Thursday, 18 December 2008

Daring to weave with handspun

I made some lovely hand-spun and dyed silk cap and merino yarn, years ago. I thought it was pretty, but could never decide what to do with it. I knitted some of it into a babys beanie for a friend, but the rest sat there, waiting for inspiration. I wanted to weave with it, but didn't dare try to use it for a warp and didn't want to make a project using it in the weft.

Over the last few months, the idea of using this in the warp has been germinating. I've seen several examples where people have used handspun in the warp, so I decided to risk it. After all, if I can weave with delicate threads like 10/1 linen, surely plied handspun can't be too much more delicate?

The other thing that's been inspiring me is a discussion Meg initiated on layers. It's been playing in the back of my head. I'm endlessly fascinated by the different ways that cloth can interact, and have been mentally toying more and more with the idea of upping the level of complexity in my weaving.

And so, onto the loom went a warp of the silk and merino handspun. Olive green merino plied with itself on the borders, the same merino plied with the space-dyed silk cap inthe centre.

I didn't really want a twill, and I wanted to play down the barber-stripe effect from the plying, so for the weft, I chose more space-dyed and spun silk cap, in slightly different but complementary colours in similar hue. For the record, I chose the brown-and-green silk cap in the second photo in this post.

The project was starting to call itself "Moss on oak", so I created a draft which suggested the rough texture of bark.

I threaded the heddles in a crackle threading, but wove a twill tie-up and treadling. The end result is a mostly almost-plain-weave fabric, with thin lines of undulating twill which roughen the texture to the eye but soften it to the feel.

I beat lightly to allow the wexture of the facric to be slightly open on the loom, although this was much less evident after fulling. I surprised myself by having only one warp breakage during the weaving, on a particularly thing piece of merino. The slightly slubby nature of the handspun silk, along with the twill lines, is even more suggestive of the northern side of a tree trunk:

The fabric itself is soft and fine yet plush; light yet very warm. The piece is complex enough to find something new every time you look at it. Overall, I think this is the best scarf I've made yet. However as it contains the first silk cap I ever spun, I think it has to become mine!


  1. Wow. It looks amazing.

  2. What a beautiful project! And a lovely name. Now, how fast can you spin yarn.............

  3. Thanks Tori - glad you like it!

    Peg: I can spin yarn fairly fast, but I think you spin as well so you know how long fine yarn takes to spin anyway!

    I'm lucky in that I spin compulsively but don't knit, so I do have a decent stash of handspun...

  4. I love the look of this. I keep spinning and am piling up a stash hopefully to use for weaving, this scarf of yours is very encouraging. I like the soft look that comes from the character of the yarns.

  5. What a wonderful reward for your courage with this warp! I love the name almost as much as the cloth. You are right to keep it and enjoy it as much as it deserves.

  6. Very sumptuous looking! I almost want to be a cat and roll in it, Geodyne.

  7. Gosh, that's gorgeous. And how did you know that my wardrobe is built on olive greens? What do you mean you're keeping it??