09.03.21

Weaving with Handspun, part 1

Being a handspinner and a weaver seems like a perfect pairing of skills. So why am I terrified of weaving with my handspun yarns? (spoiler alert: it's the cutting)

 

I invite you to come on a journey with me.

 

two skeins of handspun yarn in shades of crimson, plum, and red-orange a drop spindle with the silk yarn collected on it, is held up against a background of grass the woven scarf in progress on a small loom, with a boat shuttle and extra bobbin resting on the warp

 

 

Taking pause before diving right into a project is not the norm for The Impetuous Weaver, but this is handspun yarn we are talking about! Each and every yard is precious, having been drafted, inch by inch, through my very own fingers, wrapped around the spindle, carefully plied. In contrast to my main fiber habit of knitting, woven yarn can't just be unravelled, soaked, and restored to its original condition if it goes all wrong.

 

The phrase "loom waste" hangs heavy in the air.

 

I don't want to waste an inch, so the precious handspun accumulates, looking beautiful, stored in glass-fronted cabinets, to be seen and admired but never used. In a gilded cage, if you will.

 

a shelf stuffed full of handspun yarns, somewhat arranged by color

 the handspun section of the yarn cabinet

 

But then, the yarn tells you what it wants to be, and in this particular case, it wanted to be woven. Let me go back a bit. I have for many years been envious of a scarf made by a co-worker. It is simple plain weave, subtly mottled leaf-green fine alpaca and silk yarn, woven to a loose and airy gauge- stunning! I didn't just want the scarf. I wanted to be able to make the scarf.

 

close up of a corner of the green scarf, loosely woven, with twisted fringe on the lower edge

detail of the Scarf of Envy

 

In an earlier post, I experimented with a new way to spin silk hankies, and made a single beautiful skein of silk yarn. I loved the result so much, I immediately began digging in my fiber stash for more silk hankies, and found one more package of the same handpainted color. . . in a very different dye lot. Had I found this before plying the first skein, the two singles could have been plied together for perfectly uniform distribution of the different lots. But the first skein was a done thing, and now I could only have two slightly different skeins. Sigh.

 

two skeins of silk yarn, curled up next to each other

 the two skeins

 

And that was when the very daring idea came. I could weave with these skeins, one for warp and one for weft, and thus perfectly blend the lots in a different way. AND I could weave my own version of the Scarf of Envy. The grippy handspun silk would have the perfect combination of drape plus the ability to hold its structure when woven loosely (I hoped. . .). Feeling inspired and ready to dive in, I went for my Cricket loom and weaving tools, and then abruptly stopped in my tracks.

 

In the process of weaving a scarf, I would have to cut the yarn. Permanent, irreversible cutting, and lots of it. I sat with this for a while, thinking about loom waste, and the inherent potential of the yarn.

 

A useful tactic when paralyzed by anxious thoughts is to ask oneself, "What is the worst that could happen?" And if the answer is anything other than Injuring Someone, Burning the House Down, or All my Friends Will Hate Me, I can usually find a way to move forward. The answer, in this case, is that I might make something ugly and the yarn will be wasted. Not so bad, when put into proper context.

 

Also, I am one of the more resourceful people that I know. A bit of sewing, and an ugly scarf could become a nice little bag, a silly hat, or a pair of handwarmers. It could even find a home with someone who sees that it is not ugly after all.

 

I continued to reason with myself. Cutting yarn is part of weaving. Lots of people have done it, because that is how it's done. By choosing not to take the risk, I was in a sense wasting my beautiful yarn by leaving it in the cupboard forever. That would be even more sad than trying and failing, wouldn't it? Furthermore, using the rigid heddle loom and planning a twisted fringe would mean almost no loom waste!

 

Feeling a bit more confident (but not quite Impetuous yet), I began to clear off the table to warp my little loom, and bribed myself by promising a few strands of sequined yarn to seal the deal.

 

the silk warp stretched out, including the sprinkling of sequined strands

pretty! but not yet cut. . .

 

the warp is tied on, with bobbins full of more silk laying across the warp
cut and tied on!
the very beginning of the weaving, showing the edge of a cardboard spacer and a couple inches of weaving
the hem and a bit more

 

 I won't go into detail about the weaving process, but the stats are linked below for those who would like to know. I will just say that, once the yarn was cut and tied on (the point of no return), I only interrupted the weaving to stop and declare how pretty! it was, maybe every ten minutes or so. Thus motivated, the weaving went quickly, and a truly beautiful scarf emerged from the loom.

 

scarf in progress on the loom

the scarf in progress. so pretty!

 

The pictures don't do it justice, since the twinkling sequins elude the camera, and the glow of the rich colors on silk look different in every light. But here are some of the lovely process photos anyway.

 

winding on. the sequins are doubled up on the silk.

 

spacers for fringe

 

the variation and progression of colors is lovely!

 

this sequined thread "opted out" a couple inches from the end

 

there was so much yarn left!

 

twisting fringe right on the loom

 

the leftover yarn, and very little loom waste!

 

 

 various attempts to capture how very pretty it is!

 

The success of this scarf will certainly make it easier for me to jump right into the next handspun project, and I hope it does the same for you! After all, what is the worst that could happen?

 

For weaving details (sett, yardage, etc.), please see my Ravelry page about the scarf.

 

 

 

COMMENTS

  • Beautiful scarf, simple design lets the fiber shine.

    Posted by Heike on September 10, 2021
  • I got to see it in person. It really is stunning!

    Posted by Lois on September 06, 2021
  • I’m so glad to see you took the leap! Yarn does you no good at all if the only thing it does is occupy shelf space.

    Posted by Crow on September 03, 2021
  • How beautiful! Thank you for describing your journey with this very special yarn! I’ve been there, too :-)

    Posted by Yvonne on September 03, 2021

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