Handspun yarn is a traditional fiber crafted from wool. In your journey to self-sufficiency, knowing how to make your own textiles is a killer skill to have.
But even if you aren’t interested in spinning it yourself, there are many good reasons to seek it out when shopping for yarn.
As more people are looking for new ways to include sustainability in their lives, one of the major obstacles is mass-produced goods. Compared to machine-spun wool, which can be produced in large amounts, handspun yarn takes time and care.
Keep reading to discover why handspun yarn is better for you and the environment.
What Is Hand-Spun Yarn?
Hand-spinning has existed for centuries and likely started in the Islamic world in the 10th century. It rapidly spread throughout Asia and then the western world from there.
In the Middle Ages, handspun wool was a valuable asset traded in Europe and parts of Asia. When the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century, this traditional spinning method was replaced with machine-spun textiles.
Machine spinning saved people, primarily women, a ton of time and made clothing more affordable for everyone. But there’s too much of a good thing, and now people are concerned with the sheer amount of waste created by cheap, disposable clothing.
Additionally, so-called fast fashion sometimes involves labor that works in horrible conditions and for little pay.
Lately, there has been an increased interest in hand-spinning as people want to reclaim this lost art form and make their own clothes, items, and other projects. Homesteaders want to create textiles that will last generations and not be tossed out after a few wears.
Differences Between Machine-Spun and Hand-Spun
Machine-spun wool is much quicker to produce, but it also creates more uniform patterns, which makes it ideal for creating tons of similar-looking items in bulk.
On the other hand, each skein of handspun yarn has a unique texture and appearance. Handmade goods inherently bear their maker’s mark in small and different ways. No two skeins of handspun yarn are the same.
Handspun wool takes a long time to complete, but the final appearance is full of little details that make it special.
Beyond the unique details left by the crafter, wool has varying textures and colors and will look different depending on how much dye is absorbed.
Commercial wool has usually been bleached and rendered to all look the same. Variations are rare.
Benefits of Hand-Spun Wool
One reason, in my opinion, that hand-spun wool is better than machine-spun is that you get a more authentic texture to the wool. It looks and feels like the natural material it is.
Machine-spun wool somewhat loses its unique appearance. If you want to make a woolen blanket or sweater that looks handmade or special, it’s better to use handspun wool.
Also, someone who has been spinning yarns for a while knows how to handle different fibers and bring out their qualities. That’s something a machine can’t do.
There are some downsides to choosing handspun yarn, of course.
You can’t just jump straight into spinning fiber and expect it to look perfect. Like any hobby, you must take the time to learn your craft. You can find many videos online or take a beginner’s class to learn the basics.
Or, visit our beginner’s guide for turning wool into yarn.
Then there’s the cost of getting started.
To start hand-spinning yarn, you’ll need a spinning wheel and drop spindles, at a bare minimum. Try different spinning wheels before purchasing to see what feels right for you.
Be prepared for the difficulty of treadling. Many beginners find it hard to maneuver the peddles and the wheel. After some practice, you’ll be able to master the technique.
So, here are six excellent reasons to use handspun yarn.
1. You’re In Control
Sometimes, when you buy yarn at a store or online, you don’t know what it will feel like when you have it in your hands when knitting or crocheting. You can’t be sure if it will work for your project until you start.
Then, it can take hours to really get a feel for the yarn and how it wants to work.
Spinning your own wool is the best way to get to know your yarn. Before you even begin your project, you already know the texture, colors, firmness (or lack of), and shape of your yarn.
Plus, you get to be in charge of how loose, tight, thick, or thin your yarn is.
2. Color Customization
Not only can you control the fibers when spinning, but you can then dye the yarn to match your dream color scheme!
One of the best things about making handspun yarn is having a collection of vibrant or muted colors in your craft room. You can choose exactly what you want to make and how much of it.
For instance, if you want a simple white, neutral color, you can keep a stash of natural yarn. Alternatively, you can use dip dye and tie dye techniques to create whimsical patterns for sweaters or socks.
The color options are endless with hand-spun yarn, so go wild with your dyeing!
3. Ethically Sourced Materials
There’s something magical about using animal wool from happy animals in your spinning wheel. If you don’t own sheep, you can usually find local farms that supply wool to crafters. Industrial wool is often produced from animals kept in cramped, miserable conditions.
But farm-raised wool usually comes from well-cared-for, happy animals, whether you raise them yourself or locate a trusted farmer nearby.
Plus, unlike machine-spun wool, you can find some incredible options from local farms that provide unique fibers from their animals.
You can use sheep, but many people love alpaca fiber or mohair from Angora goats. You can try all the different fibers until you find your favorite.
4. Support Small Businesses
Buy hand-spun yarn to support your local economy and invest in small businesses. Even if you don’t decide to make handspun yarn yourself, you can find artists who create incredible handspun yarns.
Of course, hand-spun yarn costs more than acrylic, so be prepared to pay more for these fibers. That’s the cost of opting out of the industrial economy. If you have the budget to buy this natural yarn, it’s much better for the environment and the local economy.
Or make it yourself!
You can also buy hand-spun yarn from across the globe, which opens up new opportunities for sellers and crafters to sell their goods.
Alternatively, you can ask for hand-spun yarn skeins for your birthday or another special occasion if it’s out of your budget, so you can try creating them with this gorgeous yarn!
5. Connect With Like-Minded People
More people are making handspun yarn because it’s accessible to learn, and you can connect with a community of like-minded people. The online space offers hundreds of tutorials and lessons to learn a new craft.
But you can usually find a tight-knit community of individuals exploring the craft who are happy to share their knowledge.
You can find like-minded yarn lovers in your local area or join an online community to make new friends in the hand-spinning community.
If you live in a rural homestead far away from a city, consider starting a crafting side business and selling your yarn to other creatives. Or you can make projects and start selling them on platforms like Etsy.
Handspun yarn opens up lots of new opportunities!
6. A New Wave of Creative Makers
Like minimalism and slow living movements, handspun yarn helps people reconnect to their traditions. Making time for old-school hobbies that take us off technology is vital for our mental health and well-being.
Plus, the repetitive motion and activity of hand spinning are great for calming your nerves and dealing with mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.
When you create a garment or other decorative household item using handspun yarn, you feel a sense of purpose that you don’t get from a machine-made product.