Category Archives: Weaving with Handspun

What Do You Get When You Weave With Thick, Bulky Warp?

Thick, bulky fabric!

Like this:

photo showing the off-loom length of fabric woven using  twill tape for warp and fabric strips for weft.

Off-loom length of fabric made with twill tape warp – using fabric strips for weft.

And this:

photo showing off-loom length of handspun handwoven rug fabric

Off-loom length of fabric made with handspun yarns in warp and weft.

Both fabrics were woven on Ashford rigid heddle looms using the 2.5 dpi (dents per inch) heddle.

And FYI:

  • the measuring stick in these photos is 48″ long
  • it takes me a while to figure out how to get even edges
  • and yes, I use toilet paper for headings

The twill tape experiment came first – using a 16″ loom.

photo showing 16" RH loom set up with twill tape warp, using hand dyed fabric strips as weft.

Twill tape warp and hand dyed fabric weft on a 16″ rigid heddle loom.

Then I expanded a bit for the second experiment – using a 24″ loom.

Photo ofweft-faced fabric on a 24 inch rigid heddle loom using handspun yarn.

Handspun warp and weft on a 24″ rigid heddle loom.

The twill tape and fabric strips became these 3 pieces.

photo of 3 pieces of fabric handwoven fabric made with twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.

Twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.

Good examples of what can happen when you get overly excited about the middle of the weaving – and don’t pay attention to the beginning or the end (note the curved hems).  Next time –  I’ll be more careful with the hem sections.

They’re also good examples of what I like to call “prototypes” or, even better –  “handwoven samples you can use”.

photo of handwoven potholders 'holding' pot lids on the stove

So – from my first experiment using thick, bulky warp – I got potholders!  And a lot of information about what to do next time.

The second experiment remains unfinished. Super bulky warp yarns aren’t ideal for a folded woven hem.  And I’m not a big fan of fringe on the floor.

Photo of handspun handwoven twill fabric pinned to the edge of a handwoven rug to test it as a possible finishing technique. fabric

Handspun, handwoven wool binding pinned over the end of my rug-like fabric.

So after staring at it for a few days, (with a piece of leftover binding pinned to the edge) I decided to make more of the same dark brown, handspun/handwoven twill fabric that I used to bind the edges of this piece:

photo of multi-color wool rug, handspun and handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT

Multicolored Rug, 41″ x 21″, handspun and handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT

The yarn’s been spun.

Photo of dark brown yarn handspun by Joanne Littler

Dark brown handspun yarn for rug binding.

But I want it to be the first warp I put on and weave off when I’m ready to get back to weaving with a floor loom.  So that’s on “hold” for now.

In the meantime, there are a couple more things I want to try with that big, funky heddle.  And I’ve got lots more spinning to do.  Most of it related to my continuing quest to explore what it takes to make a good rug.

As much as I love the thick handspun fabric I wove on the RH loom – I think it’s best to describe it as being “rug-like” – and not what I would consider “good fabric for a rug”.  (More about that later).

The thing about it is, neither project needed to be anything.
Something else was going on.  Something more than any particular handwoven thing.

What I “got” when I wove with thick, bulky warp was (way) more than potholders and a rug. 

Working with those wide open spaces in the 2.5 dpi heddle helped me think about (and do) things differently.
Exactly what I’ve learned to expect from weaving.

I gotta go do my PT for knees.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio





What’s So Special About This 2.5 dpi Rigid Heddle Reed?

And what can you do with all those wide open spaces?

photo of Ashford's 16-inch, 2.5 dpi rigid heddle reed

If you’ve ever tried to use novelty yarns for warp, (or decided you weren’t willing to take the risk)  you’ll immediately recognize the potential here.

Smooth, even, and relatively small yarns glide through the spaces of most  heddles and reeds – making them an ideal choice for warp.

But lumpy-bumpy, thick and thin yarns often refuse to cooperate.

Sometimes they can be persuaded to do what you want them to – moving up and down, backward and forward – without too much help, if they fit through the spaces of your heddles and reed.

But what about yarns that don’t fit?

Oversize yarns and novelty yarns can cause  problems when you try to use them for warp.

Yarns embellished with knots and beads, hairs and feathers – or other exotic bits and pieces – can get caught, hung up, tangled and stuck.

The 2.5 dpi rigid heddle was designed to solve some of those problems.

And yes, this would be a good place for a photo of some beautifully weird and wonderful designer yarns –  but I don’t have any of those in my stash.

What I have instead are big, thick, super-bulky handspun yarns like these:

And that heddle with those big spaces made me start thinking about big bulky yarns in a totally different way.

Instead of assuming that over-sized, thick materials could never be used as warp – I started to wonder what if?

So I did a couple of experiments.
First, using 3/4 inch cotton twill tape.

photo of a rigid heddle loom warped with black cotton twill tape and hand dyed fabric strips laid in as weft

And then using some of my super bulky handspun.

photo showing Ashford's 2.5 dent rigid heddle reed warped with super bulky handspun yarn

Now I’m looking at several other possibilities.  Things I’ve always thought could only be used one way – as weft.

