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07 January 2007 @ 02:31 pm
Below the cut: A hat knit from handspun, the first project where I put some thought into the yarn design before spinning. Some talk about the spinning and yarn-design process.

The hat:
sugar on snow convertible hat

The pattern is
Sugar on Snow, from the fall '06 Knitty.

The yarn:

Bright bits of spinning

These 10-20 yard bits came from handpainted roving that the woman who sold me my wheel included in the box. I liked Sugar on Snow and thought the green would work well as the leafy drawstring after I spun it. Since I-cord isn't particularly gauge-dependent, I just went with a size 5US needle which worked all right with the yarn and didn't worry about it.

I wanted to be more careful with the body of the hat, which in the pattern is knit on size 9US needles, just shy of 4 stitches per inch, with doubled worsted-weight yarn. I thought that some charcoal gray alpaca top from the stash (from Alpaca With A Twist, which I bought at a LYS) would be lovely and warm.

gray alpaca yarn

3-ply alpaca, spun about as thickly as I could consistently manage (not very thick). Ended up 10 or 11 wpi--it's a bit loose knit on size 9 needles. A 4-ply might've been better if I'd had the bobbins, or a 2/2 cabled yarn. The sample was perfect with 3 plies, but since my instinct is to spin thinner, I would occasionally fall back on that habit, resulting in an overall thinner yarn. A good consistency lesson for me.

I spun this with a short backward draw--I'm not quite sure why that worked better, but with a forward draw the slippery fibers were much less in control, and once I started pulling back with the fiber-supporting hand things got much more even and unscary.

Also, I found that holding the top on a heavy plastic bag on my lap prevented the fine flyaway fibers from getting caught on everything. Before this, not only was my couch fuzzy, but when a few fibers would catch, sometimes a big chunk of the predrafted top would come loose. Fixable, but annoying.

When I finished this yarn, I had about 5 yards of singles left on one bobbin, and 15-20 left on the second. My concern with this yarn/pattern combination was that the alpaca was going to stretch out and get all loose around the bottom of the hat. So I decided to ply the leftover singles with some wool and use that part for the brim, which might give that part of the hat some spring, while still retaining the softness of the alpaca. I used gray Shetland top from Halcyon yarn, and just eyeballed the amount of yarn on the bobbin compared to the bobbin with the most alpaca, adding a good amount of wool to the first (completely empty) bobbin, and just a little to the second (little bit of alpaca left) bobbin. There was only a foot or two of singles left, in the end, an amount small enough that I don't mind tossing it.

alpaca/shetland yarn

This yarn bloomed and softened considerably in the wash, was VERY springy, and was the perfect thickness for the size 9 needles. About 2/3 the yarn was 2 plies of Shetland, 1 ply alpaca, and the remainder was reversed.

(Incidentally, the question I asked on this community about yarn springiness was mostly due to seeing how different the 66% alpaca yarn was from the 100%. I hadn't realized what a huge effect one little ply would have.)

The color difference between the Shetland and the alpaca wasn't super strong, but enough to be noticable. So when I cast on the hat I made sure to start with the 2 Shetland/1 alpaca ply end of the yarn, to give a shaded effect as I worked up the hat.

I'm really pleased with the final result. The body of the hat is a bit looser than I planned because the alpaca isn't as thick as the wool/alpaca yarn on the bottom, but my plan is to use this around my neck more than as a hat, so that works fine. I also really love the shading effect obtained by playing with similar-colored fibers, more than I thought I would. To me, it gives a more obviously handcrafted effect--I can't think of any commercial yarns you could do something similar with, unless you were holding several thin strands together. I'm definitely going to have to experiment further with that shading thing in the future.
G. Jules: Yarngjules on January 8th, 2007 01:52 am (UTC)
The hat looks lovely. :-)

I like the idea of the shaded effect you've got there -- I've never been very fond of the barberpole-type Acadian tweeds, but the low contrast between the plies in your yarn makes the shading work nicely. I think that gets added to my list of things to try.
tchemgrrl: fakettchemgrrl on January 8th, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm not a fan of the barberpole yarns, either, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that it works with similar tones.

I'm actually doing a somewhat similar thing again right now, doing a two-ply yarn for a sweater, one ply each from slightly different-colored sheep (it's *just* enough that you can tell one from the other in a swatch). I'm doing it that way because I could only get a pound of each, but it seems to give the yarn some nice depth without being too wacky.
Serenya and Loredenaserenya_loreden on January 8th, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
Very nice! The hat came out quite cute ;) and I appreciate your detailed info on the yarn. The shading worked out well. I'm curious though as to what you meant by saying you would be using it around your neck more then as a hat? it doesn't look like a neck gaiter to me?
tchemgrrl: Knitted Gir and Windup Bendertchemgrrl on January 8th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC)

The leafy thing on top functions as a drawstring, that goes through holes near the top formed by yarnovers. So you can open up the top and put your head through. There's a pretty good picture of it in the pattern, if I'm not making sense.
Abby Franquemonthuaman on January 10th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's clever.

Consistent lofty thick is hard for me. I have to keep muttering to myself, "lofty and thick, lofty and thick, lofty and thick" the WHOLE time. I can do consistent (really consistent) with relative ease, up until I'm going for something that'll be aran or bulky weight knitting type yarn when plied; so when I want thick yarn for knitting, I find I almost always end up deciding to just go cabled. Such a copout. ;-) Thanks for this post.
tchemgrrl: Knitted Gir and Windup Bendertchemgrrl on January 11th, 2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
I had some merino/silk laceweight going for when I wanted to be social or not pay too much attention. Between the slipperiness and the thickness, the alpaca was definitely "pay attention" craftwork.

It is kind of funny, though--the thing that got me into spinning was the lack of interesting lightweight yarns. So I spent most of the first year just trying to spin very finely. Now that I've done enough of that to default to it, I'm working more on being able to spin whatever I want in a mostly-consistent way.