Author Archives: thewooleryguy

Guest Post: Make a Tapestry Diary with Janette Meetze

Meetze, Arrowmont- July 31 2012Most people get started with Tapestry weaving by making a small sampler or two, but what is the next step on the journey to learning how to weave tapestry? There is a fairly large gap between that first small sampler and being able to use tapestry as a way to express yourself as a weaver. Why not try getting started on a daily practice that will help you focus on learning techniques while also providing an opportunity to become comfortable expressing yourself with the tapestry process, one day and one small space at a time?

My first suggestion would be to start small. Maybe you will set up your loom and just start on the first day available or maybe you will think about how you want to proceed and start the following month, making a commitment to weave everyday for a small amount of time over the period of one month. There is no right way or wrong way. It is a diary, so it is all about you.

If you are new to tapestry weaving consider making a narrow warp, about three to four inches wide so that you can weave all the way across for each days practice. Perhaps you will want to separate each day with a pass of a specific color. A illustrated tapestry book with clear photos or diagrams would also be useful in providing ideas about how to proceed.

If you have more experience with tapestry you might want to devote the month to a specific tapestry technique like hatching, pick and pick variations or shape making. Consider this type of approach similar to how you might go about learning to play a musical instrument, a small amount of time devoted each day. Soon you will find that your hands are moving with more confidence and that ideas flow more freely when you are actively engaged in making.

My first tapestry diary began in June of 2012 in a class with Tommye Scanlin at Arrowmont School in Tennessee. After the week of class I drove home and started weaving a small space representing my day, everyday; a special occasion , a patch of color, or a symbol. The first one covered the last week in June and all of July 2012, it was about 5 inches wide and sett at 8 threads per inch. Then I wove another for the month of August, and the third covered September through December 2012. There is a freedom in not having to make all the decisions about the entire design ahead of time that allows you to experiment and learn while also accomplishing something personal and meaningful.

By the time 2013 came around I was ready to establish some rules to help me focus on a daily practice that would encompass the entire year. Because they are rules you set for your self they can easily be changed to suit your needs as the year progresses, but having some guidelines does help with getting started. My first yearly diary was warped at 7 inches wide at 8 threads to the inch and my rule was to confine myself to a rectangle space for each day of 1 inch by 2 inches. I established a repeating pattern of horizontal and vertical rectangles for each week. Each month was separated by a number for the month and some pick and pick tapestry technique and I decided to explore the color palette of some new yarns that I wanted to become better acquainted with. Since I had to warp more than once to get the length needed for the entire year I chose to work the project in three panels of four months each.

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By the end of the year I had a substantial Tapestry Diary Triptych made up of small rectangles for each day. Even though I had kept the space for each day small there were still days when I could not find the 15 to 30 minutes it took to weave the day, or days when I was away from home and my loom. I decided to make up those days one way or another as I was able. Other solutions to this situation might be to weave a solid color to represent days away from your loom, there are many options.

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This year I am weaving another tapestry diary and continuing to learn and grow in my tapestry weaving through this simple process of daily practice. If you would like to learn more about weaving tapestry diaries and other weavers using this practice please refer to an article I wrote for the American Tapestry Alliance on the subject, http://americantapestryalliance.org/education/educational-articles/ There you will find work by other tapestry weavers such as Tommye Scanlin who was the first to use the phrase “tapestry diary” and has been weaving them for several years now. I also follow along with my tapestry diary adventures on my blog, Common Threads.

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Janette Meetze lives and weaves in Bixby, Oklahoma. More information about her tapestry diaries, her Fiber Studio classes and supplies can be found on her blog, Common Threads.

Stay Spinning This Summer!

A well-maintained spinning wheel can provide years of service, and keeping your wheel in tip-top shape is easier than you think! It’s a good idea to perform routine maintenance a few times a year by giving your wheel a thorough cleaning, tightening screws and any other loose parts such as legs and wheel supports, and replacing any worn-out parts such as leather conrod joints, drive bands, or brake bands.wheelmainttools

Believe it or not, this maintenance can be easily done with just a few tools and other supplies you’re likely to already have on hand – click here for a list of items and easy-to-follow instructions from our blog archive!applyingoil

However, there is something you can do each time you spin to keep your wheel in good working order: applying oil! In our latest video in the Ask the Woolery series, we demonstrate all of the possible areas which could benefit from a drop of oil at the start of each spinning session. Of course, each wheel is different, so you will want to refer to your wheel’s manual for specific instructions on where to apply oil on your particular make and model. In the video below, you can get a closer look at how and where oil should be applied to keep squeaks and rattles at bay:

Thanks for joining us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

 

Guest Post: The Dyers’ Garden with Dagmar Klos

Have you ever wanted to explore the world of natural dyeing? In today’s guest post, expert Dagmar Klos shares her own dyers’ garden with you! 

