Her Handspun Habit: Weaving to Save Your Handspun Yarn

I can admit it: not every skein of handspun yarn turns out as well as I’d envisioned. In fact, there’s the occasional skein that is downright unsightly, a situation I ran into recently. It wasn’t just that the overall hand of the hank felt overtwisted (I had been learning to use an e-spinner). What really got me was the way the colors played together (or didn’t) in the finished skein. I just didn’t like them spun together.

handspun yarn

But all was not lost. This skein might just make the perfect 40th birthday gift for my bestie, whose coloring is completely different than mine. Weaving, especially on a rigid-heddle loom, offers alternatives for almost any yarn, even if it doesn’t live up to your wildest knitting dreams.

What makes a handspun yarn suitable for weaving?

That’s easy! Any skein may be used, in some way, toward your weaving. You can use just about any yarn as weft; short lengths make great tapestry. As to whether the yarn has the strength to hold up as warp, this you may determine by tugging on it with both hands held a few inches apart (to see whether the yarn breaks) and rubbing the tensioned yarn back and forth over the edge of a table or desk (also to see whether it breaks or frays). If it holds up to both tests and passes easily through a heddle, you should be okay.

Since I knew that I had more than enough twist in my hank of yarn, strength was not an issue I worried about. (Otherwise, I would have used a solid-colored commercial yarn in a similar grist for my warp.)

Here’s how it played out with my 320 yards of sportweight (14 wpi) handspun yarn:

Weaving structure: plain weave
Equipment: Rigid-heddle loom, 15″ weaving width; 10-dent heddle; 1 stick shuttle.
Warp length: 78 ends 93″ long (allows 21” for loom waste; includes loom waste includes take-up and fringe).
Setts: Warp: 10 epi. Weft: 10 ppi.
Finished size after washing: 72″ long x 61/2″ wide plus 6″ fringe at each end.

I used a 10-dent reed; in hindsight, I think I’d have preferred the drape and hand of fabric from an 8-dent reed, but no matter. To break up the colors and add a bit of visual interest, I dug into my stash and wove in just a few wisps of a complementary hand-dyed lock teased apart. I also wove in just a few rows here and there using some spindle-spun yarn, also in complementary colors.

handspun yarn

The resulting scarf is something I know that my friend Margie will get a good deal of wear from in the winter months. It’s both a lovely accessory and a practical one for warmth. These colors really are perfect for her and muted enough to coordinate with her office wear. I’m elated to have been able to create something for my friend out of handspun, as we spinners know that this extra step means so much more.

handspun yarn

Are you a spinner who weaves? Have you been meaning to learn? I just can’t recommend weaving enough. It’s fast (I completed this scarf in 24 hours), it’s fun, and it provides yet another avenue for your handspun yarn!

—Deborah Held

Photos by Deborah Held.

Learn more about using handspun yarn for weaving!


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