Handmade for the Holidays

Did you give or receive something handmade for the holidays? According to The New York Times, as the stock market plunged this year, interest in buying or making handmade items shot through the roof, and doctors prescribed making things as a way to relieve stress. Those of you who’ve been knitting, etc. for years already know this…The rest of us are finally catching on.

I’ve always wanted to take the fleece from one of our sheep and take it all the way through to the end product—a sweater, mittens, whatever—and I’m slowly learning. Of course, as usual, I’m years behind the trend. Since I’m only at the spinning stage, it’ll take me awhile to get to the point I can actually give handmade gifts.

After taking a spinning class, I spun my first skein of our yarn, and held it up. It had such a tight twist that if I’d stuck my finger in there, all circulation would have been cut off. Apparently if there’s a nasty twist in the yarn, this twist will eventually appear in the knitted item, torquing a sweater around until you feel like a pretzel. Not good.

So I did the magic trick to reduce the twist, and it turned out much better. I forgot to take a photo of the skein, but here’s the little swatch I knit from my FIRST skein of yarn.

I don’t know how to knit, but those videos on youtube are very helpful!

Next step: Color! Here’s some roving from our sheep that a woman dyed for me last year. (Kate—thanks again!)


Then I spun it into this:


It’s all nobbly and uneven and fat and thin (I know, people call this designer yarn to make us beginners feel better) but I love this skein. I don’t want to ruin it by turning it into anything. Perhaps I’ll just spin skein after skein and give them as gifts next year. People can just hang them on their walls if they don’t knit.

Or, if I start now, perhaps I’ll have one pair of socks to give Melissa for Christmas next year!

Wishing everyone a great 2009, filled with people you love and good times. And for those of you living in the north, remember:

Want to stay warm? Hug a sheep.

15 thoughts on “

  1. Wow, Catherine, am I impressed! Even though I’ve been a knitter for years, I can’t imagine ever “making” my own yarn. I think your skein is gorgeous and would look spectacular hung on anyone’s wall!

    Do you find knitting relaxing yet? It’s a great “thinking” time for me and I would think it would be a good time for you to develop story lines and characters in your head.

  2. YAY! Congrats on both your first skein and your first swatch from said skein.

    And just wait until you get everything wonderfully even and smooth with your spinning and then wish to attempt the designer stuff again. Heh.

  3. Wow, Catherine, I’m impressed too! That white yarn is very pretty. Is that the natural sheep color?

    The dyed blue yarn is really pretty too. I would love to try knitting with some yarn like that someday.

    P.S. I knitted most of my Christmas presents this year too and it was for financial reasons. I have lots of extra yarn at home, but very little extra cash.

  4. Mama Pea—knitting not relaxing yet…will take it on faith that it might be some day…

    Kathryn—yes, the white is the undyed color of our fleece.

    RuthieJ—more yarn than cash—some would say you’re rich!

  5. Catherine, I also use youtube to learn new knitting techniques though I’ve been knitting for awhile as well. It is a great tool. Congrats on the spinning. Though I am not interested in it, I am so glad others are, ditto with the hand dying.
    Happy new year to you and Melissa from California.

    BTW, socks are fun to knit (i gave a pair away this Christmas too).

  6. Sure looks like you know how to knit, to me! The colored skein is fabulous! Remember how we decided a cool job would be thinking up the names for Crayolas? Well, spinners name their colorways, so you’ve got the next best thing. Can’t wait to see what you call it!

  7. Beautiful work–and, yes, knobbly uneven yarn sure does look arty! I once tried my hand at making papier-mache masks: once was the Spirit of the Sea, and one was a “Green Woman” with a face formed of leaves, like those medieval images of the Green Man. For their hair, I used yarn much like the yarn you’ve spun–wild, wonderful, multicolored stuff with lots of variations. It suited the masks perfectly.

    I don’t have time for such foolery now, but I did manage to make some little firestarters from construction waste (shavings & sawdust)dumped into cupcake papers and topped with wax melted from old candle ends. One of my off-farm job coworkers, upon seeing one, called me a “redneck Martha Stewart.” I’m still trying to decide how to take that comment.

  8. beegirl—-Acck! You mean I have to name it? Mountain Stream? Lotsa Blue?

    Deneen…okay, if I did it, time for you to get going on yours…

    MaineCelt—Ha! I think being called a redneck Martha Stewart is a compliment…maybe…possibly…Yes, let’s take it that way!

  9. Have you thought about weaving instead of (or in addition to) knitting? I think the color of hand dyed handspun shows off better in woven items. Just my opinion (I’ve been knitting 50 years and only weaving a couple).

    And your handspun is lovely!

    Just about everyone on my xmas list got something handwoven or hand knit this year — it’s my way of rationalizing “stash building.”

  10. Holly,

    Now there’s an idea—weaving instead of knitting. Hmmm…so much to learn, so little time. 🙂

    I guess it’s good for the brain to keep learning new things, but it’s hard to pull my attention away from the printed word. Argghh. I need to find some balance!

  11. Susie Knitt a sweater for my mom this summer and it turned out amazing. It was the best piece of clothing under the tree this year. I showed her your yarn and she is totally impressed.

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