Handspinning for Tapestry

Mix in some brown

I spun the roving I hand-painted and here is what happened.

I like it! I have picked up various tips about color in spinning from Deb Menz's book Color in Spinning and Ply and Spin Off magazines lately. I know a lot about dyeing with acid wool dyes, but mixing color for spinning brings it to a whole different level than dyeing solid colors.

I used a strips of brown and white roving painted with the same colors in generally the same proportions to make this. When mixed, the brown helped tone down the much brighter colors on the white. I am going to use the same formulas and paint some more so I have enough yarn for a small garment.

My next plan is to track down a fiber that I can use for tapestry singles. This BFL commercially prepared top is soft and lovely, but it is too squishy for a tapestry yarn I think, even if I spun it worsted.

If you know something about spinning, what are your best suggestions for a longer staple fiber (3 inches plus?) that is less fine than BFL which I could use for tapestry singles? And do you know of a source of commercially prepared top? I love prepping the fiber from the fleece, but for large quantities of tapestry singles, I'm interested in getting to the yarn faster. I will leave the hand preparation for my knitting yarns.

Here is what that roving looked like as I was painting it. Quite a transformation, right?

And then the sheep told me... spinning for tapestry (Okay, maybe it was Maggie)

I am becoming a spinner. I resisted spinning for years even though I bought a spinning wheel in 2010 to ply my tapestry singles on. I resisted because I was afraid I would get hooked and there is only so much time in a day. Tapestry is slow going and when would I have time to spin? Also, I didn't see the relationship between spinning and tapestry weaving.

Now I have to give myself a little dope slap when I remember that. I have learned so much about yarn characteristics in the last 6 months. And all of this is directly relevant to my art work which is made with, what?


Which comes from where?


Which is made into yarn how?


So imagine my joy upon seeing an email from Kate Larson in my inbox asking if I'd be okay with a blog post about my recent handspun tapestry project on the Interweave Spinning Daily blog.

Here it is! (Well, you have to click the link below to see it...)


My latest learning experiment: tapestry with fine handspun

I have been learning to spin for the last six months and recently have had my try at a Turkish spindle.

Yesterday was the day I started weaving. I am making a piece with multiple 2 x 6 inch panels. The fleece was a small bit of a rainbow fleece we dyed in a Maggie Casey spinning class last spring. I stuffed the fleece in a bag and forgot about it until I was cleaning my office a few weeks ago. Out it came.

I sorted the fleece into a gradation of colors, hand carded it into a rainbow of rolags, and spun it on my tiny Turkish spindle.

Yesterday I dug out my 6-dent large Hokett loom and warped up. I don't know how many panels there will be as I want to use the whole gradation in order. But I think it will be at least six. I finished the first two yesterday. All of the yarn is my handspun except for the deep purple and black accents which are silk.

Here it is in photos.

I am astounded at how lovely the hand is. There isn't any comparing it to my other work. I like my tapestries to be flexible and fluid--like a piece of fabric. Tapestry IS fabric after all. But this handspun exceeds my wildest expectations. It is soft and feels divine. I love the little bloom the surface has and I can't wait to spin more. You can see that the single in the first piece (to the left in the photo above) was thinner than in the second one. With time, I am sure I can learn to keep it consistent for a whole project.

I love how the dyed-in-the-fleece fiber changes color in subtle ways all the time. I strive for this variation in my hand-dyed yarns, but with this method of yarn creation, the options are so much greater.

Fiber: White/gray local corriedale fleece scoured by Maggie Casey. Rainbow dyed with acid wool dyes.

Prep: Carded with hand cards after sorting by value

Spinning: Turkish spindle by Jenkins woodworking. This particular spindle was a very special gift from the master of spinning for tapestry, Sarah Swett. Best. Gift. Ever.
Size of single was inconsistent. More practice needed by spinner. Weft finished.

Weaving: Intermediate (9 x 10 inch) Hokett loom at 6 dents per inch. Doubled the warp for 12 epi. 20/6 cotton seine twine warp. Tapestry technique including eccentric outline. Double half-hitch used for header. I wanted to use wool warp but didn't have any small enough for this sett and this weft.

Other fiber: 60/2 and 30/2 silk from Red Fish.