I first encountered pencil roving not long after I'd learned to knit, way back in 2009. At the time I used it to make a very nice tea cosy, that went to a new home as part of a swap. The photo of said cosy is utterly abysmal, it's in my Ravelry projects if you really want to see it!
When I was browsing through the selection of new things available at one of my suppliers last spring I came across some more pencil roving. This time in something other than merino, and I remembered being told you could spin with it. After all, it is one of the final steps in commercial yarn production.
I ordered a sample skein, because I sample everything before I release it in to the spinning wilds. I try out everything I sell, before I sell it, and usually send samples on to other people to try out as well. I was slightly intrigued to see what would happen if I dyed the roving, and would the effects of dyeing make it unspinable. The sample turned up, I dyed it, spun a quick chunk on a spindle and was pleasantly surprised. It drafted just fine. I also took a bit off the giant skein (200g), and made myself a teapot cosy (again!) for my 1 person tea pot. It took well under an hour, got to love big yarn and big needles!
I do have copies of the original tea cosy pattern I made, with kind permission of the designer, it makes a cosy for a 4-6cup pot, and you should get 2 cosies out of 1 skein.
The rest of the skein of roving I thrust at Mum. She's one of my trusty test spinners, and is very good about telling me what she likes and doesn't like! She is a good spinner, but probably wouldn't call herself a "spinner". Unlike me who always has a spinning project on the go she spins occasionally. I left her to get on with it, with no more instructions than " spin in the opposite direction to usual"
The pencil roving already has twist added to it, otherwise it would drift apart in the skeining. The trick to spinning it easily is to remove some of that twist, then draft to the thickness you want. The roving already has Z twist, so if you spin in an S (anticlockwise) direction you take out the existing twist and get to make the roving in to the thickness you want.
Two days later there were several skeins of navajo plyed yarn draped from the bannisters. 200g makes a surprisingly large amount of yarn!
One day later a knitted item appeared... we won't go in to said knitted item. We all have moments of madness where we delude ourselves about the size and shape of said item, and plough on regardless of the inner voice in our head telling you that said item will never fit the human form. Having made Mum find said item for this photo the decision has been made that it needs frogging as the yarn is too nice to waste on something unusable.
Because the roving is in such thin strips I can dye it using my usual short blasts of colour, and they come out even shorter than they would from spun up combed top. It lets you get lots of colour in to an item but you don't get a stripey effect. If you want more blended shades then a conventional 2-ply would mix up the different colours.
Fast forward a few months, I've had pencil roving for sale on the stall at the shows throughout the summer. At the end of Woolfest my friend Katharine, who was helping me on the stall, suggested that it would look fantastic woven up. She took one of the leftover balls and made this. Originally she intended it to be a cushion, but I've fallen in love with it as a bag. She's even got enough leftover to do herself something of the same size.
Just plain weave on a rigid heddle loom, but sometimes keeping things simple is for the best.
As you might have gathered I've become a bit of a fan of this stuff, because it can do everything!
I've even seen some very nifty looking slippers made from a skein of it. There are 84 pages of knitting patterns on Ravelry that call for 130m and under of Super Bulky yarn, so it's great for very speedy handmade presents.
There's a fresh batch of pencil roving dyed, and waiting for the camera, it will go up in the shop later today.