Crafty Reads: Yarnitecture

Some crafty books are filled with information you want to file away for later, knowing that your next project will be improved by your new knowledge. And some crafty books make you want to immediately pick up your tools and put what you have learned to practice right away. Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno is one of the latter kinds, making me wish I could lock myself in a room with the book, a spinning wheel, and a pile of fiber.

The concept of Yarnitecture is comparing designing a yarn to designing a house. The blueprint is your yarn vision, the foundation is the fiber type, and the frame is the fiber prep. Then you start spinning and the walls are your drafting method, and the roof is your plying method. The paint is your approach to color and the front door is the finishing. Knitting with the yarn she calls the landscaping. The book closes with a section called housekeeping with 12 knitting patterns (with a few crochet and embroidery accents) with guidelines for the sort of yarn to spin for them.

I’ll admit that I went through the first few chapters wondering what I would take away from this book. I’ve read half a dozen descriptions on fiber type this year. I know about fiber prep and drafting. And then I hit the part where she measured the twist lost in the singles by plying – nearly 30%. What? Whoa. I didn’t know that. And the samples showing the difference between a yarn with 2 plies of the same fiber blend and a yarn with 2 plies of different fibers. Holy crow I want to try that. I am even the owner of the same colorway on 2 fiber types, so that is definitely my next spin. This book does a wonderful job of breaking down how to be deliberate about each step of yarn creation.

The chapter that most blew my mind was on color handling. I knew lots of ways to split up my fiber to play with color, but it had never occurred to me how drafting style or yarn width of number of plies change the effect of color in the yarn. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed my color blending experiment earlier in the year. As I mentioned then, I like blending colors but don’t enjoy carding. Jillian’s idea of drafting 2 different colors together is incredibly intriguing.

As much as I talk about the fact that I don’t plan my yarns, I do enjoy keeping track of measurements of my yarn. It makes me feel like I know the yarn and frankly I just like numbers. I will definitely be adding twists per inch to my statistics. One of the things I enjoyed seeing Jillian address is that what makes a beautiful skein of yarn is not what makes the best yarn to knit with.

I walked away from this book not only with a list of new techniques to try and numbers to ponder, but with a renewed reverence for spinning. As a creator of yarn and cloth I am part of a thousands year old tradition, yet one where there is still room for experimentation and play. In the section on finishing there is a picture of a swatch knit from weighted yarn before and after washing. The post-washing swatch is gnarled and alive with the twist energy from the yarn. When we make yarn we are pouring our energy into it and trapping it there forever. Jillian repeatedly highlighted how alive handspun feels compared to commercial yarns, and her explanation about machines keeping the yarn under tension is a good one, but I also think we can feel the energy transferred from a pair of human hands into the yarn.

That wraps up this year’s crafty reads! I’m still making my schedule for next year, I’ll announce it here when I have it. Let me know if you have books you want to hear about!

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