They say that no learning is ever wasted, and that really proved to be the case for me with machine knitting. I had two knitting machines some years ago, one for standard-gauge and one for chunky. The chunky one would work up every yarn that I was using for hand knitting — ever a Lopi sweater that had stalled in my hand-knitting basket was completed on this machine.
However, it was the standard-gauge knitting machine that was really an eye opener, with its punch-card patterning, the ease of shaping a garment from a hand-drawn outline and the wonderful range of additional yarn options using coned yarn.
I had never really appreciated coned yarns before, thinking that they were purely for machine use or weaving. However, when you use them doubled or even trebled then they can easily be used for hand knitting too.
For example, one of the versions of the Elizabeth Scarf pattern is worked using two strands of a wonderfully soft 100% wool coned yarn, Jaggerspun "Maine Line". This is available in a wide range of yarn sizes and colours (see the colour chart at the top of this blog), and there is also a heathered version available.
I pre-washed the yarn in my usual way (and please see the earlier blogpost for info on that), and then wound the yarn into two balls. Holding the two yarn ends together gave a super-toasty result. The separate strands trap air between them, making a light-weight but cozy combination. And that is not the only benefit of using coned yarns: they are often spun a little tighter too, which reduces pilling and makes the final fabric stronger.
Jaggerspun also make a few other varieties of yarn, including a "Superfine Merino" that would be fabulous for this scarf, and they have a list of distributors on their website. In the UK, Uppingham Yarn have whole rooms of coned yarns, including a wonderfully soft lambswool yarn spun by Z Hinchliffe in Denby Dale, West Yorkshire.
Lambswool is the short and springy fibre that comes from the first shearing season, and the material for the coned yarn from Z Hinchliffe is sourced from Geelong in Australia. Merino sheep have been bred here for generations and some of the finest and softest yarns have come from this part of the world. They are so prized that they have even made their way onto some Australian stamps!
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And here are some sheepy facts relating to the Merino sheep:
Dwayne Black from Australia went into the record books in 2007 by shearing a merino lamb in 53.88 seconds!
Merino wool generally measures less than 24 microns in diameter, but Ultrafine merino can be as fine as just 10 microns.
Spanish breeders developed the Merino breed in the 13th and 14th centuries, and even up to the 18th century exporting any animals from this breed was punishable by death.
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Try using two strands of yarn held together the next time you fancy knitting something special, and enjoy the extra yarn options that that opens up!
If you would like more details of the Elizabeth Scarf pattern, then please click here.
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