Historical Yarns #5 and #6: Arabian Night and Woodland Creek

(I’m all moved in to my new place, but I expect to take a while to unpack and organize. Until I get the spinning all set up again, here’s another historical yarn.)

I love 3-ply sock yarn. One of the things I love the most about it is the subtle speckled depth of color that comes from a semi-solid handpainted roving.

Now, spinning an entire 4 oz braid of a single color is usually enough to bore me, even if it’s semi-solid. Ditto for knitting solid-colored socks. I need some kind of color change to keep me entertained. I think I found a perfect balance between semi-solid speckles and color changes in a superwash Merino roving from Sosae Caetano.

Sosae was having a “Choose Your Own Adventure” spin along, with colorways like Pharoah’s Tomb, Hidden Temple and Desert Oasis. I loved this theme so much that I got two and (in keeping with the theme) spun them while watching all three Indiana Jones movies* and Warehouse 13. One of the colorways I opted for was Arabian Night:

When I un-braided this roving, I discovered that the colors made six near-perfect down-and-back color repeats. I started spinning before I thought to take pictures, but here is 2/3rds of the entire roving:

Imagine another roving strand sitting alongside those two and that’s what I started with. The implication of 6 repeats meant that I could make a 3-ply yarn match up colors along the whole length of a skein, and then do it twice to have two socks (3 x 2 = 6 matching singles.) Because of the down-and-back nature of the color repeat (A-B-C-C-B-A) instead of a forward repeat (A-B-C-A-B-C), I could spin each strand end-to-end and then knit socks from the opposite ends of the skein. This way, I could just do 3 bobbins instead of 6.

The next step was more accurate dividing between the three pieces of roving. I weighed them on my gram scale and tore little bits of yellow off the end of one and added it to another to make them equal weight.

Then I predrafted and spun 3 bobbins, each with one of the thirds. (I have no pictures of this. I think I was too excited to stop.) I did my typical sock yarn spin, which is ~40 wraps per inch, with a high twist (wheel on the 10:1 ratio, two right-foot pedals per draft) and a short forward draft.

A traditional 3-ply matched all the colors back up, giving me that great 3-ply depth-of-color look while still getting a slow color change. Here’s the finished yarn:

In a cake, you can see that if I knit one sock from the outside and one from the inside, they’ll both start with yellow and should finish when they meet at the middle yellow:

To use every last bit of handspun, I would normally then knit these socks two-at-a-time on a circular needle. However, for this yarn I fell in love with a heavily modified version of the Kiila pattern. Since I wanted to do even more modification, I knit them one at a time so I could work out all the kinks just once.

The result is my absolute favorite pair of socks to date:

I loved them so much that I couldn’t bear to gift them like most of my socks, and even though the sock-wearing season in the desert of Arizona is a short one, I kept them for myself. I did take them home to Kansas for the holidays to show off:

I loved this method so thoroughly that I did it a second time with another of Sosae’s gorgeous SW merino rovings, this one called Woodland Creek. I documented the spinning a little better on this one, though it hasn’t been successfully made into socks yet. I tried to knit it into socks for my dad in a wheat stitch pattern (my dad works with wheat), but there were stretchiness failure issues, so it went into hibernation.


Six repeats:



(I’m spinning on Frank, my Lendrum double treadle. That’s Lilith, my Kromski Prelude, in the background).

Down and back colors:


I think you can more clearly see the magic of the 3-ply here; there’s a bright orange-gold color in the roving that mellows to a beautiful wheat tone when it’s blended with the creams and browns. I just love watching the transformation process!

Hmm… now I want to go find the yarn, de-hibernate it, and finish the process.

*Yes, there are only 3 real Indiana Jones movies. Hush, you.


Historical Yarns #4: Moonrover Mysteries

I deeply love the fiber mixes that spring forth from the mind and hands of Lacey over at Moonrover. I started my collection of Moon batts with her Mystery Batts early last year and I love finding ways to combine the little 2 oz bundles into something bigger and more fantastic. She throws all kinds of wonderful things into the mix, and her batts always make the coolest textures and are really fun to spin.

Several months apart, I received two sets of mystery batts that had the same orangey-brown color on one end:

These batts are perfect for woolen-style long-draw spinning when spun end-to-end, so I decided to combine the batts where they met at the same color into one super mystery skein. I decided on a 2-ply, since I wanted the one big color repeat to go down the length and back just once. I also love the way that the colors blend into each other in these batts, and a 2-ply helps blend even more for softer stripe transitions.

