Visit My Etsy Shop

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Weaving with Handspun: First Big Project

I started this project by spinning a lot of yarn.  Two-ply for the warp (1700 yds of Romney) and single ply for the weft (3200 yds of Romney lamb/alpaca).  I got these numbers from my calculations of what it would take to make 5.5 yds of cloth, 18 inches wide, at a sett of 15 e.p.i. (Ends, or warp threads per inch.)

Next I dyed the yarn and sized it with rabbit skin glue.

Wound the stiff, sized yarn into many balls.

Warped the Schacht Wolf Pup LT loom for sampling.

Samples.  I thought I'd weave the cloth in a houndstooth twill but I didn't like how the sample turned out (top sample).  My weft yarn was a single ply and there were slight variations in thickness - the variations didn't work well in herringbone.  So, I tried other combinations until I found one I liked.  I had to cut off the sample, re-thread the heddles and re-sley the reed and tie the new warp onto the cloth beam. 

Once I was sure of what I wanted I warped the loom and started to weave.  I broke six warp ends during weaving and repaired each one according to the instructions in LEARNING TO WEAVE.  For my next big handspun weaving project I'm going to use commercial yarn in the warp - I spent a lot of time worrying about fraying and breakage.  I also spent a lot of time spraying starch on the warp to make it even stiffer.  I don't know if it helped or not. 

One week later...

Before washing my fabric measured 5.5 yds by 17 inches wide.  It is soft with a nice hand and the perfect weight for a tailored wool vest.  I soaked the fabric in hot water with Woolite, swished it a little, and rinsed.  I laid it out flat to dry and can't wait to cut into it!

Here are my thoughts on my first big weaving project.  I'll do it again, and soon.  I'll use commercial warp next time and I'll double the ends at the edges because those seemed to break the most easily.  I overestimated how much warp yarn I'd need and underestimated on the warp.  I AM GLAD I SAMPLED.  For a diehard non-swatcher, this is big.

I feel like Pioneer Woman!!!  And it all started with a little Cricket Loom...


  1. Looking good, Kris!

  2. I really look forward to seeing the final garment, congratulations on such a wonderful job so far!

  3. What a lovely job!

    I was just reading an old Bette Hochberg article on the introduction of spinning cotton to areas outside of India and Mexico/South America. Spinners/weavers in Europe were eager to use it for weft and uneasy about using it for warp. At first they relied on wool, silk or linen as warp until they developed better ways to spin cotton. Even when they first risked cotton warp, they made it really thick. It is hard to trust warp.

    There is so much work involved in spinning and dyeing the fiber and weaving it, that it makes sense to use commercial warp to make worry about warp less burdensome.

    This is an ambitious project, you must be very proud. My bet is after using commercial warp for awhile you are going to want a particular color or fiber in the warp and end up spinning it yourself again---maybe from a really strong and smooth fiber like a long wool (longer than romney) worsted with really high twist. I say this because you are one of the most curious and experimental fiber artists I have seen. You might transition to some handspun and some commercial warp, using commercial along the selvedges.

    Watching Judith MacKenzie McCuin's new DVD on plying (amazingly great and she speaks a lot about spinning for weaving), I found myself wanting to rush to spin some cabled yarn to use in a warp. She says that in weaving cabled warp pops up on the surface and recommended using one cabled warp thread for every inch or so usual warp. Looking for a special effect like that when you can't find the right commercial yarn is going to tempt you back to weaving a warp.

    I have only used my own handspun for warp once for a scarf that was just 2 yards long with a DK Falkland 2 ply warp You have made CLOTH not just a scarf.. You are a Pioneer.