What is hand-spun yarn? I’ve wondered about this for a while now. But the answer seems to be simple. Yarn which is spun by hand, by a person and not a machine is labeled “hand spun”.
Learning about the different types, weights, plys, fibers, and dyes of yarn can be intimidating. I don’t have any family or friends around me who knit these days, so all my knowledge has been learned over time from viewing discussions online. When I came across gorgeous yarn of all different colors and textures, I fell in love.
Yarn can be hand-dyed and still not be hand-spun. Hand-dying is something many people do. They begin with un-eyed, natural fiber and then experiment with dying in their home or business. Lots of skeins may say proclaim to be hand-dyed. Hand-spun on the other hand is more difficult to find.
Spincycle yarn has a hand-dyed look, but technically it is not spun by hand. With various colors spun together in this unique way, knitting with these skeins will produce beautiful garments. Not all hand-spun yarn looks like this. It can be a single color (single ply), the natural color of the animal, or spun with beads, glitter, and whatever to create art yarn. Hand-spinning means the one doing the spinning can do what she / he wants!
Where to Buy Hand-Spun Yarn
Hand-spun yarn is difficult to find to buy. Even at Spincycle, who creates look-alike hand spun on machines, many colors seem to constantly be out of stock. And hand-spun yarn is not cheap!
A good place to search for hand-spun yarn is Instagram. I find many useful yarn / knitting related things there. Wound Up Fiber Arts advertises her yarn and if I see something I like, I buy it immediately because it goes fast. Mostly I only see roving for sale on her sight. The pink and yellow yarn below came from her store.
Another store I found through Instagram is Blush and Bloom Fiber Co. She spins her yarn on a spinning wheel, and it is very beautiful, but you will pay big bucks for it – around $70.00 per skein!
What Do People Knit With Hand-spun
Colorful handspun can be used in colorwork knitting to be the contrast color. My hats pictured below were knit with handspun which creates a gradient look when combined with a solid main color. Often designers will knit sweater patterns with handspun as the yoke contrast color. This looks especially nice, if you can find the right hand-spun color. The pullover sweater patterns Newleaf and Hinterland feature Spincycle yarn.
Because it’s often “superwash” this yarn is good for knitting socks, although I’m not sure I’d do that with this expensive yarn! Usually I’ve seen it as fingering, sport, or DK weight, but Spincycle has some in worsted. It’s usually sold out.
More Hand-spun Yarn I’ve Bought
I used hand-spun along with a solid white for the Fair Isle hats shown here (Turkish Patterned Cap).
Buying Hand-spun Yarn at Etsy
Some Etsy shops carry hand-spun yarn. Some yarn looks better than others. I’m a bit leery of buying hand-spun when I have no idea how the yarn was actually created. Etsy sellers are usually very small business owners who sell out of their house and are not widely known. Don’t get me wrong, I love Etsy, and I’ve had great customer service over the years. It’s just that I wouldn’t know an experienced spinner from a beginner. Some sellers will explain in detail how they made the yarn, and that’s good. Also read reviews from previous buyers.
I made the blue hat above with hand-spun yarn from Clarion Call Fiber Arts at Etsy.
How is True Hand-Spun Yarn Created?
Here is how I understand it: First, find the wool and / or other natural fiber needed to create the yarn. If you bought fleece or sheered your own animals, it has to be washed, carded, and be prepared for spinning. Then, a drop spindle or spinning wheel is used to spin it. Somewhere along the line it may also be dyed. And if more than one fiber will be spun together, you get it all ready and then turn it into plyed yarn. Here is a link to The Joy of Handspinning site which explains the ins and outs of hand-spinning. I think you will be impressed.
In a nutshell… hand-spinning is a lot of work! And the tools needed are not cheap. I imagine that most people who do it keep the yarn to use themselves, or sell locally. How much would you charge after all that time and effort to create one skein of this unique yarn?