So I’m beginning this new little series in January 2020, but it really reflects all of 2019. Going forward, each month will take a look at the preceding month’s projects. Although this month will be a bit different, because I’m going to take a second to look over some of my past projects of 2019. This was inspired by a post of Emonie of Hopkins Fiber Studio in Chicago, IL. Emonie posted about her learned 9 in 2019, and I thought it’d be a nice way to round out the year and set myself up for the next one.
I spoke a bit about this in an Instagram post I made, but I’m not a believer in New Years resolutions. They seem dire to me, in a very general sense. They’re about looking at what you did “wrong” in the previous year and feeling guilty enough so that you create a list of things to ostensibly better yourself. Thinking of bettering yourself is never a bad thing, but with New Years resolutions they invariably seem to be lists of things that – let’s face it – you don’t really want to do in the first place. So, you end up not sticking with your resolutions, which then creates more guilt. And the whole cycle repeats.
I don’t do that. Nor do I look at my life in general. What I do look at is my making. What did I make in 2019? What did I learn? What was the most challenging? What got me the most excited?
That final question is the key because it always drives me forward, and that’s where the most joy lays.
I actually posted this in our Wool ‘N Spinning discussion group, but I wanted to take a minute to expound a bit more. While these fibre notes will generally not include things like knitting with commercial yarns, there’s a bit of a special mention here just to examine the numbers of projects I made.
1. I finished 8 full spins (“full” meaning I’m not counting smaller sample skeins part of 51 yarns). I also completed 35 projects:
• 4 sweaters, 7 weaving projects (all dish towels while I learn the ropes), and 10 pairs of socks (the remaining were all various knits).
• I totaled up my full spins (including plying and singles), my total length of spins was 10304 yds
2. I bought myself a rigid heddle loom and took a nose dive into weaving. This desire to weave kind of came out of nowhere, but was heavily influenced by the Wool ‘N Spinning group, which is home to many, many highly skilled weavers. My weaving in particular I want to use mostly (if not all) hand spun for in the future. I spent 2019 making many a-dishtowel out of commercial cotton, and I feel very good about where I am with the workings of the loom. I’m ready to start challenging myself.
3. I did my first spin ever of using both the tog and the thel of an Icelandic in a single yarn. Prior to that I had always separated the coats because it was what I was used to doing with Shetland. I loved the finished yarn and really look forward to some larger spins utilizing both the top and undercoats.
4. I tail spun for the first time, and discovered I really don’t like it. I don’t really have a wheel that is set up for it either, which I’m sure is at least part of my frustration. But I just won’t use a yarn like this. Ever. So, glad I tried it, and glad I know I don’t need to do it again.
5. I also spun in the grease for the first time. This was a bit of a mixed bag for me, in terms of experience. I didn’t like the process (although the fleece wasn’t fresh off the sheep), but I really loved the finished yarn. I plan on trying this again with a fresher fleece this spring when I go on my yearly trips to the farms.
6. I picked up a spindle again for the first time in about 13 years. I had quickly moved from spindle to wheel many years ago and never looked back, but having a really lovely spindle made me really love the process of spinning on a spindle. I definitely plan to keep with it, even if it won’t be the main way I spin.
7. I knit my very first pair hand spun socks. I had spun two on-purpose sock yarns in 2018 so it was awesome to finally use them. I’m absolutely smitten, and I just love them.
8. I wanted to push myself with spinning colour since I was just so comfortable spinning natural sheep shades, so I fractal spun a 2 ply for the first time. It’ll never overtake my love of the sheep shades, but I really enjoyed flexing my spinning muscles (and now I don’t feel quite so overwhelmed when I do see a dyed braid that I want to get).
9. I’ve been trying my hand at natural dyeing for two years now, and I finally feel like I know what I’m doing. While natural dyeing (like spinning) is a constant learning process, I feel confident in my skills now. I was able to recreate a colour I wanted for a sweater with that accumulated knowledge, and that was a big step. I’m excited to push myself even further in 2020.
November & December 2019 Projects
Cheviot Sock Spin
I was finally able to finish off this spin. I started right at the end of October, and it just took forever. I’m not sure why – it’s a fibre I love and a spin I love (short forward in a fine weight is my jam).
I had some technical problems with my wheel, which caused some delay, but I gave myself until Christmas day to finish this spin, and I did! This spin is a very deliberate sock spin, which will become a Hand Spun/Hand Knit pattern in 2020. I scoured the yarn after the spinning to prep it for dyeing. Cheviot is a particularly easy wool to scour, but since I knew it was destined for the dye pot I wanted to give it one last little clean to make sure I get even colour saturation.
The singles and ply are very high twists, because I am a total beast to my socks. They need to be able to take a lot of abuse, from constant wear, to laundering. These are the finished skeins, and you can still see some energy in the yarn.
Hand spun Darkwater Sweater
This was a sweater two and a half years in the making. I purchased the fleece way back in March 2017, and spun it in July 2017, and then it sat.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it, and lots of ideas floated through my head. Large shawl, maybe a big pi shawl. Maybe a hap. Maybe I could do some kind of blanket thing. None of it quite felt right.
I did know that I wanted to dye it (or some of it), but that was still very early on in my natural dyeing adventures, and I was overcome with fear that I’d totally mess it up without a bit more experience under my belt.
So it sat a bit longer, through 2018 and part of 2019 until I felt really confident that I could create a colour I knew I’d want. Then, coincidentally, I ran across Darkwater by Jennifer Steingass, and the heavens opened and I knew that was the destiny of this yarn.
So in summer of 2019 I finally knuckled down and dyed it, and in November and December finally knit it. I didn’t spin this yarn with this sweater in mind, so because my yarn was a bit heavier, I opted to knit the smallest size, knowing there’d be some positive ease. I ended up with about 6″ of positive ease, which is generally very roomy for me. But, I’m really immensely happy with how it turned out. It’s comfy and loose, and perfect for layering.
It’s also insanely warm, probably my warmest sweater yet, and that’s never a bad thing in my climate.
Hand spun Woodland Loafers
I was really happy to finally use my yarn for my sweater, but I think I might be even happier to have used a selection of Clun Forest and Tunis yarn I spun and dyed in 2018 for these Woodland Loafers.
I had pretty much assumed that I was never going to use this yarn. When I originally spun these they were way thicker and denser than I wanted, and I had such low yardage. So I threw them in to be used in test dye batches, and then they sat. I figured maybe I’d play around with them on the loom eventually, but I literally did not have any hopes of using these yarns for something I would actually use routinely.
Then I saw this pattern. Then I read about the yarn in the pattern. And a light bulb went off – I have a bunch of yarns, in small quantities, that’s really dense. Holy crap – I have the perfect yarn for this pattern!
So I took those skeins of Clun Forest and Tunis and ended up making three pairs (one for myself, and two for family members). I reserved the Clun Forest for myself because it was the least soft. However, since Clun Forest is a low-feltable wool, after a few rounds in the washing machine (no special treatment, just cold water in with the rest of the wash) they have softened up immensely, and are now quite luxurious.
I’ve been on a bit of a tear to use it or lose it the past six months. Use that yarn up, or donate it. So whenever I find a use for a yarn I never thought I would, it feels like a pretty good victory.