I put 4 of the little batts on a bobbin: I spun batt A (coral/green) from the turquoise end to the orangey-brown end, then batt B (white/blues) from the speckled orangey-brown end to the tan end. Then I reversed the flow and spun B back from tan to speckled orangey-brown and A back from orangey-brown to turquoise.

I repeated that again on a second bobbin to use all 8 little batts:

Since the colors were spun in the same order on both skeins, ideally all I would have had to do was a basic 2-ply to match all the colors back up. Realistically, my spinning isn’t that even, so I inevitably end up occasionally splicing my singles when the colors start to drift too much. I hate wasting even a few yards of singles, so I wind off the bobbin that is “behind”, ply it against itself for awhile, then splice the singles back together and carry on plying normally. (Drop me a comment if you would like this explained in detail in a later post). I do like to let the colors drift a little, because it helps create those soft stripe transitions I’m aiming for.

My default singles spinning if I’m not thinking about it has been honed to produce a 3-ply fingering weight yarn. I spun these to about that same thickness, but since I did a 2-ply, it ended up as a light fingering weight yarn with about 630 yards.

Here you can see the down-and-back color transition:

I decided the best way to show off the yarn was with a little semi-circular shawl, so I knit one from the Snow Drops and Snap Peas pattern. For most of the shawl, the stripes are distinct, yet have the soft edges I wanted, though the outer stripes get blended away at the garter-stitch edging:

I just love all the textured bits:

Historical Yarns #3: Sangria

(If anyone is wondering what the heck is up with all these “historical” yarns, I just bought a home and will be moving within the month, so I’m using some past yarns to tide me over until I’m all organized at the new place. I have plans for 8-9 of these, though I may switch to current spins as soon as I’m ready.)

Another gorgeous fiber from Sosae Caetano, this next yarn was born from a BFL/Silk set named “Sangria”. Sosae calls these sets “Duets” now, and I just love playing with all the different ways to combine them.

This particular method I first saw attributed to the incomparable Micki, aka thing4string. All of her yarns are gorgeous.

The method is to take each braid, split it half lengthwise (“across the grain”), then split each half into 4 sections width-wise (“down the grain”). This creates 8 sections from each braid. Here are some of the pieces:

When spinning singles, I alternated between the two colors:

To finish, the skein is Navajo-plied to keep the stripes together. It creates “blocks” of color, which self-stripe inside the block:

Mine ended up sport weight, 310 yds/4 oz. I didn’t over-ply this yarn since I knew it wasn’t destined for socks, so a simple lukewarm soak and hang-dry was sufficient for finishing:

I started exploring Fairisle knitting shortly after spinning this yarn, and it first got turned into a pair of Fiddlehead mittens, which were gifted to my mother during the holidays last year:

I love a bright contrast, so these mittens were lined with a double strand of a merino-silk laceweight in dark turquoise!

The mittens didn’t even use a third of the skein, so when I started experimenting with a 10-inch Cricket rigid heddle loom this Spring, I used the remainder of the skein for the warp on a scarf. I used a merino laceweight yarn in a burgundy color to weave with, and the result is a lightweight, very drape-y scarf:

See the “blocks” of color? It’s pretty obvious here that I wasn’t very precise when I split the roving, or else the stripes would be more even, but I really love the asymmetry. I’ll be doing more uneven splits in the future!

Historical Yarns #2: Sleeping Beauty

Once upon a time…

Just this last Spring, one of my favorite fiber artists, Sosae Caetano, hosted a Fairy Tale Spin Along. I gathered up one of each of the four colorways on Superwash Merino (I dearly love fairy tales!), but Sleeping Beauty was the first to call to me:

I went for a complete preparation makeover on this one and started by tearing the braid into bits and separating by color:

I dusted off my carder (a Strauch Finest) and blended each color group into its own little batt, while adding a sprinkle of blue Angelina sparkle and a pinch of blue, purple and green silk I had from the carding bits stash:

I tore all those batts apart into 6 pieces each, lined them up, weighed each batch to make sure they were roughly equal, then re-carded once more into 6 matching tube batts:

(These tube batts are actually inspired by another of my favorite fiber artists, Lacey at Moonrover.) The batts make for effortless long-draw spinning, a method I have more recently become a fan of, but hadn’t tried for sock yarn yet.

