These days, when I’m not knitting away on a honey cowl, I most often reach for another simple, comforting project, the Nordic Wind shawl.
This shawl began almost a year ago, when I bought a bag of fiber from the fabulous Gwen Erin Natural Fibers at the Autumn Fiber Festival in Ashland, Ohio. The Sheep Tones Combed Top Sampler contained two ounces each of Falkland, Blue Faced Leicester, White Shetland, and Fawn Shetland fiber. At the time, I was just learning about different sheep breeds and the wonderful variety of wool that can be produced from them.
Months passed with the fiber still neatly tucked in its bag. For most of that time I was learning to spin on a drop spindle. In May, however, I dove deeper into the world of spinning and purchased a spinning wheel. July rolled around, and I pulled out the bag from my (small but growing) stash of fiber.
Up until that point with my wheel, I had only spun fiber that had been dyed. This undyed top was so smooth in comparison to the stickiness of dyed fiber. It flowed like liquid from my hands onto the flyer of my wheel. More than once my fingers forgot to close and let the fibers slide completely apart in my hands. The wool smelled clean, sheepy. I buried my nose in it every time I picked it up to spin.
As I spun a little every day, my spinning improved. I could see that this yarn I was making might actually be yarn. It was definitely handspun, with delightful irregularities, but it was more even, with less dramatic thick-and-thin variations than my first attempts.
How did the fibers differ from each other? The Falkland was a soft, clean white. The Blue-Faced Leicester was creamier, bouncy and soft with a little shine. The two colors of Shetland were springy, a little hardier, slightly less soft. I plied the yarns, then soaked them in warm water and snapped the skeins to finish them.
I began to think about what I might knit with this handspun yarn. After perusing many patterns on Ravelry, I decided that I wanted something simple, some kind of shawl or blanket. I wanted to wrap myself in the softness of the yarns. The Nordic Wind shawl fit my needs perfectly. I could just keep knitting until I used up my yarn, or until the shawl was as big as I wanted it to be.
I wound the balls by hand and cast on while I was in New Hampshire visiting my parents. I started with the creamy Blue-Faced Leicester and then added the Shetland. From the start, it was a pleasing knit. The increasing rows of stockinette show off the irregularities of the handspun perfectly. Since then the shawl has progressed slowly, which is just fine with me. I’m nearing the end of the Shetland yarn, getting ready to join in the Falkland. After that, well, I may want the shawl to keep growing. I’ve got some more undyed BFL in my stash that I might enlist for this project.
When I first started knitting, I marveled at how a simple string, a strand of yarn, could be knit into a garment, something useful and warm. The transformation seemed magical to me. Now this other transformation–from fiber to yarn–seems a more elemental form of magic. I can’t get enough of both of them.