Well, the garden is finally planted. It was a long, cold, snowy winter here in Chicago. Spring was also rather chilly with no temptation to plant early. Then off to Kentucky for the Sheep and Fiber Festival, a fun event (I just love going to sheep festivals). Before heading back to Chicago, I stopped at the Woolery in Frankfort – what a treat, wish I lived closer. Upon returning home, it was time for spring cleaning in the garden. I live in Chicago, and although my property is twice the size of a normal city lot, I do have a lot of shade due to the amount of trees including a large, old willow. I have a small space in the front that has sunshine daily which is where I plant my marigolds along with some coreopsis planted right by the marigolds. Unfortunately, some of the coreopsis took a hit with the cold winter and I will need to get new ones for the bare spots; This is the extent of my dyer’s garden – for the time being.

Marigolds

Marigolds

I love dyeing with marigolds; they are happy little yellow/orange flowers. I prefer the French marigolds over the African variety, but I did just learn from my neighbor who is a horticulturist that the African variety has a dwarf version. I’ll need to look into that. The area in which I grow the marigolds is limited in size (about 9’ x 4’) and I think that the regular African marigolds would look too big. Years ago, in the backyard I planted Rudbeckia, black-eyed-Susans, but they are not thriving and are slowly disappearing due to too much shade. On the other hand, the sweet woodruff that I planted (I only bought one flat) has multiplied over and over. I should really plan to harvest the roots sometime this summer as I get them out of the areas where they shouldn’t be. Sweet woodruff is in the madder family. The roots yield a light red and the leaves, a light brown.

Sweet Woodruff

Sweet Woodruff

When I look at my beautiful, old black willow (one reason why we bought this house), I am sad knowing that one day it will be gone. It’s 60 years old and showing signs of decline. The dynamics of the back yard will change significantly which will mean more sunlight. And I think – oh, I will be able to expand my dye garden! One plant at the top of the list is weld also known as dyer’s mignonette or dyer’s weed, or dyer’s rocket. Weld yields a wonderful, lightfast, washfast yellow. It’s a cool yellow and when over-dyed with indigo gives a fabulous green. It’s not the prettiest plant, which explains one of its names – dyer’s weed – but the color is wonderful. Since I love black-eyed-Susans, I will plant more of them. My list would also include dahlia, daisy, dyer’s chamomile, dyer’s greenweed, golden rod, golden marguerite, queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, and zinnia. If I had more land, the list would be longer.

Weld, also known as Dyers' Rocket or Dyers' Mignonette

Weld, also known as Dyers’ Rocket or Dyers’ Mignonette

Another thought pops into my head – I will need to buy a second refrigerator. I don’t always use up all my flowers for dyeing during the growing season. In fact, I need to collect and keep some of them for when I teach marigold dyeing. In the past I have dried the flowers; dying primarily with only the flower heads for the purest color the plant can give me, adding the leaves and stems will desaturate the color which is perfectly fine at times. But drying requires forethought. With a hectic schedule I find that right before a predicted frost, I am in my flower bed, cutting off the flower heads and putting them into freezer bags. Needless to say that looking into my freezer may surprise some, but it always brings a smile to my face remembering the sunshine of the summer and the fun that lies ahead while I’m dyeing in the dead of winter with that bit of sunshine.

Zinnia

Zinnia

coe_photoDagmar Klos is a dye master, fiber artist, and teacher. Author of the Dyer’s Companion, co-publisher and coeditor of the Turkey Red Journal from 1995-2006 (newsletter dedicated to natural dyes), recipient of the Handweavers Guild of America’s Certificate of Excellence in Dyeing. She also teaches at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles, Illinois. She lives with her husband and two big dogs in Chicago, Illinois.

