Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Homespun warmth

Several years ago I picked up a moss-and-stone hued braid of wool roving. It was from the fleece of a Bluefaced Leicester ewe, soft spirals shorn, cleaned, carded and dyed...tamed and ready to spin.

I'd been playing around with my drop spindle but this was my first big bunch of roving. The colors drew me in--ranging from celadon to olive, gray blue to stone.

I worked on it on camping trips, sitting around the fire with K and the girls, drafting the thick roving into narrow pencil widths, twisting the spindle rhythmically to the crackling sap that sent sparks skyward. It went with me on long drives to the east coast, K driving while I spun and navigated, balancing my iPhone/GPS map on my lap, and my spindle occupying both hands. A juxtaposition of old tools and new.

The resulting yarn was not consistently one weight, as it should be. It definitely runs the range of weights, from lace to chunky. Kind of a spinning sampler, I rationalized. I chose to leave it as a single, rather than plying it double for a more balanced yarn. I rolled it into a center-pull ball and waited for inspiration, which left it sitting for a couple of years.

I found a pattern for a scarf knitted with handspun yarn, perfectly designed to compliment an uneven twist. Perhaps it will look like I spun thick-thin yarn on purpose? The stitch pattern was simple: Knit two, knit one into the back of the next stitch, then purl one. Repeated over an odd number of stitches, it created a ribbed look, with enough texture to please, but not so much that the yarn got lost.

The scarf-to-be went with me to dentist appointments, dance classes, tutoring appointments, and camping. On car trips and as a rhythmic background for family movie nights. Finally, while M was dancing in a class the other night, I reached the end of the yarn.

I wove the ends in and regarded it. I still liked the colors, and BFL is a very soft, mellow wool. The uneven spinning is easy to see, and far from perfect, but it's like a double weave of the past: I spun it lightly to the spindle while the girls celebrated crossing the Tennessee border on a trip east, then passed the same fibers a second time with knitting needles, while shoulder to shoulder with the girls on the couch, watching the Nancy Drew movie.

It is a good feeling to hold a finished project, a useful item that had been organized out of lengths of wool furnished by one roman-nosed cream-colored ewe. But the journey (and time) from roving to scarf makes this project's weight warmer by degrees.