Next time remember before

Thanks so much guys, for all of your amazing comments and compliments yesterday.  I promise I’ve gotten more out of the blog than you have, but it’s absolutely charming that you feel like it’s a two way street.

Onward! As you will recall, when we had last seen our intrepid knitter (that would be me) she had decided to knit Little Lou Hoo a sweater, then, following a poor experience with a gauge swatch (fine. It was a sleeve) had thrown a minor hissy fit and turned her back on commercial yarn.  There’s nothing like a failed gauge attempt to knock the will to knit right off of you.  I decided to change to handspun, and started spinning the singles right away.

I’d talked to a few spinners, and checked in with my common sense, and I felt pretty confident that if I spun three big, full bobbins, that when I plied I would have enough 3 ply handspun. I did exactly that, but something weird happened.   I plied together my singles,  then sent them for a lovely bath to take the last of the oils out of the wool, and to set the twist.  Think of it like a kind of blocking.  After the skeins were washed I pressed most of the water out of them in a towel, then snapped them a few times to sort them out, then hung them over the railing to dry.  Dry they did, and in the morning I got a bit of a shock.  My skeins looked short.  They’d absolutely changed length, and when I picked up the skeins to play with them, I figured out why. 

This wool is merino.  Merino is super, super crimpy, and crimp in wool is like curl in hair.  I’ve got curly hair, and for a while I had this hairdresser who (I believe) thought my sister was really good looking. (She is.) We both went to see him for our hair, and he was always trying to convince me to straighten my hair like my sister’s. He was always saying how nice it would be, and how I would love it. (I had to work a great deal on not taking it personally that he obviously preferred her hair.) One time I broke down, and after he cut my hair I let him blow dry it and brush it all straight.  It was totally creepy – and really long, once you took the curl out.  For the whole rest of the day I kept passing mirrors and saying hi to my sister before remembering that it was me.  By three in the afternoon I’d decided to wash it to bring my curl back, that’s how freaky it was. I jumped in the bath, dunked myself and whammo, curly girl again.

Wool works the same way – and this is merino top.  Roving is carded fiber, the fibres are all jumbled, and then sold in a rope… but top is combed fibre. All the individual strands of merino have been combed so they are all parallel, and the process works a little like a hair straightener. (It still comes in a rope though.)   I spun them while they were straight, and plied them while they were straight and then when I gave them their bath, they stopped being my sister and started being me, and all the crimp came back, and the yarn shrunk up – and there you have the most squishy, scrumptious, deliciously soft and bouncy yarn….

and not enough yardage.  It’s crazy, because I can pick up the skeins and slip my hands into them and when I pull my hands apart the yarn is so stretchy that it’s practically an elastic.  It’s like I’ve spun a hair tie or something. It will stretch out to the yardage I was expecting (or closer to it) but then when I let go, all that crimp pulls it back in. I love it.

Now, mark my words, it just so happens that I believe that I have already spun enough yarn for this baby sweater. 

(I have the skeins on the floor because when I picked them off the rail they were a little damp. I tossed them on the heat vent to dry them all the way. Do it all the time. Works a treat.)

I keep picking up the three skeins I have and giving them a big squish and thinking that it has just got to be enough, but in a moment of tremendous maturity, I have decided to spin a little more.

The pattern says 360 yards, and it’s written by a nice Canadian who wouldn’t lie to me, so I’m going to take Alexa’s word for it and spin a little more.  Then I am making a sweater. I am so excited.

(PS. In the interest of honesty I feel compelled to tell you that I may have already started a sleeve. Just as a swatch. You know – just to be careful. I’m not starting before I’m done spinning… I’m just checking.)

86 thoughts on “Next time remember before

  1. A totally mature and wise decision (that I probably wouldn’t have been mature and wise enough to make) 🙂 Very Proud!!

  2. I’m proud of your maturity . . . you ABSOLUTELY needed to make a sleeve, um, I mean, swatch so you could be sure about how much more you needed to spin. Good luck!

  3. And we all totally believe that you are just checking, unexpected maturity notwithstanding. It’s important to make sure you still have gauge with your bouncy, squashy handspun.
    Good luck!

  4. Your yarn looks good enough to eat! It’s beautiful! I can’t wait to see the finished sweater. And I didn’t get the chance to comment the other day but I wanted to say happy anniversary and thanks for brightening my day with your words!

  5. Not that I wouldn’t do (and haven’t done) exactly the same thing to dry stuff *faster*, but I have a theory as to why your furnace might seem like it’s not keeping up… (Canadian winter aside) 😉

  6. Well, swatching (coughsleevecough) is part of being a mature spinner as well as knitter, right? Isn’t that the most accurate gauge of how much yarn you really need to spin up?

