You’ve fallen in love with a skein of handspun yarn. It has personality. Its begging to be used and you might not have a project in mind.

To begin with, you’re likely in possession of a one of a kind, totally unique skein of yarn. If you run out of your skein midway through a project, you’re either going to have to hunt high and low to find something in a complementary colour, fiber, and weight OR you’re going to have to rip back and start a smaller project. If you’re  lucky there may be two (or even a very unlikely three) skeins, but even then the colours aren’t guaranteed to be uniform throughout due to the hand made nature of dying the fiber and then spinning it.

This natural variation is part of the charm of hand spun yarn. The yarn may be thicker in some spots and thinner in other spots. The colours changes will vary. Colour runs may be longer in some areas and shorter in others. Some hand spun will be kinkier (i.e. more energized) than others, which will created a biased fabric once it is knitted up (i.e. the stitches will  slant). Block, block, and block away if this is the case!

There are two things that you need to keep in mind when picking a project:

1 – Make Sure You Have Enough Yarn

This seems pretty obvious, but make sure that you have enough yarn for your project. If you don’t have enough yarn, but still have your heart set on a pattern then there are ways to make your coveted skein of hand spun go farther:

  • Pair the hand spun with a second yarn – it could be some complimentary, contrasting, light, dark, or anything that you can imagine would look awesome. An example would be to knit stripes with alternating pairs of rows. If you pair the hand spun with a solid coloured yarn, the colour changes in the hand spun will really come to life.
  • Use the hand spun to insert a section of colour work – think Fair Isle or Intertarsia. Imagine how awesome it would like as a nice pair of Norwegian-style mittens.
  • Use it to crochet a border around a hat and for matching tassels
  • You can also knit using some big ass needles to create a lighter, airy fabric. Imagine casting on 5 or 10 stitches and knitting a narrow, lacy, and long scarf.

You can also pick a one skein project (this works well for thicker or more worsted weight yearns). Most hats and mittens / fingerless gloves will fit the bill. This ear flap hat pattern would be perfect! Small baby sweaAs will simple scarves (a – cast on 15 stitches and knit away in garter stitch until you run out of yarn, or b – cast on 200-250 stitches on long circular needles and knit horizontal rows of garter stitch until you run out of yarn).

If you have a thinner yarn, you can try something smaller like a baby sweater or vest. This pattern for a Budgie Striped Baby Sweater from Grumperina is an awesome way to make one skein of a lighter weight yarn go farther. Or a baby vest version. Use that imagination!

2 – Embrace the Variation

A skein of hand spun more than likely isn’t uniform throughout. Be kind to your hand spun when you pick a project – you don’t want to pick a pattern where the thick/thin sections overwhelm a stitch pattern.

What’s my gauge? 

Spinderalla has a good and comprehensive list of yarn weights, twists per inc, and gauge ranges for knitting and crochet. It can be found here.

Knit up a gauge swatch to check what the yarn will look like once its knitted up. Make sure to be gentle though, as you’re probably going to want to rip back and re-use those precious yards for your project. Knitting a swatch will also allow you to try out different needle sizes if need be and provide you with the information you’ll need to make adjustments. One handy tip is to let the yarn ply back on itself (i.e double up) – the diameter will approximate the size of the needle that would be best suited. Or you can disregard this entirely and knit it on huge needles for an entirely different look. Or if you’re like me you’ll just wing it and play, experiment, and have fun.

You can also choose to knit a pattern that is more forgiving (i.e. that doesn’t need an exact gauge to look awesome). For example, this simple cowl was designed with fuzzy angora in mind it would look just as good in a bold, vibrant hand spun.