Spinner, Weaver, Myth-Buster

Spinner, Weaver, Myth-Buster

Sara Lamb, spinner extraordinaire, weaver, and myth-buster.

One of the "historical facts" that I have heard at spinning gatherings is that in colonial America it took six spinners to keep one weaver supplied with yarn. This may be a real historical fact: I don't know the source to verify it. But I know from experience that weaving consumes yarn at an impressive rate, so the thought of spinning enough yarn for a weaving project can be daunting. Add to that the assorted aphorisms about weaving with handspun—the oft-repeated belief that handspun can't be used for warp, for example—and a spinner might well hesitate to jump into the weaving fray.

Well, enter Sara Lamb, spinner extraordinaire, weaver, and myth-buster. I had the fun of working with our video team on Sara's latest video, Spin to Weave. Sara weaves almost exclusively with her own handspun yarn, a fact that is doubly impressive when you realize that most of her wardrobe is made from her own handwoven cloth. In the video, she demonstrates and explains how to produce miles of handspun yarn quickly for a variety of fibers, with a loose, serene drafting style that's satisfying and easy on the body. It's almost indescribable, but as you watch, you begin to feel it in your hands, and your feet begin to itch for a treadle.

Lovely examples of Sara Lamb's handspun warp-faced fabric.

Sara's spinning is serene, but hers is a lively and curious mind, and we get the benefit of her experiments as she explodes many a myth about weaving with handspun. Contrary to popular belief, handspun makes wonderful warp. (After all, people have woven with it for 20,000 years!) Sara explains how to spin a warp yarn that won't break or fray, and how to finish the yarn so that it behaves in the warping process. She helps us get over the fear of "wasting" precious handspun through sampling or loom waste. Through dozens of woven samples, she explores how twist direction and consistency do and don't affect the final product, and she shows some of the myriad color effects that can be achieved in weaving when the yarn is spun with the cloth in mind.

And ultimately, that's the point. It does take time to spin for a weaving project, but if we wanted instant yarn, we wouldn't be spinning. When you master spinning to weave, when you spin with the cloth in mind, you can make handwoven items that are absolutely unique and uniquely yours. How much fun is that?



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