A Little Dose of Inspiration: Knitting with Handspun Yarn

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Knitting with handspun yarn (whether you spun it yourself or someone else did) can be one of the greatest joys in the life of a knitter. Unfortunately, too many knitters are uncomfortable using handspun, because it doesn’t always look or behave exactly like its commercial counterparts.

Essentially, every skein of handspun is unique - it has its own individual quirks, and a story to tell. It doesn’t always conform to traditional expectations - it takes on a life of its own in color, texture, and style.

Sounds like the perfect yarn for a Fibre Muse, doesn’t it?

If you aren’t a spinner yourself or you haven’t made a lot of projects with handspun, there is a slight intimidation factor there. So in today’s post, I thought I’d take a little time to empower you with tips to help you make the most out of this amazing experience.

Tips for Knitting with Handspun Yarns:

Tip #1: Love the Yardage You’re With

When you purchase a commercial yarn, you usually have a good idea of the yardage based on the weight - 100g of yarn in a fingering weight is usually 400-450 yards, for instance. However, handspun yarn doesn’t follow these rules; it’s more difficult to spin a yarn to these specifications by hand than it is to accomplish that same task with a machine. Instead of punishing the handspun for not living up to your yardage expectations, it’s better to choose a project that works with the weight and yardage of that particular skein.

One of the best options is to choose a project where you can just keep knitting until you run out of yarn (like a scarf), or a project where you weigh the yarn as you go in order to use the most of the yardage you have. The Phlegethon Shawl from the Dreamer issue of the Fibre Muse Quarterly is a great example! Worked end to end, you can just knit the increases until you’ve used approximately half your skein, and then decrease back to the other end.

Tip #2: Let the Texture Take the Lead

Handspun yarn is a texture lover’s dream! Whether you go all out with an art yarn full of coils, twists, and add-ins or you prefer a basic plied beauty, handspun yarn usually has significantly more texture than commercial yarn. What that means is that you should choose patterns with simple stitches so that the yarn itself can be the showcase feature. Basically, any pattern you could knit with a boldly variegated yarn will also work to show off the texture (and color) of a handspun skein.

Want a suggestion? The Kakano hat features a simple, all-over textural pattern that will allow a thick and thin or colorful yarn to shine:

Tip #3: Mix Your Way to a Perfect Match

Sometimes you want to find a way to stretch that precious skein of lower-yardage handspun into a larger project. Though you can choose an open, meshy lace pattern to do this with one skein, another great option is to mix and match the handspun with a commercial skein of yarn. Don’t be afraid that the textures won’t match up - the combination of textures will actually give your project that little bit of extra intrigue, and the boldness of the handspun texture will help it stand out against a background of commercial stitches.

Need some inspiration? Take a look at the the May Pole Cowl!

This pattern features a neutral background color (perfect for your commercial skein) with pops of colorful stripes; this makes it an ideal match for smaller handspun skeins because you only need 62 yards of each accent color!

I hope I’ve inspired you to try something new with your knitting, or to knit with those precious skeins of handspun you’ve been hoarding. I think you’ll find it’s an experience you’re eager to repeat!