Spinning to weave

I was under some self-imposed pressure during the early part of last week.  The previous week, I’d run out of commercially spun lace weight merino for my weaving sample. The class is on a Thursday morning and without any navy merino for the weft I wasn’t going to be able to do much!

coverlet sample

When I started the sample, I knew this was going to happen at some point and had set myself the challenge to make up any merino shortfall by having a go at spinning my own. Why?

  • Commercially spun merino is expensive and I’ve already used 4 x 25g balls of navy weaving just 3 samples.
  • It’s quite difficult to get hold of these particular colours.
  • If I ever wanted to weave the real thing – a full size throw/coverlet – then the cost would be prohibitive.
  • I wanted to see if I could actually spin fine(ish) yarn as my default hand spun yarn could more accurately be described as ‘chunky’!

A few months ago, I sourced 100g each of ‘navy’ and ‘bordeaux’ merino tops from John Arbon textiles which have been sitting in my basket waiting for this very moment!

Out came the spinning wheel… the instructions from my spinning course… a couple of books…  and I took a deep breath.

I discovered that spinning ‘to order’ isn’t really my cup of tea!  I work full time and I hadn’t factored in the washing (to set the twist), the drying time (oh, for a bit of sun and warmth), and the ball winding.  Needless to say, I didn’t get to bed early on Wednesday.

I was aiming for a finished, 2-ply yarn that was 12/13 wraps to the inch.

handspun merino

handspun merino – ‘navy’

Although I’d got in a bit of muddle over the amount of twist and ended up with a more loosely plied yarn than I’d intended – it is, amazingly, more or less 12/13 wraps to the inch. What’s more, weaving with it has produced a better effect than I could have hoped for.

I’ve now started on the ‘Bordeaux’ colour and have made some changes now I’m not under quite so much pressure.  I’m using a special bobbin; I’m treadling a bit faster and more consistently; I’ve actually read the book and worked out the gear ratios on my wheel (with the help of my OH!), and what that all means.

The most helpful book has been Peter Teal’s ‘Hand Woolcombing and Spinning’, chapter 6 ‘Twisting Machines’.

See Chapter 6 ‘Twisting Machines’

The idea is that I spin the yarn I want to spin, and this is a bit more like it.

handspun merino

handspun merino – ‘bordeaux’

It will interesting to see what it’s like when plied.

Photographs of the finished sample with handspun yarn to follow… in a week or two!

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