FAQs you need to spin to weave


For this alpaca/silk shawl, Sara spun one ply of the warp yarn end to end from a single dyed braid so that the color blocks were maintained. I then plied it with a semi-solid alpaca/silk yarn of oranges and reds that doesn't interfere with the first ply's colors.

We recently got an advance copy of Sara Lamb's new book Spin to Weave: The Weaver's Guide to Making Yarn. It is the perfect companion to her workshop video Spin to Weave with Sara Lamb: Making Unique Cloth From Your Handspun Yarn, from which I really learned a lot.

Sara's down-to-earth practicality alleviates a lot of the worries I have about weaving with handspun. And while it was great to have Sara explain her ideas in the workshop video, with the book I am able to see lot of the same samples in a different light and have the chance to really sit down and examine them.

The majority of fabric Sara weaves is for clothing and this is the focus of the book. It also includes a lovely gallery of handspun, handwoven goods from other weavers with a variety of styles that provide a glimpse of what's possible when weaving with handspun yarn. In the introduction Sara shares Frequently Asked Questions about using handspun in weaving and I wanted to share a few that I found enlightening here:

Frequently Asked Questions Spin to Weave: The Weaver's Guide to Making Yarn by Sara Lamb


For this kimono, Sara used a variety of methods to dye handspun tussah silk.

I've already spun some yarn. What can I weave with it? Or how can I tell if it's suitable for weaving?
All yarn can be used for weaving, either as warp or weft. The fiber, grist, and amount of twist in your yarn will help you determine what it can be used for. For example, a heavy wool could make a nice blanket or shawl. A fine, tightly twisted alpaca could be nice for a garment. Weaving a sample before committing all of your yarn to a large project is always a good idea.

How can I tell if my handspun yarn is suitable for warp?
Yarn used as warp will be subjected to lengthwise tension and some abrasion. To test the strength, or soundness, of a yarn, pull sharply on a strand with both hands. If the yarn snaps easily, be gentle while warping and weaving, or use it just for weft. If the yarn slowly drifts apart under this pressure, there may not be enough twist for it to hold up in a warp. Keep in mind that lengthwise tension is averaged over all of the strands in a warp. The more ends that there across the weaving width, the less stress is applied to each one. To test how your yarn holds up to abrasion resistance, hold a piece of the yarn under tension and run your thumbnail back and forth along it at least twenty times. If it frays, fuzzes, or pulls apart, it probably shouldn't be used as warp.

I don't sew. What can I weave that doesn't require sewing?
Scarves, shawls, blankets, tea towels, tablecloths, runners, and napkins, for example. If you have a friend who sews, you might be able to work out a trade for your handwoven fabrics!

How much fiber should I buy if I want to make a …?
Buy lots! You can estimate the amount of fiber you'll need by weighing something similar out of a similar fiber-your woven winter jacket, a blanket from your bed, for example. But buy more than just that weight: your yarn may be different that that used in a similar item and there will be take-up, shrinkage, and loom waste in the weaving process. Once you've spun a sample of yarn, you can use the warp calculations in the book to determine how many yards (including take-up, shrinkage, and loom waste) you'll need for a particular project.


Detail of kimono yarn and fabric.

How long does it take to spin and weave a …?
By far, spinning accounts for most of the time in any handspun, handwoven project. While it may take days, weeks, or months to spin all the yarn needed, it may take just a few hours or days to weave it. But keep in mind that throwing the shuttle, changing sheds, and beating is exercise and you might want to break it out into several short sessions to prevent muscle fatigue. For a kimono I made (above right), I spent twelve hours to warp the loom, weave the fabric, and sew the garment. I spent four months spinning the yarn.

Can you weave with spindle-spun yarn?
Yes! You can also use spindle- and wheel-spun yarns in the same project. Because you make your yarn by your own hands, you can adjust the grist and twist no matter what tool you use to spin with

What great advice! If you are thinking about weaving with your handspun or already have been, Sara's new book is filled with great techniques to consider using when spinning to weave, as well as what myths you should ignore. I am definitely one step closer to warping my loom with handspun.

Spin on,

One Comment

  1. Donna J at 3:15 pm August 1, 2017

    I placed order 500274754 and have not received any further emails so I know this item has shipped and I can track it. Please advise and thank you.

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