Hemp Scrub

I love visiting my mother, not only because she is such a great mom, but because she showcases my art in her home. Sitting down at her craft table, the place mat I made reminded me of my first rag rug class. While washing my hands, thoughts of drawing classes emerged with the framed pencil drawing of my feet and I dried my hands on the first towel I wove on a shaft loom. Later I found she had put the hemp washcloth/scrub I had made for her in the shower. Since it was given as a gift, I never used it and didn’t know if it even worked as I intended. If you have tried some of my other projects, you already know that I like small projects that are complete-able. The hemp scrub, although a small project, is full of spinning.

Let’s get started. You will need, about an ounce of hemp top, 2 grams (75 yards) of 60/2 silk thread, a spinning wheel (I used the Schacht Sidekick), 2 bobbins, and lazy kate. Begin by spinning the ounce of hemp with a Z twist (the flyer rotating in the clockwise direction) at about 22 wpi (wraps per inch), with the twist angle between 20-25%.

Wow, spinning is full of technical jargon. Many years ago when I started spinning I just wanted everything in crayons, but as I learned a little more, I wanted more information on yarns spun for specific projects. Having all the information on the yarn and how it was spun allows you to spin that particular yarn. Also it serves as a gauge, as in knitting. Checking the yarn periodically helps to keep you on track.

The hemp top tends to become compacted in shipping so begin by pulling 12 inches off the ounce of top. [See the video of Stephanie spinning the hemp boucle yarn at http://youtu.be/3j9rkaZ4Bas]. Hold the hemp between your hands about 3 inches apart and give it a firm tug, then move down a couple inches and repeat.

Stephanie's handspun, handknit hemp scrub

Stephanie’s handspun, handknit hemp scrub

The fibers will gently spread apart allowing more air to enter the top making it easier to draft. Spin the hemp with the flyer moving in the clockwise direction with a low twist angle using a forward draw worsted style, not allowing any air into the drafting triangle and compacting the yarn until the entire ounce is spun on one bobbin. The fun continues in the next step.

We will be plying the hemp using a silk core. If you do not have a cone of 60/2 silk lying around you can use silk sewing thread. Put your bobbin of spun hemp on your lazy kate. Place your cone of silk on the floor on the opposite side of your chair from the lazy kate. If you have a Bulky flyer, now is the time to put it on. A flyer without hooks is especially useful for the corkscrews that are to follow. Tie the silk and the hemp to the leader. Begin spinning with your flyer in the counterclockwise direction for an S ply. Unlike traditional plies, the goal for this ply is to have the hemp loosely wrap around the silk core. To achieve this goal, hold the silk straight with tension from the orifice towards your body. The silk remains straight while the hemp loops around. You determine the size of the loops in

your yarn during this step by how you set up your wheel and how your hold your yarn. I used the same wheel ratios and take-up as I did to spin the hemp, and found I needed to increase the take-up frequently because of how fast the bobbin fills with this crazy loopy-ness. Controlling the size of the loops is an effect of the angle you hold the hemp in relation to the silk core. Holding the hemp very close to the silk core and let the hemp lazily wind around the silk, then push it up and let it wind on, the loops are rather large. If you prefer smaller loops, adjust the angle of the hemp further away from the core. The closer you get to a 45-degree angle the more your yarn will look coiled instead of looped. This process may look very messy and the loops will move and shift as the yarn winds on the bobbin, but don’t fret; the next step stabilizes the yarn and neatens it up a great deal.

Detail of the hemp scrub

Detail of the hemp scrub

Time to secure those loops and finish your yarn with the binder. I changed to a lower ratio with a bigger whorl/pulley because this step is an exercise in slow treadling, stopping and starting. With an empty bobbin on the wheel and the silk/hemp bobbin on the kate, tie the silk/hemp yarn that was just spun and the silk from the cone to the bobbins leader. Start treadling and adjust the loops to be evenly dispersed over the silk core. To ply the binder on, hold the silk/hemp yarn taut in your left hand and lay the binder directly onto the silk core (from the first yarn) with no angle, right on top and let them twist and feed on to the bobbin. If you hold the binder thread at an angle to the side while applying the binder you tend to squish the loops. Stop treadling, adjust the positioning of your loops and then bind them with the silk. Continue in this manner until you have adjusted and secured all your loops and tie all three threads together. The yarn is finished.

I did not wash the yarn prior to knitting the following pattern, but I did weigh it. Why? Because the scrub that ended up in my mother’s shower was 7/8 complete when I ran out of yarn. So, if you weigh what you’ve spun and weigh the ball you are knitting from as you go, you will not be so unlucky. And, if you follow the pattern below and start to decrease when you have a little more than half of what you have spun remaining, you will complete the project without having to try to spin a duplicate yarn like the one just spun. You might say, “I can just frog it back, and re-knit”, but no, you can’t! Well, you can, but with this yarn it will take you longer to rip out your knitting than it did to spin it in the first place. How do I know this? Let’s just say, don’t knit too late at night without your glasses, while trying to watch an action movie.

Basic Washcloth Pattern

Using 1.25 ounces of Handspun Hemp boucle (Approximately 31 yards)

CO 4 sts (leaving 1 yard tail of yarn for a loop to hang the cloth if you like)

Row 1: k to end of row

Row 2: k2, yo, k2

Row 3: k2, yo, k to end of row

Continue to repeat row 3 until you have a total of 28 sts on the needle.

Next row: k1, k2tog, yo, k2tog, k to end of row

Repeat this last row until 5 stitches are left

Next row: k2, k2tog, k1

Bind off the 4 sts and weave in ends

(Optional Loop)

Using a crochet hook begin a chain stitch through the corner of scrub where you began with the 1 yard of tail at your CO edge. Chain stitch 12 stitches and fasten off where you began.

At this point, the cloth is finished, but I would suggest steam blocking it into a clean square if you are planning on giving it as a gift, otherwise start running the tub.

I gave my mother this scrub as a gift, but she gave me the lifelong gift of loving all things handmade. This is a motherly gift that I can pass on to my children through my craft and the crafts of others. Hopefully my daughter is filled with the same pride as I am every day when she sees that out of all my potholders, the one she made is the one I like best.

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Stephanie Flynn-Sokolov

Stephanie Flynn Sokolov trained in accessory design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She teaches classes in weaving and spinning around the U.S. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.