Freedom, Independence, and Choice

Sara Lamb is a weaver, spinner, dyer, and an extraordinary teacher. She joins us today to share her reasons for weaving with handspun.


This morning I sat down to weave a few rows on a knotted-pile bag and I ran out of pile yarn for one of the colors. I spun up some more, plied it, and steamed the skein to set the twist, and within an hour I was back to knotting.

I did not have to get dressed in my away-from-home clothes and go to the store, I did not have to call someone and order more yarn, I did not have to search websites, or click a button and wait for a box to arrive. What freedom! I can make almost anything I need and want, right here, in my studio. 


Kimono #2 by Sara Lamb Spacer 15x15 pixels
The colors and foiling of this handspun,
handwoven kimono came to Sara in a dream
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Freedom to a spinner who weaves is a wonderful thing. We can dream up any project and make the right yarn for it. We can spin the right fiber, or sample several different fibers and choose the one we prefer. We can blend colors to get just the right hue or value, in the fiber or in the plying. We can size a yarn up with a heavier grist single, or ply up with many smaller grist singles. 

Independence means we are the masters of our textiles! We can decide to spin up some cotton this week for hand towels, some linen for a new shirt, and any number of wools for heavy jackets to fine tailored skirts. Independence has long been tied to textile production: during the American War of Independence it was patriotic to spin and weave homegrown wool and flax. Gandhi famously used spinning cotton and weaving khadi cloth as a symbolic and actual form of independence in India’s struggle for national independence.

Why was it so important to spin and weave local fibers for these movements of independence? Because cloth is essential to our very survival, our being, and our sense of who we are. Cloth also tells much about us. Is it the rougher handmade khadi, or is it diaphanous and delicate? Is your cloth simple and modestly colored? Or is it highly figured, decorative, and time consuming to make? Cloth speaks volumes of its owner and wearer, and spinners can exploit this as no one else can. We can personally determine the fiber, twist, and yarn design—essential factors in determining the nature of the cloth.

Choice means many things to a spinner who weaves. What fiber? Within each broad class of fibers there is a spectrum of fine to coarse, natural colors to dyed, animal or vegetable. What spinning technique? What direction the twist? Singles? Plied? Recently I hunted online for a source of a yarn that is no longer in production: a fine 3-ply worsted wool. I had two spools from two different companies no longer in business, alas. But! Since I had a sample of the yarns, I can reproduce them. It may take me concentrated effort to spin worsted—and fine enough to re-create the yarn I am looking for—but I can. If I choose!

Textiles and textile exploration takes us many places. Some people are fascinated by color, some by structure, and some by the materials we use and how they differ, how they vary, and how they affect the weaving we do. And after many years of weaving I can say that all of these aspects are fascinating, worthy of in-depth study, and for me, the fascination includes spinning the yarns and delving into the variations that handspinning yarns can add to my handwoven fabrics. 


If you're a spinner who wants to experience the freedom, indpendence, and choice that comes from spinning to weave, Spin-Off's new eBook Weaving with Handspun is full of great information and fun projects to get you started. 

—Sara Lamb

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