A Tale of Three Yarns: How to Make and Use Art Yarns

When it comes to art yarns, I can hear the objections from here: “But what can you do with them?” Yarn pets are a fine thing, and spinners have been hanging skeins up for admiration for centuries; just ask Norman Kennedy, who has particularly beautifully spun (albeit more traditional) skeins hanging from his rafters). But you really can find practical uses for art yarns.

1. Tailspun Yarns

Spin it:
There are many ways of creating this yarn; Esther Rodgers shows four in her video How to Spin Art Yarns. Here’s the basic gist: Take locks of fiber, preferably curly and silky, such as longwool or mohair, and restrain yourself from teasing them all open. When you introduce them to twist, instead of feeding them tip-to-butt, hold them to the side and allow the twist to grab just the fanned-out cut ends.

Use it:
To keep winter’s chill from running up your sleeves, knit luxurious and colorful cuffs to a plain pair of mittens, like these Tailspun Mittens designed by Jacey Boggs.

2. Corespun Yarns

Spin it:
Attach a core, and while adding twist to the core, fan out a thin layer of fiber perpendicular to the core. Using your core-holding hand, pinch the fiber source and draw out a thin layer, letting it roll onto the core. (Esther describes the pros and cons of a variety of cores in her video, from elastic and wire and even Christmas lights to more expected plied wool.)

Use it:
Weaver Sarah Neubert enjoys using corespun in her tapestries because it yields a soft, brushed texture. Corespun wire can be posed and is excellent for baskets.

3. Bouclé

Spin it:
Bouclé is an unexpected type of crêpe yarn made of three elements. It may be best expressed in mathematical form: {[(low-twist singles spun S + high-twist singles spun Z) x S twist] + binder spun S} x Z twist.

Use it:
Keep it simple! Knit or weave it, but keep the stitches and patterns plain and expect the yarn to do all the talking.

Esther Rogers

A Parting Note

If you’re reluctant to break open your fiber stash for something frivolous such as art yarns, Esther’s recent post might change your mind: “STOP HOARDING THE FIBER!! Spin what you love, wear the pretty dress and use the good china—because you don’t know that you’ll be able to tomorrow . . .” Esther is a force of nature, but a few months ago she had a sudden life-threatening medical emergency. She’s recovering and as feisty as ever; you can find details about her story and how to support her at the Jazzturtle Creations website. It was a sudden, horrible surprise to hear that Esther was so sick, and my colleagues and I wish her a speedy recovery and return to good health. We’re so glad to have her in our fiber world.


Featured Image: Tailspun yarns make warm, fun mitten cuffs. Design by Jacey Boggs; photo by Joe Coca

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