The Impetuous Weaver Weaves with Handspun, part 2

If you have been a spinner for any substantial length of time, no doubt you have a box (or two!) of lovely little bits of handspun. Whether from sampling a new fiber or technique, or leftover from larger projects, these wee skeins are too precious to get rid of, and too small and varied to become larger projects. May I humbly suggest tapestry weaving as a way to use all the small bits, and enjoy them thoroughly the whole time.


three containers of handspun yarn, sorted by color, sitting on dry grass




Tapestry weaving is a slow and meditative craft, and as such, allows you the time to appreciate the varied colors and textures of the yarns as you work. It is often described as "painting with yarn" and your handspun yarns can offer a beautiful wealth of "paints!" Thick and thin yarns can work in harmony, and varying fiber content offers even more surface interest. The fact that it can be done using only sample-size amounts of yarn feels a lot less "scary" than using a more complex type of loom (see part 1).


So, when we welcomed these new tapestry looms and tools from Mia's Handwovens recently, I saw a perfect opportunity to try my hand at some textural tapestry weaving with my ever-growing collection of handspun samples and leftovers, and new frame loom. Though I have dabbled in tapestry weaving, I have never actually woven an entire piece. The good news is that not a lot of experience is required to enjoy the tapestry weaving process, and there is a lot of room for growth and development as you continue to weave!


the clear acrylic frame loom and tools lean against a small basket of handspun yarn samples


Your project can start in a handful of ways. Perhaps you have an image in mind that could be "painted" with yarn, or you are inspired by a more abstract wall-hanging you saw on Pinterest. Or, as in this case, you can be inspired by the yarns themselves.


The entire collection of handspun littles was fairly overwhelming, so the first thing I did was sort them into color groups, with exclamations of "I made this?" and "oh hello, old friend" along the way. Then, in the spirit of improvisation, I grabbed out a dozen or so skeins that made me happy in that moment, and put the rest away.


the selection of yarns for this piece, piled into a basket together

Not all of these ended up in the finished piece. Stay flexible!


Unsurprisingly, the chosen palette was earthy and blue, with some richer accent colors and a good dose of sparkles. It immediately put me in mind of Maxwelton Beach on Whidbey Island, where we are fortunate enough to occasionally spend an evening gazing into the Sound. My assortment of yarns was whittled down further with this more specific image in mind, as well as a reminder to myself to keep it simple (weave-able).


At this point, a tapestry weaver might make a simple sketch of the image to be woven, and hold it behind the loom while weaving, as a reference. Or, she might just jump right in and trust the image to take shape. After all, it's not meant to be a photograph!


One of my favorite things about Mia's tapestry supplies is that they are designed for weaving on the go. At this point though, my travel radius is fairly limited, so I can't say I have explored the full potential of the portability, but I look forward to it! The places that I have enjoyed working on my new loom include the front yard, the back yard, and once even in the car. My loom, book, and all of the yarn and tools fit in a slim file box, pictured below outside the storeroom.


beginning of the weaving, with dark brown yarn and light brown highlights for the shore. other tools and yarns are scattered around the loom the loom now has dark blue mottled yarn for the ocean water, and a few mini-skeins that will become part of the final product the loom with a bit of the water started, is resting on my lap in the car, with my hand visible at the left, holding the comb the clear plastic file box sits on pavement against a brick wall. the yarns and book are visible through the clear box


I was about 2% of the way into the weaving before deciding that I didn't have all the colors I wanted. So much for using leftovers! I stopped short of getting out the blending board, and instead found some perfectly suitable fiber in the stash to spin a mini-skein of buttery Moon-Yellow. Natural dark and medium color wools form the nighttime shoreline, and the water has plenty of mottled blues that sparkle and glisten, with thinner shiny yarns for reflections and wave-edges. A rugged coffee-bean brown and an inky mixed blue are marled together to create silhouetted land in the distance. And the glowing night sky is a double-strand of a sleek and shimmering aqua. The matte finish of alpaca and Merino give the moon a textural contrast to the shine of the sky.


a close-up of the water area, with dark blue sparkly yarn with darker streaks, and pale blue and golden yellow highlights a closeup of the island in the distance, woven with a dark brown and mixed blue strand held together a close up of the sky area, with the bottom of the moon, and the acrylic weaving needle laid across the work


the loom leans against a pile of bricks on green grass, with half of the sky and moon now complete

circles take a lot of concentration


The frame was filled and the image came to life within a couple of weeks, and I can declare the whole process delightful and satisfying. Was working with handspun yarn the incentive I needed to complete a whole piece? Well, it certainly didn't hurt, and the next idea is already forming.


the completed weaving, still on the loom, lays at an angle on dark blue carpet

weaving is finished, ready to release it from the loom!


I won't go into detail about my "technique," or the sequence of steps I followed, since we have real teachers to do that, and there is a good chance I am not doing it right, strictly speaking. But that is the beauty of tapestry weaving! If you enjoy the process and it doesn't fall apart, there are quite a lot of ways to do it right, and no real "wrong." In the end, you will have spent some quality time with your beautiful yarns, and produced a work of art to be proud of!


the completed weaving is mounted on a thin bamboo stick, and hangs in a wall niche painted golden yellow

finished and in situ, in the golden niche


Happy Weaving!