Exploring Non-Wool Fibers

It’s our final month of Spinning Spring Training, and this month’s suggested challenges are perfect for summer: Non-wool fibers such as cotton, silk, bamboo, and flax are wonderful fiber choices for warmer temperatures, although they can sometimes be a challenge when it comes to handspinning. We have discussed cotton in-depth in our previous posts here and here on this blog, as well as silk (both here and here), so today we would like to focus our discussion on bamboo and flax. bamboo

Bamboo is a fiber that seems to be turning up everywhere these days! Bamboo fiber is a popular addition to many commercially-available yarns, and it is made from the cellulose found in the bamboo stalk. The fibers are unique in that they are naturally antibacterial, a property which can withstand multiple washings. Bamboo fiber also produces an extremely breathable fabric, as well as provides excellent moisture absorption thanks to the microscopic holes which comprise its cell structure.

Bamboo Top

Bamboo Top

Spinning bamboo fiber can be a bit tricky, however! Since there are no scales (as you would find on protein fibers), the fibers are rather slippery. Not only that, the fibers are also quite short! Needless to say, spinning a woolen yarn from bamboo fiber isn’t recommended. Rather, a worsted or semi-worsted yarn with plenty of twist will be the simplest approach. Most bamboo fibers will be similar to silk when it comes to spinning them up; there are plenty of great guidelines here in the KnittySpin archives if you would like to explore spinning with bamboo more in-depth!Linum_usitatissimum_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-088

Flax is also in the cellulose family of fibers and has a long and storied history of cultivation (for example, flax has been found in predynastic Egyptian cloth). There are many varieties which are used to produce products ranging from paper, paint, dietary supplements, medicine, and – of course! – fibers and textiles. Flax is incredibly durable and easy-care; machine washing only makes it softer! It takes dye beautifully and has its own evaporative cooling system which wicks moisture away from the skin. The one downside is that it can be difficult to work with, both in handspinning and beyond.ProcessingFlaxThere are 3 types of flax fibers you can expect to come across in your fiber journey: line flax, tow and twice-retted flax. Line flax is a longer fiber (usually more than 10 inches in length); tow refers to the shorter fibers which are a byproduct of producing line flax, and twice-retted flax is a relatively new process which produces shorter, finer fibers approximately 4-5 inches in length.

Flax Line Fiber - Strick

Flax Line Fiber – Strick

Spinning with flax is not recommended for beginning spinners, but many spinners (regardless of their skill level) are intimidated at the very thought of working with it! First, processing the plant into a spinnable fiber is quite a bit of work  if you don’t plan on using a commercially-prepared top. Secondly, most spinners are told that spinning flax requires the use of the distaff, which can certainly sound a bit scary to the uninitiated. However, most prepared tops do not require the use of a distaff, and  this informative article from the KnittySpin archives gives plenty of sage advice for tackling flax-spinning from the strick without the use of this tool.

We look forward to seeing which non-sheep fibers you explore this month in our  June Spring Training thread on Ravelry!

Thanks for joining us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

 

The Road to Convergence

For many weavers, the road to Convergence means poring over your workshop choices months in advance, readying your shopping list, and planning to meet up with folks you may have previously only met in the virtual world. For instructors, however, the road to Convergence begins well over a year in advance!  If you have ever wondered how much preparation goes into teaching a workshop, here is a behind-the-scenes look from weaver Deborah Jarchow in this month’s guest blog post!
2014-05-22_16-33-20Convergence is a wonderful weaving conference that is held every two years.  Ever since I began weaving, it’s been a high point for me to attend, hang out with friends, and see what’s new and exciting in the weaving world.  As a weaving teacher, it is great to teach at Convergence.  I get a special thrill when I get my name badge that says “Leader” on it!  It makes it worth all the work it takes to get there.
When I’ve taken classes in the past, it hasn’t occurred to me how much preparation might be involved for the teacher.  When the Woolery approached me about writing this blog, we thought it might be interesting for you to see what’s involved in presenting a class at a conference.
I will be teaching 3 rigid heddle classes at Convergence 2014 in Providence, Rhode Island. My classes will be a two day workshop on Pick Up Pizzazz, or using pick up sticks to create patterns in the woven cloth, a second 2 day workshop on Double Heddles and Double weave to explore patterns, layers, tubes and pockets in the cloth, and a 3 hour seminar on Taste of Rigid Heddle to introduce the curious to the wonders of weaving on a rigid heddle loom.
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Preparing a teaching proposal can be a daunting task and takes lots of planning and organization!  Here are some of the steps involved:
  • Proposing an appealing class description with defined goals for the class
  • Making a complete supply list for students
  • Determining any audio/visual needs
  • Setting materials fees for anything I supply
  • Creating images for the project or technique being taught
  • Planning for looms to be supplied or if students can bring their own
  • Thinking about shipping supplies to the venue
Once the class proposal is accepted, it’s time to get to work! Here are some of the long-term tasks on my to-do list:
  • Write the handout for the technique or project
  • Then go back and make the project or do the technique strictly by following the handout
  • Clarify things, correct mistakes, and add anything I overlooked on the first pass
  • Take pictures of my project so I can insert some in the handout where images are helpful
  • Re-edit the handout and set it aside again
  • Coordinate with the loom manufacturers to supply looms for the class

