Kim's Blog

Archive for Plying

Tweed-like handspun

This technique was developed when spinning my Féth Fíadha shawl. A féth fíadha is a magical veil that blurs the borders between our mortal world and that of the Sidhe. I envisioned a knitted handspun wrap reminiscent of a blanket of fog. 

To this end, I chose to work with Gotland. My first handspun and knitted samples in white Gotland (seen in the photo) rendered a lightweight, crisp fabric with incredible hand and drape. Further, Gotland’s slight halo added to the misty feeling I was attempting to conjure. A good start, but the fabric needed something more. A bit more surface interest. Something that would add to the mood. Thus was born a simple technique I call “frosting”.

Tweed-like frosted skein and ball alongside the plain white handspun.

In a nutshell, to spin this 2-ply yarn, the fibre is divided into two equal lots, one for each single. One singles is spun as is, the other singles is “frosted” with a gossamer layer of attenuated coloured fibre. In the case of this shawl I used a lovely, soft dark Finn. The “frosted” singles is spun by alternating between spinning only the white, then frosting for a bit, and then going back to the plain white. Once the frosted singles is plied with the all-white singles you end up with a handspun yarn with a lovely tweed-like effect. The photos below help to demonstrate the process. 

And yes, this is an amazing technique to use with dyed fibre! And a little bit of frosting goes a long way. For my whole shawl, about 10% of the fibre was dark Finn. Enjoy!

Thin sliver of attenuated dark Finn frosting on top of attenuated white Gotland.
Frosted singles.
Frosted singles to the left. Plain white singles to the right.

Spinning for Gotland, Finn and South American Shawls….

In December of 2016 our family home of 26 years sold much quicker than anticipated. The condo we had purchased was not scheduled for completion until April of 2018. Deciding to make the most of it, we packed up our little teardrop-style trailer and headed off to explore Canada and the United States while we awaited the completion of the condo. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that almost 2 years later, we would still be travelling and waiting for our home to be finished. 

On the one hand, this adventure afforded me the gift of time. Time to read, time to daydream, time to knit, time for spindle spins and time to explore designing my own patterns. On the other hand, however, the fibre related items I could take along had to fit into the small compartment under my side of the bed. There was no room for fleece or a spinning wheel. I started the journey with enough commercial yarn for two shawls I had been planning to knit for some time. Without life’s usual distractions however, they were knit in record time and, I was soon searching out local yarn shops along the way in hopes of filling the void I felt.

When I got right down to it, I realized I missed working with fleece; scouring, preparing, spinning, plying, and dyeing; the activities that bring a certain rhythm and grounding to my daily life. Friends had tried to convince me before we left, to take my wheel and some fibre along but I ignored their sage counsel. We did not have the room for a wheel let alone all the other equipment that goes along with spinning. I’d be fine. Or so I thought. By October I knew I had made a gross error in judgment. Thank goodness for Etsy and on-line stores. I placed orders for some commercially prepared fibre and a few spindles. The whole lot was shipped to my sister-in-law’s, so I could pick them up on our way to through to the Maritimes.   

Most often my projects start with raw fleece, which I scour, comb or card and then spin. I have over the years spun some commercially prepared non-superwash wool, but to me they seem lackluster compared to the fibre I prepared from scratch. As I started working with the natural-coloured commercial roving I had ordered, I wondered why my own hand painted commercial sliver seemed to be a little nicer to spin than the undyed sliver. A niggling voice in the back of my mind urged me to give the commercial sliver a soak in warm water and see what difference, if any, that made to how it spun up once dry. To my delight I found the South American, Finn and Gotland commercial sliver I had ordered and then treated with a soak responded more like my own hand prepared fibre.

With the fibre responding nicely to my touch, I set to work to design a yarn that would provide surface interest simply from the manner in which it was spun. Over the next few posts, I will share:

  • how I prepare commercial roving for spinning
  • how to spin a tweed-like yarn
  • how to spin a lightweight, airy yarn that lends the finished knitted fabric incredible drape and
  • (if I can decipher my notes and put them into a legible format for a knitting pattern) share my Énbarr shawl pattern.

Who woulda thunk it?

Spinners are such a creative, innovative, curious and inspiring group. Two ladies who made me stop and take stock recently are Diana Twiss, of 100-mile wear and Rachel Smith of Welford Purls.


Diana recently got all fired up about Debbie Held’s article in PLY magazine on using crêpe yarns for socks.  And Rachel has been passionately experimenting with the oppositional ply and Hawser yarn techniques presented in Sarah Anderson’s book, The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Design.


Mea culpa Diana and Rachel, but my initial thoughts were:

  • Hmmmm….nice novelty yarns.
  • I’ve seen them before.
  • A lot of fuss about something that is not really that functional.
  • Pretty, but what can you make with it?


Boy, was I wrong. When I held their skeins of yarn in my own two hands, I was gob smacked and thought “Oh my goodness, the possibilities…..”


Check out Diana Twiss at and Rachel Smith’s Wool ‘n Spinning blog and her youtube podcast episode #111.


Thank you to all fibre artists who allow us to light our flame in their candles. And a special thank you to Diana and Rachel for sharing their talents, insights and passion.


Cheers, Kim