  7. My curious mind wants to know, If it the fiber has changed… does it resemble the yarn that you originally had? It kind of looks similar. Is it a tight twist? It looks kind of lofty and smooshy to me.

  8. The floor throughout our house is heated, part is done in slate. Anything we put on the floor dries very nicely. It is -5 degrees Fahrenheit near Syracuse, New York. Cozy warm feet.

  9. That is the very best explanation of how crimp works and changes in handspun that I have ever read! Thank you (and wise decision to spin up more)

  10. You can tell that yarn is deliciously squishy just by looking at your picture 😉 Growing up in Montreal, my mother’s house had forced air, too. We used to put our mittens on top of the vents to dry when we would come in from the cold. Ah, good times. (We, unfortunately, now have hot-water baseboards and you just can’t dry anything on them since they’re tiny and narrow baseboards and the mittens or socks keep falling to the floor.)

  11. I’m the one who asked how you estimated how much fleece you’d need for this project. I guess neither one of us took the crimp factor into account. Always learning!

  12. My daughter and I have your hair. I flatiron the dickens out of mine every morning. Once in high school my daughter’s friend ironed her hair. I couldn’t stop staring at her when she had straight hair–she seemed like someone I didn’t know! Good luck with the swatch!

  13. Ah, Merino…crimpy…I need to remember that when I spin…
    I do a half hearted measurement when I use my niddy noddy…counting how many strands and multiplying.
    Better to have more than less!

  14. That explains why all my merino yarn has always felt so much squishier than other wool! Thanks for the explanation. 🙂
    I also wanted to say that your spinning pictures ALMOST make me want to take up spinning myself. And I mean that as the highest compliment, since I need another hobby like I need a hole in the head.

  15. WOW….beautiful yarn. My husband bought me a spinning wheel for Christmas. Louet…i like it…but i think it will take me some time until i can spin as uniformly as you do….but it will be fun practicing meanwhile!

  16. Lovely yarn. Someday I’ll graduate from my drop spindle to a “real” spindle – maybe when I retire …

  17. Curly hair rocks. I am drooling over your pretty, squishy yarn and quite envious of your floor vents. Down South, we only have vents in the ceilings, so there is no using the vents to dry wooly things, unless I rig up a scaffolding.

  18. Love the curly hair analogy. It is so frustrating going to a hairdresser who doesn’t understand curly hair “shrinkage”. Your yarn looks lovely and I applaud your approach to spin some extra just in case……

  19. I have curly hair,in a family of stick-straight hair. I have always loved my curls, but spent all of high school being shooed into salons where my hair was blown, tortured, straightened, burned, etc. — and I was then told how pretty I looked. I always hated it, and couldn’t wait to get home and wash the “weird hair” down the drain!

  20. Spin a little, knit a little.
    It isn’t like The Blog is the “Knit SS” and will bust you if you don’t spin enough extra yardage RIGHT NOW.
    And there is nothing worse, if you have curly hair, than entrusting it to someone who doesn’t understand its special qualities. I think you should have gotten a different hairdresser (no matter how gorgeous he may have been!).

  21. I can relate to the curly hair thing. Even my own mother doesn’t recognize me on the rare occasion when I have straightened my hair.

  22. It sounds like little Lou Hoo will be able to grow more rotund in his sweater and it should expand to fit him given all that bouncy, stretchy wool stuff.

  23. Another curly top representing, here. It’s nice to know we have a good thing in common with sheep!
    By the way, if you want bouncy, stretchy, crimpy yarn, give a try to Mountain Meadows from Buffalo, Wyoming. It’s almost like knitting with elastic.

  24. Just think, Steph, you’ve spun wool which when knitted into that baby sweater will stretch to grow with the baby. Now that is neat! 🙂

  25. Sleeves don’t count! love your explanations! and rationalizations! you crack me up! and i missed your anniversary yesterday. I love your blog too! happy anniversary!

  26. Another curly head here. I fought it for years and now embrace it! The yarn looks gorgeous. It will be a beautiful sweater :*)

  27. …okay Steph…just the sleeve now..promise! Can we see the sleeve? Is it gooood, crunchy and scrumptious?
    Have fun dearest. Spinning one’s own wool is ALWAYS a joy.

  28. Oh, to be able to spin like that. Gorgeous! I need more patience for spinning. And probably more retreats with Judith.

  29. This is absolutely gorgeous. I just started spinning (or trying to) on a spindle, and what you just did is what I hope to be able to do someday on a wheel. What type of wheel do you have? I’m sure you’ve answered that before on the blog but I couldn’t find it.

