinners, knitters, crocheters, dyers and weavers. This is the free issue for November 2018.

Find out how to receive a longer, ad-free* version of HSN earlier in the month.

Photo right: spinneanne's sexy spindle shot. The cover photo is Maarten van Heemskerck - Portrait of Anna Codde



Wool Week and BritSpin

Wool Week takes over London's Covent Garden with colored washing machines

Wool Week takes over London's Covent Garden with colored washing machines

This year's Wool Week stunts included this colourful washing machine installation in Covent Garden.

The message may not be obvious. "When you wash wool, you're not creating micro-plastics. Wool biodegrades naturally in the sea" said Campaign for Wool's Peter Ackroyd. He added that it's more washable than people think.

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Other recent events

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In the media

The world's first sustainable wool clothing garments

The world's first sustainable wool clothing garments

Our great-grandmothers and even some of today's small producers might argue with that headline's claim.

This is news of the Responsible Wool Standard, a voluntary global standard which is concerned with the welfare of sheep and the land they graze.

A number of well-known retailers are making commitments to using wool bearing the mark.

There are some interesting comments here from a New Zealand producer who is pleased that his crossbreed wool will be going into clothing rather than carpets and he sees the RWS becoming a more important standard in coming years.

Wearing wool instead of cotton gives you an extra 15 minutes of sleep

Wearing wool instead of cotton gives you an extra 15 minutes of sleep

In news that will delight Yvonne the sheep, wearing wool gives you more sleep.

I'm happy to hear the results of this study, but there's still something amusing about the story.

When those Australian scientists watched their sleeping subjects with stopwatches in their hands, did they feel that they were doing the best job in the world or question their life choices?

No word on whether wearing wool is better than sleeping au naturel but just in case I'm just off to search for merino nightwear.

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From the Blogosphere

Repairing a Gansey

Repairing a Gansey

Thanks to tomofholland who has documented the 'visible mending' of this gansey in some detail.

I would certainly prefer to go the 'invisible mending' route, but the contrasting colour used here does make it easy to see Tom's stitches.

There is a back-story to the gansey which you can also read in Tom's post.

What Can You Knit Out of Wensleydale?

What can you knit out of Wensleydale?

Have you spun Wensleydale? It's a long lustrous fibre. The jumper here is made from Wensleydale (commercially-spun yarn, but British grown and spun). It's often mistaken for mohair.

LB Handknits has lots of information about the wool. It's an interesting read and if you're like me, you'll be wanting to try spinning some! (I found that World of Wool have Wensleydale top at 2.50 per 100g)

The biggest surprise is that the gorgeous jumper shown in the article was an improvised pattern.

A New Way Of Making Things

A new way of Making Things

Here's Tanis working on the Seaboard Sweater which I've featured later on.

In this blog post she talks about the Making Things app, which is billing itself as 'the Netflix for Knitters and Crocheters'. In short, you pay a monthly subscription for access to patterns from a number of designers. Just like Netflix you'll only be able to access patterns by designers who have signed up, and you'll only have access as long as you pay the monthly subscription.

Tanis takes a very positive attitude. I've also seen comments from designers who don't plan to sign up because they feel that this model doesn't serve designers well.

Only time will tell whether Tanis benefits overall from using this service, and I'll be very interested in what she has to say in several months' time.

If you'd like to discuss this controversial topic, there's a huge thread on Ravelry, which includes some contributions from Casey himself. Please feel free to get involved in the HSN Ravelry forum, which is where I've posted my own opinions.

Thoughts on non-superwash, nylon-free sock yarns

Thoughts on non-superwash, nylon-free sock yarns

With plastic being the bad guy at the moment, there are projects such as #tuffsocksnaturally which are exploring alternatives to nylon or superwash treatment.

I assumed that this article from LB would be along the same lines, but she poses a very interesting opinion: that there's something more important than nylon or superwash treatment that gives socks longevity.

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Tips and tutorials

Three ply fractal spinning

Three ply fractal spinning

Benjamin has been thinking too hard about fractal spinning. What we call fractal spinning produces a very nice effect but the result isn't really a fractal sequence.

He explains his thinking and produces a yarn with a colour sequence which repeats at a smaller and smaller scale.