    Glimakra, Schacht and Ashford Looms

    Glimakra, Schacht and Ashford Looms

Closer to the class date, it’s time to:
  • Print the handouts
  • Gather samples
  • Review techniques
  • Ship everything to the venue
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Class Samples

When I finally get on the plane to travel to Convergence, I’ll be so happy that really, all the hard work is behind me. Teaching is the fun part, and seeing everyone learn a new technique or get excited about what they are weaving is the reward and the thrill that makes all the preparations worthwhile!

Proud Students

Proud Students

Deborah Jarchow 72dpiDeborah Jarchow is a nationally shown fiber artist and weaving teacher.  Her work with color, fiber and texture has led her to diverse projects from large scale wall hangings, to wearables, to liturgical commissions.  Deborah travels the country as a popular weaving teacher at conferences such as Vogue Knitting Live and Stitches.  She has maintained a studio at Studio Channel Islands Art Center in Camarillo, CA for over 10 years. You can learn more at  www.deborahjarchow.com.

Why ply?

Our Spinning Spring Training continues this month as we explore new techniques throughout the month of May! Many of our Ravelry group members are buzzing with ideas for yarn-spinning experiments: batts, rolags, corespun, boucle, and playing with ply are all techniques we’re hearing mention of, and we can’t wait to see the finished results later this month!

170px-Yarn_twist_S-Left_Z-RightBefore we talk about plying, we should cover the basics of twist: S twist and Z twist. S twist is produced by turning your wheel in a counterclockwise motion, while Z twist is produced by turning your wheel in a clockwise motion. In the image at right, you can see that the yarn leans to the left in an S twist (which is also the direction you spin your wheel to create it) and yarn with a Z twist learns to the right. Generally speaking, if your singles are spun with an S twist, they should be plied with a Z twist (and vice versa). This creates a stronger yarn overall.

One of our industrious Spring Training participants, Dlthom6, shared an experiment with ply using Louet’s Dorper top to spin samples of yarn with 6, 5, 4, 3, chain, and 2 ply which were then knit into a single swatch using the same needle size (US 10.5). You can really see the difference between each sample! 

As you can see, how you choose to ply your yarn can really help your finished handspun skein (and subsequent project) take shape. Even choosing not to ply your yarn can make a dramatic effect! A purposely slubbed yarn single can be lovely all on its own, as in this example:IMG_7032Plying is a great way to minimize thick and thin variations in your handspun, provided those variations are not too extreme – but don’t worry if your yarn has a lot of variation, especially at first. It’s these variations which can also make your handspun yarn unique, and that’s always a good thing!

You may decide to spin two singles in a two-ply yarn; the challenge is to use proper tension to create a balanced ply. A tensioned lazy kate can help this process immensely; on the other end of the spectrum, you may choose to play with tension to create purposefully unbalanced or coiled yarns! IMG_7030When you’re ready to step things up a notch, consider spinning a 3-ply yarn. The addition of this third ply provides excellent stitch definition, plus it creates a nice, round yarn which is also quite durable.
IMG_70343-ply yarn can be achieved by spinning from 3 separate bobbins as in the example above, or you can use the chain plying technique (sometimes called Navajo plying) which allows you to spin a 3-ply yarn using just one bobbin simply by pulling a loop of your single through the next. This example shows how this technique can be used to control color placement when spinning with multicolored fiber:IMG_7028Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to plying. We look forward to seeing more plying experiments in our May Spring Training thread on Ravelry!

