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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Weaving with Handspun: Sizing the Warp

I'm working my way through Paula Simmon's classic book Spinning and Weaving With Wool and came to the chapter on warp.  (For those of you who don't weave yet, warp is the name of the long, up and down threads.  Weft is the side-to-side thread.)  I'm planning to weave a piece of twill fabric that is 6 yards long and 20 inches wide, and I want to use handspun.  Paula says to size handspun warp with rabbit skin glue.

Sizing is basically putting something starchy or stiff on the yarn so that it is more able to withstand the punishment of being warp - abrasion from heddles and reed, tension from the warp beam.  I bought a package of powdered rabbit skin glue from the art store.

The first thing I did was dye the yarn scarlet - that's the color I wanted - so when I was finished with that I had hot, rinsed, wet yarn.  While the dyepot was simmering I'd sprinkled 6 tablespoons of rabbit skin glue powder on cold water, stirred it in, and let it all sit.  It gelled into a gray/beige goopy, thick mess.

 I took a big bucket and poured in this goop.  To this I added 8 cups of boiling water and stirred the sizing until the goop had completely dissolved.  Next I put the skeins in, one by one, and pushed them down, making sure they were saturated.  (I wore gloves for this.)

I carried the bucket downstairs and spun the yarn out in my washing machine spin cycle, and then removed it.  I immediately ran a small hot water load of rags, with detergent, to wash the glue out of my machine.

It's a gorgeous, breezy day, so I hung the skeins out to dry.  So far they still looked like regular wet yarn!  The yarn is fine so it dried right away.  AND it is SIZED!  It is stiff, as though it were over-starched, but the strands are not very stuck together - it will be easy to wind everything into balls.  There is no weird smell. 

After I take the final cloth off the loom I'll finish it with gentle washing - this will remove all of the rabbit skin glue.  I have that triumphant feeling - followed the directions and everything worked.  The only thing I did differently was to size the yarn in skeins, rather than wait until I had it measured into warp chains.  I don't know if this will make a difference or not.

It looks like the stiff yarn will also be easier to thread through heddles and reed.  YAY!  Now I have to finish spinning the weft yarn and I'll be ready to test my sized warp on my loom.  Sizing was not a big task, was not very messy, and if it makes my handspun easier to weave, I'm all for it.

I wonder if I can buy rabbit skin glue in BULK??


  1. better rabbits than horse glue

  2. How did it wash out of the woven textile?

  3. I wonder how this would work on spun cotton?