The Impetuous Weaver Explores Self-Striping Yarn, part 1
And, as usual, jumping right into a weaving project results in unexpectedly learning a thing or two, answers some questions, and leads to more questions.
The really wonderful thing about self-striping and gradient yarns is that you get impressive, beautiful color sequences in your warp without any yarn changes. No knots, no stop-and-start, just one smooth, continuous experience in which the yarn does all the fancy work.
So, one sunny afternoon, I finally decided to warp up my Cricket Loom with some laceweight rainbow Kauni that had been waiting far too long. Since this was somewhat of an experiment, I used the length of my dining table to set the warp length, and decided the warp width would be just shy of the full width of the loom. Direct warping went so quickly, and just look at that beautifully tidy warp!
In a stroke of luck, the arbitrarily-chosen width and length resulted in the warp using one full repeat of the rainbow, thus rewarding a lack of planning, and putting off a little bit of math until next time.
So, all tied on and ready to start weaving!
The first real thinking happened while winding bobbins. Having chosen to use the same gradient yarn for weft, I realized that the process of winding bobbins would invert each bobbin's-worth of the color sequence. If I wanted to keep the gradient sequence in order (which I do!), I would need to wind each bobbin twice: once to fill a bobbin with the correct amount of yarn, and the second time, from one bobbin to another, to turn the length of yarn back around.
I made a diagram if you would like to understand what is happening here, but that is extra and optional, if you just want to go along with it and re-wind each bobbin.
The logistics of winding from one bobbin to another are different from winding off the original ball or cone, but there are plenty of ways to accomplish it. All you need is something to hold the bobbin through its core, so it is held in place but free to spin while you wind the new bobbin. You may have any manner of lazy kates, cone holders, or even a particularly weighty shuttle, with a post that fits through your bobbins. Maybe you can even corral a friend or family member into holding a pencil with the bobbin on it. Weavers are resourceful people, so I know you will come up with something. I ended up using the shaft of a drop spindle fitted into the base of my cone holder, since it's own post was too thick to fit through the bobbin.
After the bobbin winding and re-winding, the weaving was smooth sailing, and was accomplished in less than a day.
Some questions about weaving with Kauni have now been answered:
Many a weaver has wondered if the laceweight Kauni, as a thin single, would be strong enough for a warp. The answer for rigid-heddle weaving is an enthusiastic "Yes!" There was never a hint of this yarn stretching or abrading or any other indications of weakness. Like many of us, it's stronger than it looks. With a floor loom, proceed with caution: the higher tension and longer distance from front beam to back beam will both put more strain on the yarn. Better to stick with the heavier, plied 8/2 Kauni, which comes in the same delightful rainbow gradient (plus some others).
The other concern that comes up regarding this yarn is "will the stickiness make it hard to open a clean shed?" Happily, that was also not an issue. Though the yarn does have a very woolly, grippy texture, once it was under tension it separated quite nicely, and didn't tend to catch or droop. There was really nothing frustrating or inconvenient about the weaving process with Kauni on my Cricket loom.
Hooray for an all-around hassle-free yarn!
But what did this fabric become, other than a successful experiment?
The finished measurement of the fabric, after a wash, was 12" wide by 46" long. It could have become a nice bag, after some cutting and sewing, but I really wanted to finish it sooner rather than later, as ideas for the next project were already coming. So, it has become a cowl.
I considered a few different ways to join the piece into a loop smoothly and imperceptibly, to give an illusion of a seamless loop- joining or weaving in the matching rainbow ends was a tempting prospect! However, as on many previous occasions, the words of one of my weaving teachers came into my head: "I decided that an honest seam would be better than any contrivance I could think up."
It's a welcome reminder that seams tell a story about the work of our hands, and are as integral to a piece as the choice of warp and weft. A seam well-sewn is a beautiful thing indeed, and need not be hidden. So, an honest seam it shall be. This one is a flat-felled seam, which keeps the cut ends enclosed safely, and looks the same on both sides so the cowl has no "wrong" side.
The finished cowl:
Kauni 8/1 Laceweight Effekgarn, color EQ, about 70 grams (2.5 ounces)
15-inch Schacht Cricket Loom with 12-dent reed
14" wide in reed, 13.5" woven width, 12" wide after washing
Sett 12 epi and 11 ppi before washing, 14 epi and 14 ppi after washing
As you can see, I have barely made a dent in this giant 250-gram skein of yarn! So please stay tuned for Part 2, in which some actual planning will happen, and even a little bit of math.