Category Archives: handspun yarn

Six shades of . . . purple

Omphalotus yarnWhen I sat down to spin the lovely Omphalotis purple, I decided to keep separate the six different shades that emerged from successive exhausts of the same dyepot. So I split the wool of each shade in two and, working from darkest to lightest, spun two plies of about the same length and with the same gradations of colour. These I plied together into one skein.

As these special colours flowed through my hands and onto the bobbin, I realized that I’d put two different types of wool into the dyepots, one a bit coarser than the other. Not to worry—whatever I make with this will be for myself, and with sich royal hues upon my person, what possible complaints could I have?

Spinning silk . . . or, What was I thinking?


I saw the image on the cover of Crochet So Fine, a book of crochet patterns. I fell in love with it: a “wrap cardigan” of such exquisite lace, with a large pineapple motif centred on the back, three-quarter sleeves fashioned with intricate vertical designs, and a deep V-neck achieved by crossing one front over the other and tying wispy ties at the back.

I am not a maker of intricate crochet. I once (way, way back when) crocheted bulky toilet roll covers for everyone in the family for Christmas. I’ve crocheted mushroom tree ornaments. I tried to crochet cute little lacy strips meant to adorn the fronts of my kitchen shelves (in some sort of decorating madness) and ended up ripping everything apart and depositing the leftover crochet cotton in the thrift shop.

But when I first set eyes on that stunning crocheted wrap (“cardigan” just doesn’t do it justice), I knew I had to make it. And I had to make it with mushroom-dyed silk.

Silk comes in many forms, and I decided to dye and spin silk “hankies,” soft, fly-away bundles, each made up of eight to ten layers of gossamer. Each layer must be peeled gently from the stack, then carefully stretched, stretched, and stretched some more, until the long, weightless strand is just a few fibres thick. Then it’s time to spin.

As with most handspinning, preparing the fibre takes up the greater part of the time; once the wheel gets going, the silk fairly slides across my fingers, building up in fine layers on the bobbin. I divide each hankie into two bobbins, so that two fine strands of the same colour can be plied together into a balanced silk thread.

I then wind the silk thread into little skeins. I love to fondle these wee treasures in the sunlight, admiring the characteristic sheen imparted by true silk.

Each skein measures close to 50 yards.  I will need a little more than 2,000 yards to complete this garment. I don’t want to think of the time required to complete this garment. I am in denial that I will one day have to sit down with a crochet hook and create this garment..

Right now I’ll just enjoy spinning and fondling my silk in the sure and certain knowledge that one day, if nothing else, I’ll be laid out in a Phaeolus-dyed, handspun silk shroud.

Close-ups of the handspun

Thick ‘n thin: Hydnellum
Coils: Dermocybe

I had the good fortune to attend a spinning workshop by the amazing and inspiringJacey Boggs last summer, where she opened my eyes about the possibilities in handspun yarn. Here are some close-ups of a couple of the mushroom-dyed skeins I posted about a few days ago. The pink one, dyed with dermocybes (the darker shade was mordanted with iron), is spun with coils, while the green yarn, dyed with Hydnellum, is one thin strand plied with a thick-and-thin strand.

Now I have even more reason to fondle my handspun!

A few mushroom yarns

Some of this year’s spinning

For a variety of reasons, some personal, some structural (as in setting up a studio, aka My New Happy Place), some environmental (as in this wasn’t a very good year for dye mushrooms), my dyepots have been cold for the last few months. That will soon change, however, once my new workspace is ready and functional.

My spinning wheel  hasn’t slowed down all that much, though; here are some interesting textures that resulted from some of my play sessions.

More posts to follow as soon as I can fire up the dyepots!

Spinning sanguineus

Spinning the sanguineus

While my dyepots are finished for this season, the spinning continues. I’m working on the merino from the multiple exhausts of the beautiful little Cortinarius sanguineus—all the mushrooms went in at once, and I put the wool through successive dyepots until the colour was more or less gone (see my post of February 9). I’ll have four good bobbins of singles, which I plan to then chain-ply, or Navajo ply, which will result in a three-ply yarn without any waste.

Because I plan to crochet with this yarn, I’m spinning the singles in a counterclockwise direction, to be plied clockwise. I have no idea how many yards I’ll end up with, but because I want to make a shawl with it, I’ll choose a pattern that will allow me to continue until I run out of yarn.

Spinning gold

My Phaeolus dyepots are all done now, so while I move on to the mushrooms that have been drying for the last few months, I’m spending my evenings spinning these beautiful gold fibres.

Merino, llama

I dyed some llama rovings in a Phaeolus dyepot (the three strands of fibre on the right—mordanted in copper, iron and alum, left to right)—and I love the gentle way they picked up the colour.

2 plies llama, 1 ply merino

The llama was beautiful to spin, but very slippery. I blended the three hues into one yarn, then used two plies of that with one ply of thick-and-thin merino, to give the final yarn some body. This skein feels lovely and soft.

2 plies merino

Then I carded together several shades (in merino) and got an interesting heather effect.

Mohair encased in merino

I also had some mohair locks that just soaked up the brilliant gold. I cut these into manageable bits, which I encased between plies of the merino. Unfortunately, it didn’t go very far—next year I’ll have to dye much more than a couple of handfuls—but this little skein is magic and would be good to use in combination with the merino yarn.

Now for the spinning

Three Phaeolus colours
First bobbin, Phaeolus yarn

Even though my dyepots are still going strong, it’s time to start spinning the mass of fibre accumulating around the house. The first yarn of the season, which I’m spinning now, will be a blend of these three colours.

I’m preparing the fibre on my handcarders as I go, making some rolags of one colour and some with two colours blended. This merino cards up so beautifully—it’s a dream to spin.