Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Handspun and Handmade


I have a terrible secret to tell you, dear reader:  I used to hate handspun yarn.  It's lumpy, it's irregular, it comes in crazy colors, it slips around on the needles, it's hard to afford enough of it to make anything bigger than this:

That is, if you can't tell, a fluffy mohair handspun knit in an open pattern which will hopefully be put together into a pillowcase soon (it was my project on the train to and from NYC).  I prefer more tailored clothes and a more sedate home-look, and something like the above is not really my style (although I'm hoping that in small doses it can be a nice accent piece).  Because I don't care for handspun, I've ended up with an entire drawer full of it:

Why do I have a crazy drawer full of yarn I supposedly don't like?  My mother.  My mother doesn't knit, although she crochets a little, and she's friends with handspinners and likes to go to craft fairs, so she sends me tons of yarn for birthdays, holidays, whenever.  (She also sends me a ton of thrift store cloth and vintage clothing "to make something cute out of" which is why I have a dresser and a rubbermaid full of stash, but that's another post).  What a problem to have, right?

I think she likes the idea of these yarns: she gets to pet them, pick ones she likes, and be involved in the things I make without having to commit the time to making things or storing them in the meantime.  She's a full time RN with a long commute, so she doesn't get a lot of down time or bus knitting time like I do (I'll say this for academia: it's a good thing there's a recent trend towards knitting in meetings and at talks, because otherwise I'd be bored out of my mind). 

But back to the yarn.  As part of my recent efforts to de-stash, I've been trying really hard to knit down/sew down things I already own, and finding patterns to fit the yarn, rather than find new yarn to fit a pattern I want.    I just started this shrug sweater pattern on Ravelry, and paired it with the blush-to-raspberry yarn at the top of the post, and it's changing my mind about handspun.

The pattern is fairly tailored, and the yarn, while not slubby, has a lot of thick-n-thin which gives the otherwise tailored look a little interest (I'm also doing an inset chevron lace detail on the chest, arms, and middle back which shows up as holiness here, but which will hopefully add a little interest when it's blocked out).  The yarn was dyed in the wool and then spun, so it's giving a nice ombre/tequila sunrise effect as it goes from blush to pink, and there's a lot of pretty changes in the yarn to look at as it knits up.  The reason this yarn and pattern combo is changing my mind about handspun is because it pushes me outside my comfort zone and will hopefully add a little twist to my otherwise fairly tailored (and increasingly similar-looking) wardrobe.  I think part of the danger of sewing or making so much of your own clothing is that it's really easy to make a lot of similar things (at least for me).  It's easy to make patterns you know work well, it's easy to select the same fabric types or colors over and over because they work, it's easy to make similar styles because they go with things you already own.  And as much space my mother's presents take up, it's kind of fun to jump into something feet first that I wouldn't have done if I didn't want to get rid of stash.


  1. That looks lovely. I wish I still had the patience for knitting, but I could never get past the scarf stage. Anything else terrifies me.

    My mother once bought me about $90 worth of natural alpaca yarn. Ye gods.

    I bought some super-local yarn once, and tried making it into three different things before I gave up. It made me look like a bad kind of hippie. I think now a big, oversized sweater would have looked good, but it would have cost about $200. Here's the site:

  2. Thanks, ab. I went off knitting for a while right after I started grad school, but the bus and sitting in looong academic meetings give me lots of time to knit now.

    Dropping that much money on yarn would be tough to do--definitely one of those things that it's easier to do for someone else.