His article includes the pattern for the Reeds and Rushes cowl shown here and the instructions for spinning the yarn.


Fibre-spinning robot swarms build architecture from scratch

Fibre-spinning robot swarms build architecture from scratch

Fiberbot is a little robot that spins a cocoon around itself while climbing upwards. This produces a strong tube, and 'swarms' of these bots can build architectural forms.

The fibre that they spin is a mix of fibreglass thread and light-curing resin.

The structures grow organically. The robots can steer themselves to some extent to avoid collision based on rules that control flocking behaviour. Varying these rules produces different types of structures.

The video on this page is a worthwhile watch.


Neighbour Noise

There is a horrible din in the air - crow's cawing. The sheep are perturbed. Yvone: It sounds as if Crow might be in trouble. Do you think one of us should go and make sure he's OK? Then we see that Crow is singing karaoke to his partner. She says it was beautiful and asks for My Way.

Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

If you like Yvonne, click the image to find her page, you can use next and previous to explore more cartoons, and join the mailing list for a regular digest email.

Jigsaw - online

Jigsaw - online

Thank you very much if you've had a go at any of these on your computer or tablet, particularly to the one or two people who've written to tell me that they've enjoyed them.

I've set them up with 35 - 50 pieces- just the right number for a coffee-break challenge and you gradually reveal the cartoon.

Keeping this wheel spinning

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Spin + Knit 2017, a Spin-Off special issue

Spin + Knit 2017, a Spin-Off special issue

I discovered this pattern collection via an older blog post from Kate Larson.

She visited the Shetland Isles some years ago, and during the visit bought a pack of wool in various shades. Her blog post about the visit is a good read.

She designed a Fair Isle hat, which now appears on the cover of this collection of 20 patterns, all designed with handspun yarn in mind.

A collection of patterns for spin and knit is unusual. It also contains a number of articles. Spinning Basics by Maggie Casey, for the spinning-curious, and more how-to articles. There's also a good run-down of sheep breeds. My full review is at the link below,

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Sometimes just a picture is enough

WoollyElly's Knutschkugel

WoollyElly's Knutschkugel

Thanks to WoollyElly for posting her finished Knutschkugel in the HSN Ravelry group.

it's made using some Spinzilla 2017 yarn. The handspun yarn contains some merino/silk mix and some unidentified John Arbon fibre. The project also uses some Debbie Bliss yarn which contains silk / mohair.

Handspun Hallowe'en toque

Handspun Hallowe'en toque

I'm bewitched and enchanted by the colours in this yarn and by the finished hat.

I love it when a blog post contains notes and pictures showing the fibre, yarn and finished project, as this one does.

The 'By Rachel' tag is a nice touch.

Scrappy Handspun Octopus

Scrappy handspun octopus

Handspun yarn is perfect for this chameleon-like creature.

vermontgirlamy made this octupus using her handspun yarn for the body with a commercial yarn for the underside.

Pipe-cleaners make the legs poseable and googly eyes bring it to life. The pattern is from Hansi Singh's Amigurumi Knits book. Amy says "It was a well-written and fun pattern".

Yarn Stretcher

Yarn Stretcher

wildcatquilting's shawl is the perfect demonstration that you don't need a fancy stitch pattern to show of a beautiful handspun yarn.

The pattern is Quaker Yarn Stretcher by Susan Ashcroft which is said to be an excellent pattern for handspun.

The fibre was dyed by threewatersfarm and thanks to them for sharing.

Britspin yarn becomes a hat

Britspin yarn quickly becomes a hat

The flip side of that is that you can show off your plain yarn with an interesting stitch pattern.

This is Instagram user @susanhunt57's Britspin yarn which became a hat very quickly.

Cascadial Wrap

Cascadial Wrap

Wearing a garment from yarn that you spun yourself is one thing but spinning the yarn using spindles that you made is even closer to total self-sufficiency.

The pattern is Cascadial Wrap by Erin Kurup. "A great pattern to show off mini skeins, gradients, or favorite leftover bits".

Congratulations to happay. Do check out her daelgan spindles which are beautiful.

It doesn't get more local

It doesn't get more local

Spinning home-grown yarn also fits the self-sufficiency category. As Amy says, "It doesn't get more local"

She posted the picture in response to a #wovember prompt, 'local'.

