Monday, 30 September 2013

Tabby Test!

Now that I've started spinning for real, I couldn't stop myself from making a test swatch out of my first bit of purpose-made warp yarn. Making samples and test swatches is pretty much second nature to me. My teachers at the crafts school where I spent two years doing all sorts of textile-y things were great supporters of samples and it rubbed off. And when I went to university to do my degree in handweaving, I met another teacher with a healthy degree of sample obsession - to see her office with row upon row with binders stuffed full of handwoven samples was an eye-opener! 

So I make swatches and samples. I collect threads and yarns and fibres and put them on cardboard for future reference. It's a bit obsessive, I know, but also strangely satisfying. 
And when it comes to weaving with my handspun yarn, swatching is a Really Good Thing. It answers questions. Will it break? ls the thickness right for what I want to weave? How will the high-twist behave in the loom, how will it affect the finished fabric? Is there a point in continuing with this project or is my thread useless? 

I still haven't got my big loom up and running (soon, very soon!). But for making simple samples I have a small table loom. It looks a little like a toy loom, but with proper heddles and a proper reed so I can change the sett. Unfortunately, it only does tabby, but for testing my yarn it's perfect.

My table loom, on the floor.
 The yarn I spun at the Ronneburg event was just enough to make an eight-centimetre wide and 150 cm long piece at 8 threads/cm. Well, I had  to spin the weft too, of course, but that was reasonably quick work since I already had a bit of suitable yarn lying around from my previous practice sessions (the brown yarn in the pictures below). The warp yarn is somewhere in the region of yarn number Nm 15/1, or thereabouts. It's rather thin, so with the wide sett of 8 threads/cm the weft needed to be thicker and fluffier to give a bit of body to the fabric. The weft is perhaps Nm 7-9/1 (next time, I will remember to weigh and measure my skeins and calculate the yarn number for real...).

The first few centimetres...
I was pleased to find that my yarn wove beautifully with no breaks and very little stickiness. Before I did the warping, I blocked the yarn to settle the twist temporarily - it is a really high-twist yarn! Ideally, it should have been left wound in a ball for a bit to settle it more permanently, but I couldn't wait for that. After washing the finished pieced of fabric, the twist came alive again, displaying the characteristic 'crow's feet' pattern of high-twist threads in a tabby weave. Just like in historical textiles! I love it!

'Crow's feet tabby'
I will have to make more samples with my yarn. The fabric I'm going to use it for is not a tabby, but the old 14th century favourite 2/1 twill, which of course requires a different sett. But now I know that my spindle-spun threads work and will stand up to the wear and tear of being dragged through a loom. So...back to spinning!!! 

Obsessive Sampling Disorder (OSD)

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Spinnst du? -Ja, ich spinne!

For some reason, my first version of this post disappeared yesterday. I don't know how, but it's not online or on my blogger homepage. People's comments are still there, but not the actual post. Ah, well. I'll have to try to reconstruct it, since my next post is connected to it. Here goes...

My spindle, now with thread!
I'm spinning again. After years (yes, years) of quiet practice, I'm now reasonably happy with my handspun thread. At last, I feel that I control the output of my spindle. So now would be the time to get going with the Slightly Insane Wool Project I wrote about here. But combing and carding all that wool...well, it takes a lot of time. And I want to spin now!

So I've chosen to go for a Slightly Modified Wool Project instead. Rather than preparing the wool myself at this time, I've settled for pre-prepared Shetland wool, just to start things off with. I begun spinning warp thread from it a couple of weeks ago, at the 100 Jahre 14tes Jahrhundert event at Ronneburg, Germany, where I went together with friends from Albrechts Bössor. It was a wonderful event with great people, excellent food and lots and lots of textile talk, including a workshop on frilled veils (which Isis of Medieval Silkwork has written about here). I spent most of the weekend hanging out in the "textile room" upstairs in the burg, lounging in the (mostly) sunny courtyard or down by the gate with the guards, always with my spindle close at hand.
At the Ronneburg: Spinning and talking textiles with Mervi of the Hibernaatio blog
I also - finally! - got to fire a 14th century handgonne!