What to make from beginner’s handspun?

When we went to Woolfest earlier this year I was struck by the beauty of a project Liz was working on using her handspun. She explained rather modestly that she didn’t feel that her ‘learning’ handspun was good enough for garments or gifts and had ingeniously found a project which would both show off the woolliness to its best advantage, whilst also utilising the small quantities of yarn typically produced in the learning stages. To my eyes and fingers Liz’s ‘learning’ handspun looks like the most magnificent yarn in all the land. In fact I was prompted by the delicious sight of it to exclaim that if I could spin yarn at all then I would make a leotard out of it and leap around in it all over the Earth, exclaiming jubilantly that I had made it myself.

Now that I have produced some yarn, I would like to retract that statement as I rather think that nobody needs to see a handspun, handknitted leotard, far less me in one. However, the exuberance of that sentiment remains; to me, it is nothing less of a miracle that I can make yarn from a sheep and then a jumper from my yarn. I adore articles like The Ram is Half the Sweater by Barbara Parry in this Autumn’s Twist Collective, and projects like Juniper Moon Farm for their emphasis on our relationship with land and animals. It is possible to think about clothes in a connected and very rich way when the links between place and textiles are made visible and to me the leotard idea – though clearly a terrible fashion faux-pas – is illustrative of my excitement concerning garments with clear connections to specific creatures and geographies. To this end I am constantly reading about sheep and various wool-related textiles and taking photographs of places for ideas for clothes.

And when I looked at my lumpy, stone-hued and lichenous handspun yarns, I remembered a lovely Cairn that Mark and I saw at Glen Etive last Winter, and how I had photographed it with the express intention of recreating it in yarn as a tea-cosy.

I also remembered the Flemish and English Brickwork book that Rachael was reading about when we stayed with her parents in the lake district, and how she adopted the ballband dishcloth stitch pattern by Mason Dixie in order to create the brickwork sleeves on her UFO during the Project Administration Service project. You can see those sleeves here. And I remembered Ysolda’s Cairn and with my memories of all these things – stones and Cairns and stitch-patterns and shapes and things – I knitted this.

Unconvinced that I had perfectly recreated the Cairn as I remembered it, I spent some time this morning in Photoshop, testing out various ideas.

I am quite enamoured with the inside-out version of the hat, with its neat little rows of regular/irregular purl bumps and I very much like the way that the yarns go from dark to light. But I knit two reverse-stocking-stitch hats last week and am slightly uninspired at the idea of a third… still, there is enough handspun leftover for me to perhaps try a second version. I am very pleased with how the stone and lichen colours of the original Cairn and the knitted teacosy work; I think there is quite a good likeness.

But as for whether or not it will stay as a teacosy, I do not yet know. The temptation to place this immediately atop my head and leap about foolishly declaring ‘I made it myself’ is very great, and Ruth has drawn my attention to a very pertinent Billy Connolly quote, which I certainly agree with.

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn’t try it on.

– Billy Connolly

9 Responses to What to make from beginner’s handspun?

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