2021 in Review – and My First Handspun Pattern!

Happy New Year!

I took some time off during the holidays to be with family, and since coming back I’ve been doing the work of closing out 2021 and planning for the upcoming year. In 2021, I published 6 new patterns and 15 blog posts, and taught my first ever online class! Teaching the class on breed-specific yarns was one of the highlights of the year for me, and I hope to do more teaching in the future – maybe even in person.

This year I have some new designs planned, of course, but I am also focusing on updating some old favorites. I’ve mentioned before in my newsletter or on Instagram that I want to update the Suora tee pattern to include larger sizes, and will hopefully be testing and releasing that in the coming months.

A cream-colored, handknit cabled hat rests on a wood surface next to an evergreen bough and pine cone.
The Towline Hat. Photo by Matt Graves for Spin Off Magazine

I’ve become confident enough in my spinning now to begin designing patterns from my handspun, and my first effort, the Towline Hat, was published as a subscriber exclusive on the Spin Off website just before New Year’s. If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen a teaser there. It’s a cozy, squishy cabled hat knit in woolen-spun 3-ply yarn. (Spin Off subscribers can find the pattern here.) The pattern features Tunis lambswool fiber from Tarheelbilly Farm (she has just updated her shop with both fiber and yarn, so do have a look).

I will be publishing this as a downloadable pattern once this exclusivity period ends, and it will include a commercial yarn version for those who don’t want to spin their own.


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Spinning Dorset Horn Roving

It’s been awhile since I’ve finished a Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em project – the last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind and haven’t left me much time for spinning. I’ve been working on this lovely natural gray-brown Dorset Horn from Covered Bridge Fiber for several months, and finally finished it off last week.

According to The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, Dorset Horn sheep originated in Dorset, a county in southwestern England, and have fleece with a regular, fine crimp with plenty of elascticity. The micron count is typically between 26 and 33, which puts them in the medium wool range. The Livestock Breed Conservancy lists the breed as Threatened; you can find a fiber profile on the Conservancy’s website. They are usually white but can occasionally be near-black in color. Lucky me to have found this gorgeous shade of fiber!

After spindle spinning just under an ounce of the fiber for my blanket project, I set up to spin the fiber on my wheel. While Dorset Horn not a Down breed, this fiber did have a bit of that spongy feel that’s characteristic of the Down breeds, so I assumed this fiber would be amenable to spinning londraw. I had visions of a hat or mittens in a lofty thicker yarn.

But I had trouble initially spinning it as fine as I wanted with longdraw, perhaps because the staple length is a bit longer than other breeds I’ve spun longdraw, such as Clun Forest. I don’t often take the time to actually measure staple length of fibers I’m spinning; I just pull out a staple and eyeball it. But this time I got curious and actually measured – the staple length was around 3 inches.

I found myself wanting to spin the fiber semi-woolen with a short forward draw. It seemed to want to spin relatively fine that way, so I settled on a fingering weight 2-ply. I figured it could be used to knit a sturdy pair of mittens or even as a weaving yarn.

I started spinning the singles at a 12:1 ratio with about a 2-inch draft. But I found I wasn’t enjoying this project over the long haul, and about 3/4 of the way through I gave long-draw another go. This time I was able to spin fine enough to match the singles I already had, so I went with it and finished the bobbin that way. Needless to say, this spin isn’t going to win any consistency awards, but I’m satisfied with the end result. Oddly enough, the skein spun completely with a worsted draft seems to have fluffed up more after finishing than the skein where I switched to long-draw halfway through. Go figure.

The resulting yarn is pleasantly soft, if not next-to-skin soft. I could see buying a sweater’s worth of this fiber and spinning it for a fingering-weight sweater.


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The author's feet, crossed and wearing gray wool cabled socks, rest on a brick staircase.

Jacob Wool Hiking Socks

I’ve just finished my latest knitting project – a pair of socks knitted in local wool. The yarn is from Avillion Farm – I’ve previously knitted two sweaters from her lovely Jacob and Shetland flock, and almost two years ago I bought a skein of her (then) new Jacob/ mohair sock yarn. The yarn is roughly a sport weight, so I thought it would make lovely hiking socks. And since I don’t wear my hiking socks daily, I knew I wouldn’t mind handwashing these socks.

I used a pattern from the book In the Footsteps of Sheep by Debbie Zawinski (Schoolhouse Press, 2015). The book is an account of her walking journey around Scotland in search of each region’s iconic sheep breeds, and each pattern designed for one of the breeds has a story behind it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and wanted to make a sock from one of the patterns, so this seemed like a perfect match. The socks I chose, Andrew’s Scottish Blackface Shepherd’s Socks, have a double-thickness heel, perfect for wearing in hiking boots, and a staghorn cable running up the side. They are designed for worsted-weight yarn and a man’s foot, so using the thinner yarn and smaller 2.5mm (US 1.5) needles worked out perfectly. I did try a couple of different needle sizes before I found the one that worked.

I’m very pleased with the finished result and I can’t wait to wear them with my new hiking boots.


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