Thanks for joining us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

 

Guest Post: Cotton Crazy with Arlene Thayer of Spin Artiste

cottonsingle1(1)What a perfect month it is to start talking about hand spinning cotton!  After a very long and cold winter, I’m definitely in the mood to work with fibers that are lighter and cooler.

But, one thing that has intrigued me for a long time is working with cotton in a non-traditional way.  And this goes back a few years to when I was taking a two day cotton spinning class with a very well known teacher who specializes in cotton spinning.  I showed up with my beautiful wheel that is perfect for spinning the types of textured, artistic yarns I prefer only to find that the ratios on my set up were not going to work for the class.  I tried the wheel for awhile that day and struggled to produce beautiful thin yarns using the long draw method of drafting the fiber.  Half way through the day, I was switched over to a loaner wheel with higher ratios.  Oh, the joy of getting adjusted to a wheel that you are not used to while trying to learn something new!  Nonetheless, the higher ratios of course worked out better.

On the second day, while there was a little time, I started “goofing off” and doing the types of things I normally do when I spin.  I took some of the overtwisted, unevenly drafted yarns from the previous day and made some coiled yarns.  Both the teacher and the other students were keenly interested and I thought, “hmmm…this is worth exploring.”  I made my way through the rest of the class, following the directions and producing the types of yarns we were instructed to produce, but of course, my mind had bookmarked to come back to using cotton in a non-traditional way.

Now, in coming back to this idea, I’ve been doing some free form weaving recently and one of the things that is really nice to have available is small yardages in interesting textures.  I revisited my classroom clowning and have been working with core spinning cotton.

There are some very nice aspects to working with cotton.  Consider the following:

  • It doesn’t felt.  Dyeing cotton is relaxing because there is no worrying about “manhandling it” and ending up with a felted mess.
  • It allows for a different type of manipulation when handling the fibers.
  • It’s naturally next-to-skin soft.
  • Allergy issues are much less likely with cotton.
  • It’s vegan!

For this blog post about cotton, I’m going talk about a bulky cotton yarn I spun recently.  Yes, I said “bulky”.  While we tend to spin thin cotton yarns, and they are lovely, I’m going to offer you an option to mix things up.

cottonmaterials

Here are my materials which included some cotton punis I made, commercial mohair yarn, and gold thread.  I selected each material for the following reasons:

  • Some punis – since the punis already have a little bit of twist, I knew I could pull the fiber from the end and easily draft onto my core.
  • Commercial mohair – I like to core spin with this material.  It grabs fiber well and is light and strong.
  • Gold thread – AKA “the evil gold thread” – this is fussy and temperamental in nature but it looks really good.  This thread is almost like a fine grade wire so it adds some stability as well as a touch of flash.  Since I was using light and natural colors, I wanted to add a little something extra.

To make the corespun single:  I tied on my core and auto wrap as you normally would and started spinning a little then started drafting off of the puni, gently and a little bit at a time and let it encase my core. (if you are new to core spinning, auto wrapping or navajo plying, check out the videos on my website, www.spinartiste.com).   Doing this with cotton is not a lot different than working with wool.  You have to watch it a bit more closely because the staple is short and if you don’t draft carefully, you will have puffs and bald patches!

cottonspinning

For the auto wrapping, again, you won’t need to make any special adjustments.  I set my cone of thread (it comes off better from the cone) between myself and the wheel to the left of my left knee.  If you want your autowrap (as I do) to look like it’s sort of lazily looping along your yarn and not a tight barber poled angle, you need to get the wrap source in front of your hands and rather close to the wheel.

The resulting single was somewhat overtwisted which is what is needed for the next step.

For the Chain or Navajo ply:  After removing the single bobbin off the wheel, I popped on a fresh bobbin, tied on my single and began to chain ply in the opposite direction in which I spun my single. When performing this technique, personally, I like to go slowly so that I can work with and control the twist.  Also, you have to be conscious of how big you are making the loops that you are chaining through because each time you create a loop, you will have a little hump there which takes away from the three ply look you will get from this technique.

nply

Finished yarn:   My resulting yarn is bulky and balanced and has a fun and pretty texture and look.

