Friday, June 21, 2013

Knitting Unspun Fiber aka Puni Knitting

A puni is similar to a rolag, prepared on handcards,
after which the fibers are rolled on a stick and
compressed by rolling this stick on a flat surface.
Punis are a common prep for cotton and other very fine fibers.

There seems to be much debate recently in the spinning world on whether or not fibers not traditionally prepared as punis can be called punis. Well according to this aforementioned definition the only requirement to be called a puni is that the fiber, which is traditionally prepared on handcards, is finished by being rolled and compressed on a stick. This definition is not based on size of finished puni as some have hesitantly named more robust punis "puni-style rolags" or "puni/rolags"because they are larger than traditional punis made of cotton or silk. I adhere to this definition as it stands, if the final product is rolled on a stick and compressed it is a Puni.

With that said, you will find that my punis vary in size depending on the type and quantity of fiber I use to make them. I love texture and color and have a barnyard of fibers in my stash. I frequent local farms and fiber shows during the spring, summer, and early fall seasons and purchase the majority of my fibers in the raw. 

(the gray punis are a mix of black Welsh Mountain/bamboo, the white are Merino/Angora, and the Red Mix are Merino/Bamboo/Alpaca/silk noil/sari silk threads/firestar)

Since I buy all of my fibers in their natural colors it should come as no surprise that I am a dyer. If not used in its natural color,  I dye every fiber I card, spin, felt, and use, with the exception of sari silk. I buy sari ribbons and shredded sari silk which is already dyed and comes from recycled saris. 

 (1 oz of each color - hand dyed merino wool )

If you watch my current Puni Making video - I plan to record a better version very soon - you will also see that I have a tendency to really load up my hand cards..which some would say was a big NO NO. But,  I cant help it. I love texture, and color and it is like a fiber buffet when I am carding. I put a little of this, a little of that, and a little of everything that catches my fancy until I have no choice but to say enough.......and the process works for me. I generally split my fiber in half once it is carded and make 2 punis instead of one. I call these ART PUNIS and that is what you will see most from me. 

 (These are Monster Mash punis and look a little loose and worse for wear because I have been toting them around just in case I found a pattern to knit with them, which I finally did - see details a little further down in the post )

Like many other Fiberistas, I hoard all of my magazines, Spin Off especially. I read back issues whenever possible. I always seem to glean new information every time I read thru an old issue. It was during just one of those instances that I had the idea to try my hand at knitting with unspun punis....yes you heard my correctly...knitting with unspun punis. 

The article that caught my eye was in the Winter 2008 issue of Spin-Off Magazine entitled "Card, Knit, Wear: Unspun Caps by Carol Huebscher Rhoades. In this article she was knitting with unspun rolags, and I was intrigued. A light bulb went off above my head and I thought, Hmmmm.....I bet you can do this with punis too.....and then knitters who dont spin can suddenly fall in love with punis and rolags and indulge in some unspun fun. Unspun knitting results in a smooth slightly twisted fiber that resembles single spun yarn. The natural act of knitting and the knitters individual tension applies the draft and twist that makes unspun fibers hold fast in knitting.

This is the pattern that started it all - its called the Stegosaurus and I dont think you can find it online anywhere. How did I get this pattern you ask....well, I will tell you. 

I was sitting in the Mall doing some promotion for my day job when I saw a woman walk by wearing a gorgeous piece of knitwear around her neck. Of course I walked right up to her and asked her if she had knit the item in question and she said "OH YES" and told me all about how she had come to make the item. It was actually a scarf that she was wearing doubled as a cowl. I told her I would search the pattern out online and walked back to my table. She came by later and told me I probably wouldnt find it online, but the pattern was easy and she would be happy to write it down for me. I was elated. She also told me if I gave her my address she would send me a copy of the written pattern she had at home. A few weeks later I received the copy of the pattern from her. However the pattern she wrote down for me that day was also right on and I have been knitting using that little scrap of handwritten text all along. After a few rows the pattern is easy to memorize and knit on the go. I am using some pink punis that are a huge mix of fibers, sparkle and texture. I am almost done with this project and cant wait to block it gently to show off the staggered edging and eyelets. 

It is best when first learning to knit with punis to start with a garter stitch pattern. This way you can focus your attention on handling the fiber properly, tension, drafting, and not have to struggle with complex stitches. A few YO and K2tog, and Kfb increases are easy as well if included in the pattern but I wouldn't do anything more complex until you feel comfortable with the process. 

The Stegosaurus pattern incorporates garter stitch, k2tog, Kfb increases, YO, and binding off to create the scalloped edge. I am using approximately 2 oz of punis to knit a short scarflet version of the pattern. Mileage will vary depending on each individual knitters tension and drafting. 

Recently I was excited to experience even more puni knitting and after a brief search on Ravelry I discovered the following free garter stitch patterns to satisfy my puni knitting desires. 

This first is a simple leaf pattern, still in progress and shown in the above photo of Monster Mash ART PUNIS. It is called Garter Stitch Leaf by Jan Eaton. I have plans to knit up all my Monster Mash Punis and make a bunting with the finished leaves. 

The next pattern I absolutely adore and plan to make several of as gifts for the little ones in my family and possibly for some little people at church is called Fox Scarf by Satu Dolk and Ossi Laine

This is what I have finished so far. 

Its a keyhole scarf. The face is fully assembled already and is the keyhole portion that the tail end will pull thru. All I am working on now is the body and tail which is mostly garter stitch with a little knit purl ribbing towards the end. Isnt this just the cutest thing in the world? I love it already and hope the young lady this will be gifted to will love it too. I made some mods to the pattern based on this fox scarf made by Owney on Ravelry. The mods are really just adding the colored stripe in center of the nose and edging the ears in the body color.

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse of puni knitting. I encourage you to try it out, there is no spinning required for puni knitting, be brave and give it a try. I will be posting a video tutorial on how to knit with punis very soon if you are interested so stay tuned.

Happy Puni Knitting my friends :)

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