Putting Handspun to Work


Wouldn't this purse be great in a handspun, handpainted yarn?

Eds.—Weaving is a great way to put handspun to work. There is so much variation in the yarn we spin, it opens unlimited possibilities for woven cloth. We have invited Anita Osterhaug, editor of Handwoven, to share some of the magic that can happen when these two crafts come together.

Anita: When I learned to spin, I was told that all singles must be plied to produce a stable yarn UNLESS the yarn was intended for weaving. I was assured that a singles yarn used in knitting, for example, would cause the cloth to twist, whereas the over-and-under interlacement of weaving would cause the energy of the singles to balance and produce a flat cloth. And before the Industrial Revolution, when all yarn for a family’s needs had to be handspun, people didn’t spend unnecessary time to ply yarn for weaving.

As I learned more about spinning and working with handspun yarns, I learned that this rule has many exceptions. As Geoffrey Rush famously said in Pirates of the Caribbean, “It’s more of a guideline.” (In my family, this is always said with a squint and an expressive pirate “Arrrr.”) Renowned spinner, knitter, weaver, and frequent Spin-Off contributor Kathryn Alexander has produced a phenomenal body of work using energized singles for knitting. Not all historical textiles were made with singles yarn, and energy in singles can actually be used to produce woven textiles that are not flat.


Rebecca Fox's rug is an attractive use of Karakul roving.

All that said, weaving is a great way to put handspun to work. In many cases, you really can skip the plying step and get right down to the fast and satisfying work of producing beautiful cloth. You can put extra fleeces to work, weaving with roving, as Rebecca Fox did in her Karakul rug in the upcoming January/February issue of Handwoven. And weaving is a great way to make those special skeins go farther. You know, the ones where you splurged on a few ounces of some spectacular handpainted fiber, not enough for a whole project, but it was too beautiful to pass up. You can grab some coordinating yarn from your stash, warp it up on the simplest loom using your fancy handspun as well-placed accent stripes, and, voilà!, you’ll be modeling it to everyone’s admiration before you know it!

Weaving is fun, fast, and gives your handspun more ways to shine.  And Handwoven is full of ideas for making textiles as unique as your yarn,  articles on weaving and embellishment techniques, and stories of textile artists around the world to inspire your fiber adventures. I hope you’ll give it a try and see what new things your stash can do.

—Anita

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