Cotton yarn

While I created the yarn with the intention of weaving it into a project, I could not resist getting out a large crochet hook because this type of yarn looks so fantastic crocheted.

cottoncrochet

So, there you have it!  Not only a bulky cotton yarn but a cotton yarn that does not require long draw practice!!

Spin Artiste CVArlene Thayer combines her passion for fiber and love of writing as the Publisher of www.spinartiste.com and Chief Co-Creator at www.fiberygoodness.com. As an artist, Arlene is very attracted to color and texture and prefers things on the funky side:  bold, bright, and wild.  At the same time, Arlene has a deep respect and fascination for tradition and traditional methods.  She lives in beautiful south central Pennsylvania with her beloved husband and Maine Coon cat…and a lot of fiber!

Cotton Tales

bolls

Cotton Bolls

Cotton has been an important part of civilizations throughout the globe for thousands of years, with a history that is every bit as rich as it is mysterious. There is even an entire wikipedia page dedicated to the history of cotton in addition to the entry for cotton!

Today, we’ll be focusing on cotton fibers for spinning, starting with where it all begins: on a tree or shrub. Cotton is actually a tropical plant, so it thrives in a hot climate and needs lots of water. Harvesting cotton is a very tricky business: if done too early or too late, the cotton fibers will be of poor quality. Cotton growers test the cotton daily to determine the ideal time to harvest either by hand or with a special machine which removes the boll intact from the plant.

After the harvest, the cotton is ginned to remove seeds and remaining parts of the boll from the cellulose fiber. Most of you probably remember the name Eli Whitney from your grade school days: in 1793, he invented the cotton gin and revolutionized the way cotton was processed, giving way to the modern cotton industry we know today. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin, the cotton fibers were painstakingly separated from the seeds by hand!

sliver

Cotton Sliver

Once the cotton is successfully separated from the seeds, it is usually carded into a preparation known as sliver. This is a preparation which is thinner than roving, and many commercial cotton yarns are spun from sliver. Cotton is a popular choice for warm-weather projects, but many spinners are intimidated at the thought of spinning cotton fibers due to their short staple length.

punis

Cotton Punis

Luckily, there are a few preparations which can make working with cotton much easier! Spinning from cotton sliver is a great place to start, since the fibers are combed into alignment when processed in this fashion.

Another preparation to try is cotton punis, which are similar to rolags . You can make your own or purchase ready-to-spin punis; while they can be spun on any wheel or spindle, they work especially well with the Charkha, for which they were designed.

Charkha

Charkha

A charkha is a spinning wheel which is ideal for spinning short-stapled fibers such as cotton, and it was made famous by Gandhi, who used it as a symbol for the Indian independence movement against British rule. In addition to spinning cotton, a charkha would come in handy for spinning angora, silks, or very fine wool.

Finally, cotton can be spun from the seed! This produces a very fine thread  and – believe it or not – is quite simple, as you can see in this video:

In our next blog post, we’ll have a special guest who will share tips for using cotton to spin textured, non-traditional yarns.

Thanks for joining us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

 

Guest Post: Spinning Tussah Silk for Embroidery with Jillian Moreno

I’m fairly new to embroidery and spinning fine yarns has never been high on my list of fun until I found my reason – to embroider with it. The combination of embroidery and silk is really incredible. I do a loose, casual kind of surface embroidery, a few flowers here, a lovely edging there. It’s relaxing and so wonderful to be learning something new.

For me silk is so much more alive than cotton when stitching. Add the handspun element to that with it’s organic feeling and it’s pretty irresistible. I experimented with a bit of tussah silk top from Treenway Silk. I was curious to see how some basic embroidery stitches would look when I changed the ply twist in my yarn.

1 tussah silk

I spun my singles at about 40 WPI with a worsted draft, it’s as fine as I want to go right now, while I work on getting more consistent with my fine yarn. There are slubs in the tussah silk and unevenness in my spinning and I left them all in the yarn.

I like the look; I’m not trying to replicate machine spun threads.

2 tussah singles

I plied the singles with two different twists. One is plied just or a little under balanced. The second is plied with double the twist. Once I figured out the treadle count for a close to balanced ply, I used twice the number of treadles for the second batch of yarn.