Over a year in the making

Over a year in the making

Fibrefolly says "I wet felted this back in August 2017 and it sat waiting for inspiration...I thought it looked a little like leaves, so I have been machine embroidering...I'm thrilled with the result!"

Oddball handspun jacket

Oddball handspun jacket

Another long-term project is siljadevine's Oddball Jacket. It's a real-life coat-of-many-colours. She says that she put the project down because it became boring. She has recently picked it up and finished it.

"No pattern, figured things out as I knit" she said.

Natural colours

Natural colours

This month's sexy spindle shot is by spinneanne.

The natural colours complement the spindle and bowl beautifully, which appear to be from Maine Fiber Tools.

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Free patterns

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

Shorelines Shawl Collar Cardigan by Fran Rushworth

Shorelines Shawl Collar Cardigan by Fran Rushworth

This is the first of two maritime-themed patterns this month.

This is Fran modelling her Shorelines cardigan in the most appropriate location.

She has deliberately designed it to combat a common problem; skeins of hand-dyed yarn all being a little different.

She has deliberately made a couple of her skeins deeper in colour for the accents, the rest don't quite match as well as intended.

I like the solution and I like the design of this garment.

Knitting two blankets

Knitting two blankets

The baby blankets in the picture are not in handspun yarn but variegated and semi-solid.

They'll look great in any handspun yarn or combination of yarns; colourful, gradient, variegated or semi-solid.

As Tabetha Hedrick notes, acres of garter stitch can be mind-numbing. Or you might feel that it can be just the job for TV or travel knitting.

The Dwell Sweater by Jess Coppom

The Dwell Crochet Sweater by Jess Coppom

This is a quick project. Lili says "I know it's totally cheating to have an FO made with a 10mm hook, but it's still an FO!"

Hers isn't handspun yarn, but you could use a bulky yarn with large hook for gauge or hold multiple strands together. It takes around a thousand yards (or multiples of that if you're multi-stranding.)

She suggests that the design is "totally something you could live in for the next couple of months" (northern hemisphere).

Thanks to lilirious for the suggestion, I'm linking to her blog. Find the link to the pattern within it.

Farbenkreis by nani kloess

Farbenkreis by nani kloess

The yoke is made in rows (using short-rows) so the colour changes in the yarn will work from left to right.

The yoke would be a great way to show off a yarn with gradient colour changes. If you don't want to spin for a whole jumper, maybe handspun for the yoke with commercial yarn for the rest of the jumper.

With thanks to Melodye for the suggestion.

Sarah's Slouch by Woolly Wormhead

Sarah's Slouch by Woolly Wormhead

Garter stitch gives this hat texture and comfort.

It's knit in the round on 4.5mm needles (or size to obtain gauge) and the pattern suggests using two strands of "assorted 4-ply and dk yarns". There are four sizes.

I've linked to the Woolly Wormhead free pattern page as Woolly has requested. Simply scroll down a little way for Sarah's Slouch and click the icon to obtain the pdf.

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Not-so-free patterns

Seaboard Sweater by Tanis Lavallee

Seaboard Sweater by Tanis Lavallee

Yes, I'm thinking ahead to next Spring / Summer here.

This seaside-inspired sweater isn't as plain and simple as it first looks. The darker stripes are worked in an interesting stitch pattern and there's a cable panel up each side, which add to the drape and fit, according to the designer.

The boxy shape with lots of positive ease is fashionable, I'm told, and Tanis says that she finds it flattering.

Spin-Stitch Scarf & Poncho

Spin-Stitch Scarf & Poncho

This caught my eye because of the word spin, but of course spin stitch refers to the knitting stitch rather than spinning or handspun yarn.

This is an attractive poncho nonetheless, and I'm planning to make one myself.

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And finally...

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A final word of thanks to everyone who blogs, writes articles or posts pictures on the subject of spinning, knitting, crochet or weaving. This newsletter wouldn't exist without people writing interesting and useful things.

If you do keep a blog, or if you read a particularly interesting blog or website and you're not sure whether I already know about it, please write and tell me about it.

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

Happy spinning!

Shiela Dixon - Editor / curator

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