  30. Oh. Rats. I’m spinning Polwarth, which is rather like Merino in terms of crimp. Absolutely gorgeous, and I’m dyeing mine a rather lovely faded-denim blue, at the special request of future daughter-in-law, to make a vest for her because she is always cold. I too just realized that I failed to take account of the crimp factor.
    Luckily, I have a whole fleece to play with so I will probably just keep spinning until I run out of clean carded fleece, ply it all up, and see what I get. If I do run into the crimp factor in a big way, I still have loads of raw fleece and will simply keep going until I have what I want.
    It’s all your fault, Steph. inspired by your example, I resumed spinning almost a year ago, after a 20-year hiatus while I had my (high-intensity, into everything, destructo twins) boys. I now spin and dye my own yarn and simply rejoice that I can make something warm, beautiful and practical for my family right from the sheep’s back to finished garment.
    Congratulations on your Blog Anniversary. You brighten my day.

  31. I’m super interested to hear how you spun it to have it be so bouncy! Surely not worsted way (like short forward draw). Did you spin from the fold? Hmmm…my merino always comes out drapey, even after a bath. Do tell, please!

  32. I want to hold that yarn.
    My friend Joyce has hair the exact same way. It’s all curl. But it also looks nice straightened.

  33. What a fabulous analogy – you’ve explained it so well. Thank you and best wishes for the project. 🙂

  34. I was wondering why my handspun merino always looked different after a wash…
    Thanks for the awesome explanation!

  35. Very impressive 3-ply! Looks like a lovely amount of yarn; someday I hope to have yarn that I made look that lovely.

  36. Ok – you want weird hair? My son, at age 17 had hair similar to yours – on a 17 year old boy it’s rock star hair – right? On a school band trip, the girls decided to straighten it. No, I did not recognize him. It was horrible.
    On a spinning note – you’re inspiring me to get back into it after about a year of gazing longingly at my wheel… thank you!

  37. “I’m not starting before I’m done spinning… I’m just checking.” Uh huh. And the check’s in the mail, you can’t get pregnant from doing it just once, and I’m married to Heather Locklear.
    You were overly proud before the Spinning Deities. They were kind and only smited you a little bit. Yet you still spite them. You may end up with some lovely yarn, but I don’t think it’s going to be right for Lou’s sweater. (Never mind the idea that this may turn out to be Lou’s version of Joe’s gansey.) Give in and get some Cascade superwash in the correct weight before the Spinning Deities really lay a whammy on you.
    PS: One of my sisters has the opposite problem to yours — stick-straight hair she’d prefer to be somewhat wavy or curly. She’s always wondering why her scalp is all itchy and owww-y after her latest industrial-strength perm. . .!

  38. I totally identify with the story about your hair. I’m also naturally curly and let a hairdresser take me into straightening it. I was so freaked out by the long, flat shaggy cut that my straightened layers created that I washed it the next morning. Other people loved it but I didn’t feel like myself.

  39. I could almost feel the merino’s crimp in my fingers…golly girl, you sure write about it well.
    Your attempts at denial were cute. A swatch…a sleeve…ah yes…I have been there. Happy knitting, I mean spinning. 🙂

  40. I bought a spinning wheel and have my first lesson at The Purple Purl on Sunday. I can hardly wait and hope I can one day produce beautiful yarns like you do. This is all your fault you know…ciao

  41. . . . and this is going to be so *perfect* for a baby sweater, with all that stretchiness. Same with CVM/Romeldale (the flock that I have). I just wish I needed to make more baby sweaters!

  42. Yup, never hurts to have a little extra. You can make him a cap to match… or booties…
    I was going thru my stash the other day and realized that I have yards and yards and yards of hand-spun yarn that I’ve never done anything with. Just admired… 🙂 Glad to know there are people who actually spin to knit.

  43. I once worked for a man who used to say –
    You lie to your friends, and I’ll lie to my friends, but let’s not lie to each other…

  44. I think your blog post is the perfect answer to why we like to spin our own yarns. The fun of spinning, the experience of how it becomes yarn, and they getting to play with it and see how it turned out. Can’t do all of that with commercial yarn.

  45. You’ll let us know, of course, how much yardage you have left when you’re done with the sweater (and whether or not you needed the extra spin). In the meantime, I’ll content myself with imagining petting your lovely merino wool. Mmm, squishy, squishy yarn.

  46. I’ve got curly hair that’s a smidge longer than shoulder length, but when I straighten it, it’s more than halfway down my back, and it’s WEIRD.
    I must say, I love the look of that yarn. It looks so beautiful and bouncy and smooshy..

  47. I am new to spinning and I recently spun some merino on my drop spindle and had exactly the same experience! I cannot stop petting my yarn and making it go “sproing!” Now that I have dyed it beautiful shades of blue and green I can scarcely be seen without it.
    I have a conceptual question for you, though. Does the sproing quality of merino mean it is easier for it to felt? I am considering making my new pet into a gift for a non-fiber person and don’t want some slightly rougher treatment to end with felting.