3 tussah two twists

Then I stitched. I just did four of the most basic stitches to get a feeling for the difference. I did (bottom to top) back stitch, chain stitch and satin stitch outlined with stem stitch on linen.

4 silk stitches big

I used a needle with a bigger eye than I would for cotton, or even machine spun silk.

I wanted to make a bigger hole to pull the thread through so it would abrade less when stitching.

Back stitch shows the basic difference in thickness. The bottom line of stitches is the less plied yarn and the top is more plied yarn. The less plied yarn looks like a softer line. That visual softness will show more in other stitches.

5 silk backstitch

Chain stitch shows even more how the looser plied thread, bottom stitches, is softer and spreads out. The line looks almost fluffy. The top line with the tighter plied yarn looks crisper. I definitely use the different plies for different effects in stitching.

6 silk chainstitch

Look at the satin stitch circles. The left circle is the more tightly plied yarn and the right is the looser plied. The looser plied yarn spreads out and fluffs up. I used less yarn to fill the circle. The tighter yarn has more definition and more shine. The stem stitch around the outside of the circle is much more defined with the tighter twist.7 silk satin stitch (1)

I loved experimenting with tussah ply twist and stitching. I will use the tighter plied yarn for outlines and when I want a crisper line – stems, lettering, edges to divide or contrast. The looser plied yarn I will use for filling and edges that I want to be soft and for areas and lines of transition.

I wonder if bombyx silk would behave the same way? Now I’m off to experiment more!

jillianmorenoJillian Moreno is passionate about handspun yarn. She is perpetually curious and always is experimenting with spinning and using fiber. She loves to inspire other spinners to try new things. She is the Editor of Knittyspin, the spinning little sister of Knitty.com. She is a regular contributor to Ply Magazine and sits on the editorial board. She is currently working on a spinning book to be published by Storey Publishing. Keep track of all of her crafty and other pursuits starting April at www.jillianmoreno.com She lives buried in a monumental stash of fiber and books in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

All About Silk!

Tussah Silk

Tussah Silk

This March, we’re experiencing some serious silk madness here at the Woolery!

When most people think luxury, they think of silk. It’s soft and smooth, adding a signature shine to any fiber it’s blended with. The trade of silk dates back thousands of years; you may have heard of the Silk Road, which was a 4,000-mile long route linking China to India, the middle east, and Europe. The trade of this valuable fiber was so important, a wall was built to protect the route – also known as the Great Wall of China, which can be seen from outer space!

Bombyx Silk

Bombyx Silk

There are two classifications of silk: tussah and bombyx. Tussah silk is sometimes referred to as “wild” silk because the fiber can be produced both in the wild and captivity; the moths feed on several types of vegetation, most of which contains tannins which give the fiber a range of colors from pale cream to dark brown. However, the term tussah silk is now used to commonly mean any silk that isn’t bombyx: that is, cultivated using several different (yet closely-related) moths who are fed only chopped mulberry leaves, which produces the purest white fiber.

Silk Noils

Silk Noils

Silk is available in three grades:

  • Reeled, which is the finest grade available, though it is most often reserved for commercial-produced textiles.
  • Spun silk, which is most commonly found in yarn and is generally made using the waste silk from the reeling process.
  • Noils, which are fibers left over from the carding and combing process; they are easy to dye, and create a textured yarn with flecks of the dyed colors when blended into wool. They can also be used in paper-making!

Spinners are fortunate to not only have a variety of prepared silk fibers and fiber blends available to them, they can also purchase silk cocoons, hankies, or caps.

Wrapped Silk Hankies-500x500A cap is similar to a hankie, but it has a round shape, while a hankie (pictured above) has a square shape. To spin from either a cap or a hankie, simply work from the center, making a hole and stretching the fibers with your hands far apart. After it is stretched, break the circle where it is thinnest and draw the fiber out until it is manageable (thin enough in diameter) for you to spin.

silkcocoonsSpinning from silk cocoons requires a bit more preparation; click here to read an informative article on KnittySpin which will walk you through the steps from start to finish!

Our next blog post will feature special guest Jillian Moreno, who will be sharing her silk-spinning stories and expertise with us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team