The first time I went to visit my now–in-laws, I wove them scarves.
This was not a practical gift. They live in Bangalore, India, where the sun was so strong in January that I got sunburned. (When they returned the visit to Colorado this April, it did snow, but I don’t think they’d brought their scarves with them.) I put a lot of thought into each of the scarves and made each one as nice as possible. The one for my mother-in-law, though, was extra-special because it was made with handspun weft. It was just plain weave, but I was proud of the yarn I had spun and the fabric I wove.
So proud in fact that next time, I’m going to try something bold: handspun warp yarn.
I was also inspired by the Summer 2015 issue of Spin-Off in which Devin Helmen tackles the myths that you shouldn’t weave with handspun, warp with handspun, or mix yarns in the warp. He tried all of these taboo tasks, and while he emerged with some caveats and cautions, Devin generally found that weaving (even warping!) with handspun yarns produced results he was pleased with.
In that same issue, Stephanie Flynn Sokolov created a spectacular scarf with some bold choices: she used a warp that was not only handspun, but unplied; she used a wool/flax blend; she mixed that yarn with a silk/stainless steel warp; and she warped straight off the bobbin without finishing the yarn. The results are stunning.
Weaving with a standard yarn (or the yarn you have on hand) is a fine thing–there’s something reassuring about pulling down a cone of perle cotton and knowing what you’re going to get when you use it for warp. But handspinners can take it one step further: they can decide what properties their yarn should have and design the fabric around it.
Right now I have a scarf and a shawl sitting on my desk. Both are woven by Sara Lamb, and both use a stunning yak/silk handspun warp. The only difference is that one yarn is 2-ply and the other 3-ply–something no commercial yarn offers. Both scarf and shawl have glorious drape, a soft but smooth hand, and a pleasant weight that makes them a delight to hold.
Spin-Off includes a variety of weaving projects in our pages. Most are designed for simple rigid-heddle looms, but each could be created on a multi-shaft loom without losing their special traits.
Before the next time I go to India, I’m going to try using handspun silk for warp.