Weaving Excited Yarns

For the past few years I have dreamed of someday learning to spin. I know many wonderful spinners who regularly turn bags of fiber into skeins of truly scrumptious yarns. While I've yet to pick up the spindle or wheel, after reading the following post by Liz Gipson I have a feeling that I will soon be asking one of my lovely spinning coworkers if they might be so kind to give me a lunchtime lesson or two. —Christina


Self Twisting Fringe  
Weaving with handspun singles has
an added bonus—the fringe will
twist itself! Photos by Liz Gipson

Years ago when I was a staffer at Interweave, Handwoven's photosylist Ann Swanson commented on a scarf I was wearing, “Oh, you used excited yarns!” This is exactly the way I think of handspun—it does have added excitement, although you are probably more familiar with the term “energized” popularized by Katheryn Alexander.

(The particular scarf I was wearing was made of handspun singles woven in leno on a rigid-heddle loom that was published in the Summer 2007 issue of Spin-Off. Leno is not beyond the reach of those that like to weave with singles.)

Weaving with singles is the reason every spinner should weave and every weaver should spin. Most new spinners make yarns that have a lot of excitement to spare. When woven in simple structures such as plain weave the yarns move to create crepe fabric. You will become addicted to the no-two-alike aspect of this kind of cloth making.

Most commercially made high-twist yarns are very finely spun. As a spinner we can make yarns of any size or shape, an almost unheard of feature of commercially available high-twist yarns. When weaving with high-twist/energized/excited singles you space the yarns further apart then you would for balanced plied yarn—the higher the twist the more the yarn wants to move. You use less yarn and you don't have to waste time plying. 

If you are a rigd-heddle weaver like me, there is much less loom waste. Plan your project well and you can use all the unwoven warp as fringe. As an added bonus, the yarns will twist themselves! 

To manage the twist it is best to size the yarn. Sizing is a stiffener that is worked into the yarn and then washed out after weaving. Alden Amos has a number of sizing recipes in his Big Book of Handspinning. Sarah Anderson recently turned me on to the wonders of xanthan gum and I've not looked back.

  Finished Cowl
  Liz spun the yarn for this cowl
during Spinzilla, a global challenge
to see who can spin the most yarn
in a week!

Last year during inaugural Spinzilla, a spinning challenge that happens during Spinning and Weaving Week, I dug into my enormous stash of homegrown cashmere and spun two bobbins full of yarn as a “Rogue” spinner. (Rogue spinners compete as individuals or you can join a team.)

The very best thing about participating in something like Spinzilla is that the only goal is to spin for the week—no one cares what kind of yarn you make, just that you spin as much of it as you can. If you are looking for an excuse to fill a bunch of bobbins, Spinzilla is a great motivator and afterwards you can make some excited cloth.

For some tips about how to make a lot of yarn in a short amount of time, Sara Lamb author of Spin to Weave and the Practicle Guide to Weaving With Silk is a on Spinzilla's 2014 Blog Tour, and she will share some of her production spinning secrets. 

—Liz Gipson

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