Handspinning for tapestry weaving

I really enjoy playing with color. And what better way to experiment with color than making your own yarn for tapestry? Interweave's spinning magazine, Spin Off, has an article in the current issue (Spring 2017) about spinning for tapestry weaving by yours truly.

This was the only tapestry I completed while hiking the Colorado Trail last summer. 1.5 x 3 inches, hand-dyed, handspun fleece, Turkish drop spindle used to make singles.

This was the only tapestry I completed while hiking the Colorado Trail last summer. 1.5 x 3 inches, hand-dyed, handspun fleece, Turkish drop spindle used to make singles.

The dyeing, spinning, weaving, and writing of this article was an adventure. The real story is that my original intent was to spin various colors of fleece and weave them while hiking for two weeks on the Colorado Trail last summer. I quickly remembered how much I like hiking for 12+ hours at a stretch and how little time that leaves me for sitting still and spinning or weaving. I only finished one tiny tapestry on that hike and it was not the thing for this article, though you do have to cut me some slack because I did spin the fleece on the trail on a drop spindle.

So after the hike, I started over. I visited Sheep Feather's Farm in Lafayette, CO where Robin Phillips and her husband Mark produce the most amazing spinning fleeces. She is meticulous at coating her sheep and she loves thinking about breeding the perfect fleece for a spinner. Her results are outstanding. Every fleece I've tried of hers is clean, uncotted, strong, and gorgeous. 

Robin had the perfect fleece for me for this project. Periwinkle (yes, she puts the name of the sheep on each fleece) is a Cotswold/Lincoln/Wensleydale/CVM mix and this fleece won a blue ribbon at Estes Park Wool Market last year. Her fleece had a staple length of 6 inches, so I knew I was going to use combs instead of cards to process it. I also used some fleece from Frito, a Lincoln/CVM mix with a fleece staple length of 8 inches. I dyed Perwinkle's fleece in a rainbow of colors and then carded some of those colors together for more variations. I used Frito's fleece in it's natural gray. 

You can read all the details about the project in the article, but I wanted to add some further photos.

The books below were some of my best inspiration. The book that is not in the image is Deb Menz's Color in Spinning. That book is my go-to book for acid wool dyeing. The books pictured are Yarnitecture by Jillian Moreno, The Spinner's Book of Fleece by Beth Smith, The Practical Spinner's Guide to Wool by Kate Larson, and The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius. If you want to know about spinning and fleece, get these books. (And if you're a beginner, check out Maggie Casey's Start Spinning: Everything you need to know to make great yarn.)

And for my teachers, who are the authors of those books listed above (in person and in book form), I want you to know that I made the sample card. I know I should always do this just like I should always sample for tapestry (I mostly do that) and sample for knitting (sometimes--but I rarely block and that is often my downfall) and sample for dyeing (no questions asked--imperative).

This is a way to try to standardize your spinning. Once you figure out what you're doing, you write down all the information on the card, because how are you going to remember which whorl you used in a month when you come back to it after other projects? Then you pull off a sample and tape it on. When you're spinning on that project, you try to match your sample. In the photo I'm spinning some undyed fleece that has been combed.

Here I am working on the dyeing. I think I dyed 9 colors of fleece and then combed the colors together for an intermediate color between each one.


I ended up with this rainbow of fleece. Emily came outside while I was photographing and said, "Where's the carcass?" I'm a little slow on the uptake, so I said, "What?" 

"Where is the carcass of the gay sheep that exploded?"


I layered the fleece in the combs to get a mixed color. This is a great way to get a yarn that has very lively color.


A lot of spinning ensued on my Schacht Ladybug wheel, and then I had this.


I wove a little tapestry from this yarn which you can see in the article. I have a lot of this yarn left, so another piece is most certainly on its way.

If you don't subscribe to Spin Off, look for this mainstream magazine anywhere F&W Media publications/Interweave Press are sold. An easy place is Barnes & Noble. I don't believe it is on the racks yet, but should be soon.