I love living in the prairies. I’ve visited the mountains and they aren’t for me. I’ve lived in Ontario and on the east coast. I adored where we lived in Ontario (K-W) and it was almost home, but family called us back. I truly enjoyed living by the ocean, but still I longed for the prairies.
When I heard the call for designs to be featured in a local collection titled Flatlands and featured at the Manitoba Fibre Festival, I knew exactly what I wanted to contribute.
I envisioned the open fields of wheat and canola, the wild purple flowers that line the roadside, and the blue skies that blanket it all.
My favourite medium to design with is handspun yarns. I enjoy encouraging other spinners to use their handspun yarns, especially those single skeins of a one-of-a-kind colourway.
Sometimes those precious yarns seem limited in their use due to having relatively short yardage. A solution I like to employ is to work with commercial-spun and hand-spun yarns in a project. Alternating between the two extends the yardage of both.
The call came out in winter, so I decided to test out my idea with some yarns on hand. One was a bulky single that is sold as like-handspun. The other yarn happened to coordinate nicely. I was very happy with the result and chose to submit my idea for the collection.
I was paired up with the delightful Daria of Cloud 9 Fiberworks for yarn and fibre support on the project. I sent her some images of the colours I was imagining: fields of wheat, of canola, of flax, of purple wildflowers, and, of course, the ever-present open blue skies. Daria responded with golden worsted weight yarn (which I named Bugarup Blonde in honour of our shared love of Discworld)
for my wheat background and fluffy merino in purple, blue, and canola yellow, with green accents (Octarine Grass).
The first yarn that I spun was an autowrap single. I wanted to experiment. I had an alpaca-silk lace yarn with the flax colour in it that beautifully complimented the fibre. I love the yarn, but ultimately it wasn’t quite spun thick enough for my design preference. I wanted the official sample to have more punch and the thinner spots were not bold enough for me.
For the second yarn I chose a chain-plied 3-ply to fatten it up. I prefer spinning and knitting lace, so spinning thicker is a challenge for me. Spinning multiple plies is my most reliable method for achieving a heavier yarn even after I aim for thicker singles. (Otherwise I would still have a light fingering 3-ply.)
I changed the gauge (and thus the stitch count) to accommodate the new yarn being lighter than my bulkier stash-based sample. It wasn’t long before I had a new design ready to share. It is a quick project with some fun style options for wearing. The highlight, for me, is being able to show off some handspun yarns; I love watching the colours emerge as I knit. A neutral background in a commercial-spun yarn will let the hand-spun yarn shine. A palette of prairie fields won’t be everyone’s choice; I look forward to seeing new colour interpretations. If you chat with Daria at Cloud 9 Fiberworks I’m sure she can hook you up with a custom kit.
I would encourage spinners to embrace their yarn. It doesn’t have to be perfect for this. The first autowrap yarn looked fantastic with its thick and thin variations; it was only my own particular vision that wanted to make sure my thinner spots were less-thin and I’m simply not very good at spinning those singles. It is also a fun opportunity to show off any favourite buttons in your collection. I used some locally crafted wood (branch) buttons made by Andrea Mantler. I am hoping there will be some local button makers again at the Festival.
My lovely sister was kind enough to model for me out by her Manitoba farm. We caught a few rays of sunlight in the midst of a storm. I knew she could wear the golden yellow since she chose the yellow-gold dress as my bridesmaid. She’ll be inheriting this cowl when the Festival wraps up.