I promised to show you how my first handspun came out, so here’s making good! It’s beginnerish, for sure, but seems knittable. I’ve actually gone on to make about fifty yards of some even more beginnerish Shetland/silk/mystery wool; I tried for thicker and more softly spun but ran into trouble. I was pinching so hard my hand cramped, the twist kept getting into the fiber supply anyhow, and then I botched it once and for all by underplying. Practice and learn!

Happily, someone in the Pocket Wheels group on Ravelry mentioned the existence of a Jacey Boggs Craftsy class. Even though I know next to nothing about spinning, I know the name of Jacey Boggs, for she is a renowned badass in the world of wool. I think I left burned rubber on the internet as I peeled over to Craftsy to sign up. It’s all about drafting, which is what I chiefly need to understand, and I’ve already watched the first episode on short forward draft spinning. Darn, do I feel educated! Feeling your way is fun, but kind of heavy on the sweat and frustration. Watching an expert show you what to do and why… that’s a delicious ice-cold cocktail after the exertion. Off to roust out some bits of combed top to practice holding my hands farther apart and drafting across the fiber!


There’s such electric possibility in knowing nothing at all. And that’s why my world has a new gravitational center these days:


This is Ginevra. She’s a pocket wheel, built by hand on Whidbey Island out of a few well-considered pieces of hardware and some beautiful wood. I’ve been curious about spinning for many years, and I’ve done some drop spindling here and there, but what pushed me over the edge—I cannot tell a lie—is the sheer beauty and economy of design in Jon McCoy’s pocket wheels. Ginevra is so little she can travel in a diaper box (though I really must find her a more dignified vehicle), so I didn’t have to commit a whole section of a room to this new craft; she’ll tuck right under my farm table work surface (just as soon as the paint dries on the legs). It took me a couple of moments adjusting the tension to find the right amount of draw (and here you’ll have to forgive me for knowing nothing of the spinning language, either… I can say the equivalent of “Dónde está el baño?” in Spinning, but I’m not going to understand the answer) and then I was away with my first ball of roving.


My sweet little wheel hums along so agreeably that I don’t have to think about my treadling much, which is fortunate because I need to bring all my attention to bear on the drafting. I’m wholeheartedly committed to making some very ugly yarn in the beginning. I’m quite sure this is frightfully lumpy and overspun and I’ve already apologized to the blameless Cormo sheep who grew it, so that’s all fine. I saw a lot of improvement as I went along filling my bobbin.


This puzzle remains: Cormo (or at least this roving) is full of curious little puffballs. I can sort of tease them apart and ease them in amongst the smoother fibers, but I hit patches of wool where there are so many it hardly seems worth it. These nebbly bits of sheep’s knickers invariably cause funny underspun lumps in my yarn, and for now I’m going to call them rustic character and let them lie, but I’d dearly like to know how real spinners cope with them.

What’s jolly grand is that I’m bound for Madrona in a few weeks’ time, and there I’m sure to get some sage advice from friends. I have thrown myself into the deep end and signed up for a class on spinning Shetland with Judith MacKenzie McCuin. The class description said “must be able to spin a continuous thread.” At first I assumed this meant not breaking the yarn every few meters, and I reckoned I had six weeks to practice and if I kept at it every day I was bound to have cleared that low bar. Later it occurred to me that continuous is rather a vague word. It might mean continuous in quality, in which case I’m up a creek. Judith might not be impressed that it took me 30 minutes of rising panic to get the tension right again after I switched bobbins for the first time. I’m about to try it again and I’d better be able to improve considerably on my pit stop time. (This time I also have to reverse the tension for plying. Thank Wool for the internet, without which I wouldn’t even know that I have to treadle backwards for this step. The good folk of the Pocket Wheel group on Ravelry have already saved me buckets of frustrated tears.)


This is such a lark. I have no idea what I’m going to end up with when I assemble my smart new lazy kate and let my scraggly singles meet. I promise to show you the homely results. I love that I’ve grown up enough to savor being a beginner.


Back in September I contributed an offer to knit a child’s sweater to the school auction. The winner was the president of the parent-teacher association, a lovely woman who does a great deal for the school, and she’s a knitter herself, so I pulled out all the stops. I was in the mood for colorwork and thought of Jared Flood’s Atlas design, but it’s written for fingering weight. The small nephew who’s getting the sweater lives in the frozen midwest, so we decided something heftier would be appropriate. I opted for Védís Jónsdóttir’s Kambur pullover as a good substitute. I’d just make it a cardigan by adding a steek. I can’t remember why I decided I’d also flip it upside down and work the yoke first… I must really have been jonesing for the colorwork. Anyway, it’s a Kambur Inversion and I finished it at the turn of the year. Our Jolly modeled it for me.

Kambur5 Kambur6 Kambur7

In case you can’t tell, my boy quite likes modeling and he’s a bit of a clown. I should have just shot video; these are stills from a spontaneous boogie as he worked it for the camera in the parking lot outside his sister’s ballet class. I had to make him take the zipper out of his mouth first. I don’t know what it is with little kids and zippers, but they love them. Definitely the way to go if you can stand the extra work required to install them and finish them prettily. And boy did I finish this sweater prettily. Tubular bind-offs everywhere, including on the collar, which I picked up from a provisional cast-on. Natty applied i-cord edges to cover the zipper. And admire, if you will, this ribbon facing that conceals all the hand-sewing on the zipper itself:




(If you follow me on Instagram (@whistlinggirlknits), you’ve already seen that last shot, but I can’t help reposting it here. I just love the attitude.) Was it a little psycho to go to this painstaking level in the finishing of a garment for a toddler I’m never going to meet? You can say it. I know the answer. But as soon as I saw this ribbon at Bolt, matching the colors and motifs of the sweater so delightfully, I was helpless. And there’s such internal satisfaction to be had in knocking it out of the park even if no one’s watching. (Not that I’m quite so zen as that. I carried it around for a week and made all my local knitting friends coo over it. Plus I get to boast to all twelve of you reading here.)

The yarn is Brown Sheep Naturespun Worsted. I simplified the yoke motif to use only three colors because Twisted didn’t have a fourth shade on hand that I loved with the red and grays. I could happily make another Kambur in an alternate colorway… honey ochre with robin’s egg blue and coral pink and navy, perhaps? In Quince & Co. Lark, which I somehow still haven’t tried? Maybe just a pullover, though. I’m not sure my zipper mojo is back at full potency quite yet.