  48. This is possibly one of the funniest posts of yours I’ve read 🙂 I can’t WAIT until I have a bigger place and can buy a wheel! (I refuse to learn to spin on a spindle… it’s just not happening).
    Congratulations on your maturity. Not sure I’d have had the same dedication!

  49. My hair is curly (and gray), and I get it straightened 4x year when I get it cut. I think the change is fun and I feel more sophisticated and get a lot of compliments, but there’s no way I’d spend the time needed to do it myself. Curly is just easier! Congrats on the blog (didn’t get a chance to post yesterday) and your spun yarn is lovely. I’m planning to take up weaving shortly, since that’s been on my mind for several months now. Who knows? Maybe spinning will be next.

  50. Wow. Sounds like the first yarn from Anne Hanson’s BNK club last year! Can’t help but want to recommend her pattern for it…. But I doubt I’d switch from my plans at this point either.

  51. Hmm, sleeve/swatch… Slwatch? =)
    Also, I’ve got curls too, along with my mom and sister. I don’t think we even had a brush or blow dryer in the house when I was growing up. (In high school, I had the Roseanne Roseannadanna thing going on – not pretty at the time.) I hated it until I learned how to straighten it, and then I realized how lucky I was. Curls ROCK!

  52. Oooh. I love that pattern. I had chosen it for my next pattern for the youngest in the bunch.

  53. Wonderful pattern! Glad to know I’m not the only spinner who finds wool is alive (and lively). You can absolutely start knitting before you finish spinning, even if that’s not what you’re doing right now. It’s good for your hands to change activites, it helps prevent repetitive motion injuries. Ask me how I know. (I love to hand-card my fleeces.) Good luck with it and please don’t ever stop writing.

  54. Of course you are making a sleeve–I mean swatching. That is very wise of you. Also wise to spin just a bit extra. I love the creamy colour. If there was enough left over, could there be a little matching toque to keep his head warm?

  55. Why should I spend my time knitting a stupid square when that time could be applied to knitting an actual sleeve? That’s how I look at it.
    I, too, have been blessed with voluminous curls and that’s a good thing, because I have neither the time nor the inclination to blow dry and flatiron my hair so it will stay straight for maybe a day. Curly IS easier and it’s all about the right products!

  56. It looks super squishy. Like a scrunchie.
    Do people still use scrunchies? My hair hasn’t been long enough for a scrunchie for about 10 years, so I just don’t know.

  57. Funny! I had the same reaction when I picked up my newly dried skein off the drying rack over the heat vent in the floor. Last night it looked like almost 300 yds of sport weight merino. This morning it’s closer to 200 yds of worsted weight… But oh, what yummy fluffly yarn!

  58. Lol, of course you have started “swatching”, wouldn’t have expected anything else. Happy knitting, I mean swatching 🙂

  59. Wow. Your floors must be a hell of lot cleaner than mine. Gorgeous yarn, btw.

  60. My stylist blew out my hair once, and when I got home, my son (he was maybe 6 years old at the time ) took one look at me and cried out, “what happened to your hair?!?!”

  61. But, wait. Now that it’s crimpy and has all smooshed up, doesn’t that change the gauge? I’m thinking you will get a larger gauge on the same needles with the crimpy version of the yarn . Better to swatch again.

  62. I have your sister’s hair (but not thickly) and I’ve wanted yours for such a long time. Now I know how — merino top. And any colour I want. Thank you — Oh frabjous day!

  63. I just have to tell you that I am reading several of your books and i have never laughed so hard in my life! I am home dying from the flu, so sick I can’t even touch my knitting needles (I tried, it was disaster) so laughing is painful. Trying to cough, breathe and laugh at the same time doesn’t work but I just can’t put your books down! You need to make movies! I am not kidding! Little mini series!! It would so be a block buster! I just love you! Keep doing all this great stuff and write more books! At least I can follow your blog now! Thank you for that!! Brat58 on Ravelry!

  64. Your yarn looks delicious, and you’re totally right in both your analysis of the shrinkage and what to do about it. But one of my friends obstructed one of those floor heating vents once. It’s OK, the house was rebuilt with a different heating system. And as I reminded another old friend of the episode a couple days ago, she mentioned some students who’d also started a fire by putting a couch over one of these vents. Please, be careful. Can’t you just use a hair dryer on your skeins??

  65. A nurse once said to me while checking a loved one at the emergency room, “oh, my mom’s hair looks just like yours.”. While I pondered how to respond to this in the face of my loved one’s suffering, he continued “We got her a perm, and it looks SO much better.”

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