By far the most frequently asked question I get about my yarns is what to use them for. Let's get into this.
I read this in "Intertwined: The Art of Handspun Yarn, Modern Patterns and Creative Spinning" by Lexi Boeger and agree wholeheartedly:
The question most often asked about non-traditional handspun yarn is, "Can you knit and crochet with it?" The answer is yes, you can. The more appropriate question, though, may be, "Can you follow a pattern with it?" Here is where it gets cloudy. The reason why most people can follow a pattern and get a predictable result is because they are using commercial yarn. Patterns depend on predictability. A commercial yarn, even if it's an 'irregular' novelty yarn, is never random and will always repeat in a predictable way. ... Nontraditional handspun yarn is inherently unpredictable because it is created by humans, so, by nature, the resulting yarn is more random. Handspun yarns are very likely to interrupt a pattern with an element that does not fit in and needs to be handled in a different way.
She goes on to say that if you want a clean, predictable outcome, use commercial yarns. If you want to mix it up and embrace the unexpected, use handspun.
It is certainly my experience that once you welcome the quirks in most handspun, your patterns and products become MUCH more interesting. A hat out of commercial yarn is something that will keep you warm, make you proud that you were able to make something and may have a little personality in the way that you knit or crocheted it. BUT a hat with handspun can change the way that you think about the relationship between your yarn and a pattern. And it will likely draw some attention and questions ('where'd ya get that hat?' 'did you make that with ... yarn?')
Let your individual nuances, quirks, flaws, perspectives, and strengths - your inherent unpredictability - push your work beyond the grid and into a more organic, creative place. Change the way you think about the relationship between yarn and pattern. Consider the pattern as more of a rough guideline rather than a set of unbreakable rules. Think of the yarn as a creative contributor to the project, not just a mere material. Traditionally, it is the knitting and crocheting that dominates the yarn. When using handspun yarn, allow the yarn to influence the knitting or crocheting at times. Let the creation of the project be an interplay between the idea behind the pattern and the unique qualities of the yarn. Walk on the path of the pattern, but by all means follow the yarn off the trail if there is something more interesting to see. (Boeger, Intertwined, 2011)
Some handspun yarns are definitely not for the faint of heart. They have features and yes, even flaws, that make them an exquisite match for patterns that will certainly call attention to the finished product. I am in love with Heather Lightbody's a-MA-zing creations, which you should stroll on over to check out here. She truly embraces the glory of handspun yarns in her works - much of which is done as freeform crochet (something that I am recently digging', too). Check out this hat!
Other handspun yarns are intented to be an add-in to a pattern that would benefit from a little something-something. For instance, I recently knit up this cowl using both a skein of my handspun in a fantastic shade of yellow and a white commercial yarn held together. It turned out great - it's nice and bulky, soft and interesting. Best of all, it looks like popcorn, according to my husband (and I agree).
So, my best advice for those that ask what to do with handspun yarn is, get creative. Add it into a project you are already working on and see where it will take you. Pick up a pattern that is specifically designed for handspun (soon I will post some in my Store and I will continue to post ideas on my website and social media). Wind a skein around your neck and head out for a coffee with friends.
Do you make/and or use handspun yarns? What do you like to make out of it?