I spun 3 bobbins of singles, each with just one batt on it. I started spinning each one from the teal end, so they all ended with the light blue on the outside. Here’s one finished and one in progress:

I’ve only got 4 matching bobbins, so then I did a traditional 3-ply to match the three singles back up in one gradient. (I seem to recall doing only one splice where the colors started to get misaligned.) I put fairly high twist on the ply to help with the sturdiness of the sock yarn, since long-draw (woolen) spinning doesn’t make as hardy a yarn as worsted-style spinning.

Since this was a yarn that I wanted to fluff and I wasn’t worried about the superwash fiber felting, I soaked and thwacked the yarn pretty vigorously. I beat it against the cinderblock wall in the back yard, which has a rough surface that also helped fluff the yarn by snagging against the fibers. (No, I don’t know if deliberate snagging is really a recommended method, but I did it and no one died.) Here’s the first skein out to dry:

The fluffing process worked and I got a super cushy, bouncy skein of yarn. Having gotten used to worsted-style sock yarns, I was stunned at how soft this yarn turned out:

I repeated the whole process with the other 3 tube batts to make a matching second skein:

I started knitting with this yarn pretty much immediately, and it transformed into matching gradient socks in the Boreal pattern. I tried to go really low-key on the sparkle and I love just the little hints of it here:

I don’t need any more wool socks in the desert, but I’m going to have a really hard time gifting this pair! The fluffy yarn makes for super soft, cushy socks that I didn’t want to take off, even when it was 110F out.

One lesson I did learn for next time is to more carefully separate colors by weight. This pattern is toe-up, and you’ll notice at the cuff of the socks that one sock has a lot more teal than the other, despite the fact that they have the same number of rows. When I initially split the 6 tube batts into two sets, I put the heaviest in one group and the lightest in the other (they differed by a few grams). My rationale was that if I put ones of different weights together, I’d have to splice the singles more often when plying. I recognize now that staggering the weights and splicing more often would make the two finished skeins more even in the end; my “heavy” skein had color sections that were just slightly longer than the “light” skein. This barely perceptible difference in the skeins becomes much more noticeable once they’re knitted up.

Hopefully, writing it down here will make me remember for next time!

Historical Yarns #1: Campfire Marshmallows

One of my favorite yarns that I spun last year started life as a large group of Phat Fiber samples. A Phat Fiber Box is a delightful set of samples from various independent yarn/fiber sellers and I discovered them one month when they had a ‘Steampunk’ theme. I’ve been buying fluff-only boxes here and there for the last few years and I usually save them until I collect enough of a certain set of colors.

Last year, I saved up more than 8 oz of yellow/orange/red/brown/cream samples before I finally decided to spin them.

I split each sample into 3 roughly equal pieces. Since the samples were a varied mix of batts and roving, I split them all whichever way kept the colors consistent for each individual sample. I put each piece into a separate pile and weighed the three piles on my gram scale to make sure they were close in weight. I arranged each group in a different order, aiming for an overall distribution of various colors and textures.

Each bit was spun with a short forward draw, with singles around 36 wraps per inch. Each pile was spun on to a separate bobbin, so three piles turned into three bobbins:

I used the three bobbins to do a traditional 3-ply into two skeins totaling 735 yds/8.3 oz.

Several months later, I knit the yarn into a feather-and-fan shawl that really showed off the stripes:

The addition of cream to an otherwise Fall color palette made me think of camp outs and s’mores, so the yarn got named Campfire Marshmallows!


Hello and welcome to my new blog!

Any Way You Spin It is intended to be mostly about how I hand spin yarn and what I knit, weave or otherwise make with handspun. It could include jaunts into fiber dyeing, reviews of spindles, forays into working with others’ handspun… we’ll see where it takes me!

A bit about me: I’m Renee, and I am an engineer by day. I’d like to think my engineer brain has a lot to do with how my handspun turns out, but I actually spin by the seat of my pants as often as I plan out every step of the process. It’s kind of a toss-up.

I’m going to try to never declare that any way I’m spinning something is the “right” way – I’ve never had a formal spinning lesson and am largely self-taught via books and the internet. I think if something works, it can’t be wrong.

I currently enjoy spinning fine, smooth yarns. My favorite spin is a 3-ply sock yarn. I occasionally dabble in art yarns, but for now most of my spinning techniques that I’ll write about are centered around getting colors to do what I want.

You’re always welcome to ask questions if you think I’ve left out an essential technique explanation.

I hope you enjoy reading!