Handspinning outside the comfort zone

Way of Lost Souls handspun yarn

Red is outside my comfort zone. I created these skeins of handspun yarn over the past week. I have been working from photographs, choosing fibres that capture the colours and textures of the scene, hand carding them into small batts and then core spinning them to create super bulky art yarn.

The photo that inspired these skeins was one of fall colours taken by Sabine Härtl in the Harz Mountains, Germany. She called it “Way of lost souls”; perhaps that is the name of the footpath.

It reminded me of scenes from around our cottage on the Canadian Shield. Although golds and oranges of birch trees (Betula alba and B. alleghaniensis) and sugar maples (Acer saccharum) dominate the colourful canopy in autumn, we also have red maples (A. rubrum), which turn a colour much like what is in the photograph.

However, maple red is more of a crimson (cool red). What I had on hand for the primary fibre in this yarn was scarlet (warm red) merino. I tried adding purple and fuchsia merino mill ends to draw it to the cooler side. The mist colours utilize white alpaca/wool (from Ray Rossiter at the Men’s Spring Knitting Retreat) and lustrous blue alpaca silk. Natural wool added the browns. Some mohair/wool/llama I de-stashed from Michael del Vecchio (author of Knitting With Balls) added brassy golden-browns. A range of dyed tussah silk and sparkly nylon contributed autumnal highlights. Once in a while I auto-wrapped some mohair boucle in tapestry tones to create the dark patches like moss or tendrils. Up until now I have plied core spun yarns with commercial novelty yarns as binders, but the single was so interesting I hated to add anything, so I left it alone. Consequently it is somewhat overspun, but a wash and a gentle stretch pulled out most of the kinks.

It ended up looking less like a scene from a quite forest than an exotic marketplace. Or at least a journey through somewhere hot and fiery, maybe more a way of lost souls than intended. Still I am excited about the result. It is quite unlike any yarn I’ve worked with before. Because of the overspun tension, it will be better suited to garter stitch. This yarn is likely destined to become a hat and scarf set or perhaps combined hoodie cowl.

I recommend working outside your colour comfort zone. The results can be amazing.

5 thoughts on “Handspinning outside the comfort zone

  1. Amazing — you have a real eye for pulling in colours and I appreciate the details you provide for those choices. i.e. “I tried adding purple and fuschia … to draw it to the cooler side.” I’ve never tried to put words to my colour choices so I find your insights to be quite interesting.

  2. Sometimes I step away from the familiar traditional dye colors of black, red, yellow, and white… there are ever-more colors available in the aniline dyes we use, but while they’re nice to look at, I still think in terms of the classics.

  3. Oh Van those colours are just stunning. I love them and can’t wait to see what you make from them. I am adoring your hand-spun yarns. Perhaps when I’m more settled again it’ll be time to look into fibre crafts.

    (I miss my garden so very much)

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