Whether you have a stash of novelty yarns you’d like to use or just want to try something different, consider adding the 2.5 dpi rigid heddle reed to your  weaving “toolbox”.

You might find yourself headed in a whole new direction.

I gotta go look through my stash.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio






What’s In Your (Handspun) Stash?

If you’re considering weaving with your handspun yarn –
If  you think weaving might be a good way to use up some of the growing collection of yarns  in your stash –
You might also be wondering which (if any) of your handspun yarns are suitable for weaving.

So how do you find out?
You could grab a few skeins, start weaving and see what happens.
And choosing an impromptu, spontaneous approach might work for you – it might even lead to some unbelievably fabulous fabric.

But if you’re familiar with weaving, you’ll probably agree:  It takes a considerable amount of time to prepare.

And it’s not just about getting the loom ready.

Choosing the right yarn for the project and calculating how much yarn you need are significant steps in the process.

When you decide you want to try weaving with your handspun yarn – you need to know what you have.  Take a good look at what’s in your stash.  You may want to begin by sorting and analyzing – matching colors and characteristics but I think there’s something else to take care of first.

Pick up a skein of your handspun yarn.  Can you look at it and immediately say without question what type of fiber it is and how many yards of it you have?

If not, no matter how soft or strong, thin or thick,  no matter how beautiful (or ugly) you think your handspun is, – if you don’t know what it is and how much you have, the yarn isn’t ready.  Not ready to choose (or sort, or determine whether or not it’s suitable) – and not ready to use.

My advice – if you’re not doing this already – start labeling your skeins.

Photo of handspun yarn skeins using string tags as temporary labels

Some of my handspun yarn labeled and ready. Next stop: a storage bin labeled "Handspun Yarns for Weaving"

Whether you’re weaving with yarn strictly from your stash or you’re willing and able to augment your supply from another source, it’s in your best interest to have a way of recognizing what you have – before you try to figure out what to do with it.

Sometimes you can alter the project to ‘fit’ the yarn.  Sometimes you can make more yarn to fit the project.  But either way, you need to start where you are – and part of that is knowing (and understanding) what you have to work with.

If you don’t (yet) have a way to attach important information to your skeins of handspun yarn consider this: every time to handle those skeins, every time you consider whether or not it’s ‘suitable’ for a project, the same question comes up – what (exactly) is it, and how much of it do you have?

Why not eliminate that question and move past wondering?

It doesn’t have to be a big deal.  If you’re looking for a quick and easy, inexpensive way to label your skeins, try these:

Photo of string tags used to label handspun yarn skeins

String tags are an easy and inexpensive way to label your skeins of handspun yarn.

String tags are your friends.  Buy some or make your own.

I use string tags on all my handspun skeins.   And because I only attach one of these tags after the skein is finished – (wetted or washed, twist set, skein dried and yardage re-measured) the presence of a string tag on one of my skeins is like a big (or little) white flag that says “ready”.

Ready to use, ready to label for sale, or ready to save/store for later.

The information on these tags might only include yardage after finishing, dry weight and fiber type – but that’s enough for me to compare what I have, to what I need, for what I want to weave.  Any other information I choose to keep is recorded  in a separate spinning notebook.

Labeling deserves a place in your spinning routine, however you plan to use your yarn.

Think of it as a gift to yourself.  Having the information you need – right at your fingertips – can save you time in the long run.
Time you might rather spend spinning and weaving.

So – How do you know what’s in your handspun stash?

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio

Weaving With Handspun Yarn – What’s Your Approach?

Do you have a stash of yarn you’ve spun and wonder how you can use it in a weaving project?
Or, do you have a project in mind and wonder how to spin the yarn so you can use it for weaving?

There are different challenges and rewards depending on which approach you choose to take.

If you start with yarn you’ve already spun – the yarn determines the project.

Photo of a variety of handspun yarns, different sizes, different colors, different weights.

What can I weave with these?

If you decide to start spinning specifically for a project – the project determines the yarn.

Photo of yarn spun specifically for weaving

Handspun yarn for a handwoven scarf

I think the second route is easier and more satisfying.

Maybe it’s because it’s easier for me to start with a picture in my mind of the kind of fabric I want to make – and then go do that.

Maybe it’s because I think it’s more satisfying to spin to a standard rather than just hope I have it right – and end up disappointed with the results.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t come up with the ideal project for all (any?) of the yarns I made before I learned how to control my spinning.

What about you? What’s your approach to weaving with handspun yarn?
Are you wondering where to start?

In upcoming posts, I’ll be sharing some of the things I’ve learned about weaving with my own yarns, and offering some tips about how you can start weaving with yours.  Let me know what you think.  What works for you?  What would you like to know before you start warping your loom for handspun handwoven fabric?

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio