Weaving with Handspun

I never thought I’d take up weaving–but then, I never expected to take up spinning.

Two things brought me around to weaving on a rigid heddle loom: the ability to make a lot of fabric in a short period of time, and the way I could showcase my yarn stash, handspun and commercial. (Because let’s face it: producing large quantities of handspun yarn didn’t make my vast sock yarn stash disappear. If anything, it slowed down my consumption: the more I fell in love with spinning, the less I knitted with commercial yarn.)

Here are some things I’ve learned about weaving on little looms with handspun yarn:

Any yarn can be weft…

Any yarn can be weft, from plainest to most outlandish. Handwoven Little Looms 2016. All photos by Joe Coca.

Any yarn can be weft, from plainest to most outlandish. Handwoven Little Looms 2016. All photos by Joe Coca.

This I learned from my first weaving teacher, Judy Steinkoenig. Woolen, worsted, art yarn, singles, cables–it’s all wonderful weft. My Sea Glass Scarf [check name, show photo] takes advantage of the texture and color variation in a yarn that reminded me of handspun–imagine how lovely it would be in yarn made by hand.

But don’t be afraid of using handspun for warp, either.

A weaving teacher once told a young Judith MacKenzie that she simply could not use handspun yarn for warp–she must use commercial yarn. When telling me this story, Judith added wryly that even then, she knew that thousands of years of textiles would have been impossible had that pronouncement been true. Very hairy yarn, some types of art yarn, and yarn that will fall apart with abrasion are probably not great choices, but the rules are a lot less hard and fast than you might have been told.

Weaving is the perfect place to use small skeins, class samples, and remnants…

This is most true with pin loom and free-form tapestry weaving, where ten yards can be enough to make a statement. But in a mixed warp or as a stripe, you can get a lot of mileage with a little yardage on a small loom.

And loom waste might not use as much yarn as you think.

Any yarn can make a statement in free-form tapestry.

Any yarn can make a statement in free-form tapestry.

On a floor loom, loom waste can use up a good amount of yarn, but a rigid-heddle loom can use as little as 18″. In her Lobster Pot Scarf (which was originally published in Spin-Off), Stephanie Flynn Sokolov pointed out that fringe can consume almost all of the typical loom waste on a rigid-heddle loom. It doesn’t have to be consigned to the waste bin.

So go forth and weave some handspun on a little loom! Whether you choose a pin loom, rigid-heddle loom, or free-form tapestry, handspun and weaving go together like draft and twist.

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Weaving with Handspun

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madelynv@interweave.com

Madelyn,

As a weaver on the transition from knitting I have a question about sett. I know the answer is SAMPLE. Handwoven put out the lovely PDF that shows yarns used in the magazine with suggestions for lace, tabby, and twill (September/October 2010).  Those numbers assume a balanced weave with a weft similar to the warp. I have handspun.  In many cases it was one of those 4 oz packages of lovely handpainted fiber.  In some cases not enough yardage for warp and weft of a scarf.  I think I would like to do a warp-faced fabric with a finer weft. What is the right direction – any "rules" to get me started without sampling away all that precious handspun?

––Charlene Schurch

Hi Charlene!

There really aren’t any rules that would tell you exactly what to do. What I would do is wrap the handspun yarn around a ruler somewhat loosely, at about the distance apart you’d really like the warp threads to be (this won’t account for shrinking and fulling if the handspun is wool) as a start. I’d sett it a little more loosely than that if the yarn will shrink and full (probably the best rule of thumb is to go for looser than you think) and then I’d use a lot finer weft.

You don’t have to weave a separate sample. Just make the warp long enough so you can weave a bit, take that off, wash the sample, and then change the sett on the warp you are using as needed by spreading the threads farther apart or closer together in the reed.

 

––Madelyn

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