Knittyspin: you like yarn, so make yarn
Phat Fiber
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Many spinners love creating textured yarns, but have no idea what to use them for. One of the joys (and frustrations) of knitting with art yarn is that you cannot create a duplicate... ever. Every art yarn is unique, therefore every finished project is unique. Your handspun yarn will look different than mine. So viva la difference!

I've created a cowl that shows off three different spinning techniques. In the first "curly pearly" yarn spinning tutorial, imagine using multicolored dyed wool locks, or natural grey wool locks instead. Try using glass beads, or glittering crystals instead of pearls. Allergic to wool or need fiber that is extra soft? Try spinning washed unprocessed alpaca or angora instead of curly wool to create your "curly pearly" yarn. Spin washed mohair locks instead of border leicester for super shine.

Match your curly pearly yarn with an art batt that takes your breath away. Finally, find or spin a bulky single-ply yarn to balance the texture of the two art yarns and you are ready to begin knitting this super simple pattern that celebrates your favorite textures, colors, and fibers.

spacer model: Ashley Martineau
spacer photos: Brian Martineau
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Circumference: 24 inches
Height: 12 inches


spacer [MC] 30 yards of bulky silk yarn of your choice; 25 yards of fine metallic brown thread

spacer [CC1] 2 oz Art Batt; 50 yards cotton eyelash thread.
Note: If you cannot find cotton eyelash thread (try ETSY or eBay) you can substitute plain cotton/poly thread or a novelty thread (try something with sequins or eyelash texture) from your local yarn shop.

spacer [CC2] 3 oz White Border Leicester Wool Locks; 50 yards of commercial mohair thread; 50 yards of nylon beading thread; 25 freshwater pearls.

Finished Yarn:
[MC] Bulky Silk Yarn; 30 yards
[CC1] Handspun Art Batt Yarn; 20 yards
[CC2] Curly Pearly Handspun yarn; 25 yards

spacer Wraps per inch: [MC] 8, [CC1] 4, [CC2] 4.
spacer Ply: [MC] single, [CC1] single, [CC2] 2-ply.
spacer Yardage used: [MC] 30, [CC1] 20, [CC2] 25.
spacer Drafting method: [MC] worsted, [CC1] woolen, [CC2] the Inch Worm technique.

Commercial Yarn Alternative

spacer None.
Note: Support an handspinner by purchasing handspun yarn for this project. Look for lots of texture. Try "tailspun" yarns for your Curly Pearly yarn substitute, a corespun yarn for your art batt substitute, and a single-ply bulky yarn for your silk yarn substitute. Look for yarns that are bulky, with a total yardage around 75.

Recommended needle size
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]
spacer 1 16-inch US #15/10mm circular needle


Spinning Tool: Ashford Colonial Wheel
Niddy Noddy: Ashford

spacer see notions required above in Fiber section
spacer sewing needle thin enough to fit through the holes in your pearls
spacer yarn needle



6 sts/6 rounds = 4 inches in stockinette stitch

[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

Since your yarns will be slightly different in thickness and texture than the ones I've spun, be flexible. For example, If you run out of a yarn, use another yarn. Try using four or five smaller skeins of handspun. For a less drapey cowl, cast on 37 stitches. For a finer weight of yarn (chunky, worsted) cast on 24 inches of stitches and knit for 10 inches of length.

We will be spinning two styles of art yarn for this cowl. Feel free to use smaller skeins of handspun yarn for this cowl, or mixing handspun yarn with commercial yarn. I recommend that all the yarns you use are a chunky or bulky weight. Let the yarn inspire you.

HOW TO SPIN the Art Batt Yarn [CC1]

For this yarn I used an Art Batt from my shop and a cone of cotton eyelash thread. You can find cones of thread at thrift stores, vintage shops, eBay, and ETSY. You can also use imported novelty threads from your local yarn shop.

Begin by taking a bit of fiber from the art batt and the thread and looping it thru your leader thread loop in your orifice.

Allow the thread to hang from the orifice while you spin the single; it will wrap onto the single.

Please note:
some orifices will tangle with the thread. If your thread becomes tangled, simply hold it with your right hand pinkie to allow it to wrap around the yarn while it is being spun. Try to get the thread to wrap at a 90 degree angle to the single that you are spinning, but don't worry about it being perfect.

After you have spun with the thread-wrap for six inches, take the thread in your hands and bring it up to where you are drafting the fiber out of the art batt.

Then begin corespinning around the thread. This will create a self-striping look where some yards of the handspun yarn are thread-wrapped, and other yards are corespun. If you are unfamiliar with corespinning or need a refresher, watch my video.

Continue corespinning and when you want another thread-wrapped section simply drop the thread and allow it to wrap around the yarn while you spin a single.

Continue spinning the thread-wrapped lengths of yarn and the corespun lengths of yarn until you have used up the entire art batt. Then end the yarn in a knot and roll it into a ball.

HOW TO SPIN: "Curly Pearly" Yarn [CC2]

To prepare the first handspun "Curly Pearly" yarn, take the freshwater pearls and string them on the cotton/poly sewing thread. Choose the strongest thread you can find, so that it doesn't snap under pressure. Find a thread you cannot break. We will be using the mohair thread and the cotton/poly thread together to ply the yarn, so the entire weight of the ply isn't on one thread and the yarn will not break when being knit.

Fluff the wool locks up with your fingers. This will make them easier to spin. The great thing about spinning this style of yarn is that you don't need any processing equipment (hand cards, wool picker, drum carder, etc.) to create it!

Hold a handful of locks in your lap and begin drafting a bulky weight of yarn from the pile. Don't try to control the yarn too much. The longer the staple, the easier it will be to spin this yarn. I have found that a 3+ inch staple is easiest to spin into a curly fuzzy yarn.

After the single curly yarn has been spun, take it off the wheel (I rolled mine into a ball because I have one bobbin, if you have multiple bobbins simply ply off the bobbin) and tie the end in a knot with both the thread that has the pearls strung on it and another strong plying thread (I used a commercial mohair thread).

It is important to ply the yarn with two threads at the same time, so that the sewing thread isn't taking all the pull and tension from the wheel. If you only use sewing thread, your ply will snap under pressure and the pearls will run all over the floor. With your left hand, hold the curly wool yarn, with your right hand hold both plying threads, ply the thread and the curly yarn together.

This will result in a secure, curly, pearly yarn that is ready to knit!


NOTE: I did not set the twist on the yarns I used in this tutorial, but feel free to set your yarns if you prefer not to work with "alive yarns".

Using MC, cast on 45 stitches. Join for working in the round.

Ribbing round: [K3, p2] around.
Work ribbing as set for 1 inch.

Join CC1.

Next round: [K1, k2tog, yo] around.

Repeat the previous round once more.

Pick up MC and work with that and CC1 held together.

Ribbing round: [K3, p2] around.
Work ribbing as set for 2 inches.

Drop MC and CC1.

Join CC2.
Work ribbing as set for 3 more inches.

Using only CC1:
Next round: [K1, k2tog, yo] around.
Repeat the previous round once more.

Using only CC2:
Ribbing round: [K3, p2] around.
Work ribbing as set for 2 inches.

Cut CC2.
Using only MC, work ribbing as set for 2 more inches.

Bind off loosely.


If you are using handspun yarns that have been set, you may gently block the cowl. But if you are using "alive" yarns (not set) do not block the cowl. Find the freshwater pearls in the curly pearly yarn and bring them to the outside of the cowl.


Ashley Martineau lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with her husband Brian and wee baby, Sam.

She just finished writing her first book, Spinning and Dyeing Yarn, which will be published in November 2013 and you can purchase on her website.