At some point this fall, I decided I wanted to knit a cowl for myself. I don't know if I got this urge because I kept seeing them around Seattle, or if I kept seeing them around Seattle because I decided I wanted a cowl, and now everyone seems to have one.
I knew what type of cowl I wanted: something knitted from a pretty large gauge yarn, in an oatmealy color, with a nice, loose softness to it. One day while grabbing a sandwich near work I considered popping into the nearby yarn shop to buy some yarn for it. But here's both the blessing and the curse of being an experienced yarn spinner: I realized that not only was I fully capable of spinning the kind of yarn I wanted to my exact specifications, but I already had all the materials at home to do it, without needing to buy anything. So the practical spinner in me had a little fight with my inner instant-gratification knitter, and I decided that I should just spin the yarn that I want.
So I created a blend that was about 70% alpaca from my rose gray boy, Indie, and 30% natural superfine Merino wool that I had sitting around doing nothing but waiting for the right project. The alpaca would give me the color, softness, and warmth I wanted, and the Merino would give it added body and additional softness and springiness. I carded them together on the drum carder and then sent them through an additional pass to blend them more thoroughly. I made three batts like this, all roughly two ounces each.
Once carded, I spun them on my Lendrum spinning wheel, using a worsted-style draw to get the smoothness that I wanted, but with a quick take-up so that I could get a low-twist single. One thing this yarn project reminded me about: once you're an experienced spinner, it sometimes feels hard to spin a deliberately chunky yarn that isn't a thick-and-thin art yarn. But that's okay, because I wanted a slight variation in the thickness, which is exactly what I got.
I knew I wanted to ply the yarn, so I spun one and a half of the batts on one bobbin and the other half on another. I plied it just enough to hold a good twist but not enough to lose the softness that I was after. The finished skein came out to 136 yards, which isn't nearly enough to knit the cowl I want to knit. I'm probably going to have to triple that amount. At least the spinning portion goes really quickly -- it really only took about two total hours to spin the entire six ounces, and about a half an hour to ply it. The batts themselves were the time-consuming part, because I decided to create one batt of just Indie's fleece first to make sure it was nice and blendable, and then combined it with the Merino in two additional passes.
Still, I'm quite pleased with how the yarn turned out, and I think it's going to make a great cowl when it's done. What pattern have I chosen? I haven't yet! I know roughly that I want it to be a loop that I can double over, and one that's fairly wide. I'm letting the yarn tell me what stitch pattern it should be, and I haven't decided that yet.