Everyone Needs a Hobby

Many weavers also spin yarn, and some handspinners weave, but few of us produce most of our own weaving yarn. Fewer still have begun to explore all the color and texture possibilities of using handspun yarn in our weaving. Sara Lamb has integrated her passions for weaving and spinning for decades, each informing and enriching the other. Here she is to tell her story. ––Anita 

Sara Lamb demonstrates how to create handspun yarn for weaving     

 Sara Lamb explains how to create color

effects in handspun yarn for weaving.


I was a weaver first. Well, perhaps not the First Weaver, but in chronology, I learned to weave before I learned to spin.

Like many spinners, I learned to spin in order to “save money on buying yarn.” Perhaps that is possible, but I spent way more money—and time, if that counts as money—spinning than I would have just buying the yarn. But I did not know that at first, so I valiantly bought a spinning wheel, bought fleece(s), hand carders, and took classes.

I did weave with my yarns, but my weaving early on turned to cotton fabrics. I was not a spinner of cotton at the time; I was a spinner of wool. Spinning was what I did in the evenings, or with friends, or in public at demonstrations. I made lots of yarn. Wool yarn though, not cotton.

So I used my spun yarns for knitting, yet another evening activity. I considered spinning and knitting my hobbies. I was a weaver by avocation. It was more serious, solitary, took up more of my time, and consumed my thoughts.  

I continued to weave cotton fabrics for garments and household textiles, yards and yards for years and years. I bought mill ends and coned cotton, I learned to dye because I wanted bright colors on my cotton clothing, and eventually I learned to paint warps, because weavers can do that, and make unique cloth that no other cloth makers can make. Much of my clothing was (and still is!) made with colorful dyed cotton fabric.

  One of Sara's first handspun scarves
  One of Sara's first handspun silk scarves
with matching purse. 

One day, though, it was not enough. I realized I was repeating myself, weaving a fabric just like the fabric I had woven months before. It was no longer compelling: I needed a new challenge. Silk would be nice . . . so I wove a hand-dyed silk fabric! It was woven of commercial silk though, yarns that I had purchased.

Now, I liked to spin silk. How much fun would it be to weave a handspun, hand-dyed silk fabric? As it turns out it was way fun! My first Way Fun silk fabric was a scarf. That was so much fun I spun and wove another, then two more. After four scarves, I thought I was ready for a garment. The first one, a kimono, was a beautiful fabric, but disappointing when sewn into the kimono jacket: there was too much color; it was too “busy.” So, I had to weave another (which came out better), then another, etc., and now I have over ten handspun silk garments: shirts, vests, and kimono. 

Along the way, I spun lots of fine wools, now suitable for weaving, not so suitable for my (very slow) knitting skills. So I weave with my wool yarns now, and lots of everything in between: alpaca, alpaca and silk, cashmere, cashmere and silk, fine wools like Cormo and Polwarth, and sturdy wools like Romney and Bluefaced Leicester.

So, at last, I have come around to the beginning: I weave with my handspun yarns. I am doing what I set out to do over thirty-five years ago. My hobby spinning, and my avocation weaving, and the dyeing, knitting, and sewing that all came along with it, are my continued passions.

Everyone should have a hobby. Spinning was mine. That my spinning feeds my weaving is a bonus; that my spinning now informs my weaving is a gift. 


—Sara Lamb

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