Spin Span Spun

Ashford traveler spinning wheel

So I’m polishing my wheel.  It’s not what you think. Haven’t used either of my spinning wheels in quite some time. And well, frankly I miss the rhythmic pull of the yarn and watching a cloud of soft fiber softly twist and wind onto the bobbin. And finally  being rewarded with a luscious colorful skein of handspun yarn that can be used in my weaving.

Some of my handspun skeins of yarn

I have been spinning nearly as long as I have been weaving which I started in 1980. But I have not spent as much time at the wheel as I have had at the loom. So I have some catching up to do. The lovely handspun art yarns that I have seen on etsy recently has inspired me to start spinning again and create something beautiful. Just go to etsy and search for “Art Yarn”.  Some very talented spinners there.

Then there is Pluckyfluff. Pluckyfluff if you don’t already know is the Queen of handspun art yarn.  This is the very talented and creative Lexi Boeger from California who travels the world to share her skills and expertise with other handspinners and fiber lovers who want to create luscious and unusual art yarns. She has written two books:

Handspun Revolution is sadly out of print!

Intertwined, the book is a piece of art by itself

And she is coming to Memphis! And I am one of the lucky ones who will be sitting at her feet, absorbing all of her wisdom and hopefully creating something beautiful. I am especially interested in spinning with non-traditional materials. I look forward to using my small collection of art wire and spinning that as the core around which I will wrap colorful locks of mohair and odds and ends of ribbons, lace and bits of bamboo yarn leftover from my weaving projects. Maybe I can finally figure out how to weave a 3-D project on my floor loom with yarn that will hold a stiff shape on its own.

Reclaimed fabric is another non-traditional fiber I plan to use in my spinning.  If you have read some of my older posts, then you know that I like to use fabric from clothes that I have recycled into strips and incorporated into my weaving projects.  This is something that many of my weaving students like to do.  I can’t wait to use “rag” strips and twist them around metallic yarn, handmade paper, ribbon, felted bits and other reclaimed material. Fabulous! Art yarn indeed!

So I am polishing my wheel, polishing my dormant spinning skills and gathering some of my stash of hand dyed fiber.  Fiber that has been sitting around for awhile and waiting for this day.  Yippeee!

Hand dyed mohair locks, purple and orange

Hand dyed mohair locks, green and magenta

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A Loom By Any Other Name

I’ve always taken issue when the word “loom” is used in a context other than weaving.  For instance:  “A harsh winter looms ahead.” Or “Factory workers’ strike looms.”  It always seems that it’s used in a negative way when weaving isn’t involved.  Deborah Chandler in Learning To Weave defines “loom” this way:

…a device to hold a set of yarns taut

so that it is easy to weave other yarns over

and under them.  (p. 14)

Cotton and ribbon "warp" tied with taut tension to front of floor loom

You Transylvanians are probably getting ready to do the time warp again. And though I’ve waited in an endless line in a raincoat to see “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and thrown toast at the movie screen, this is a slightly different time warp.  In fact it really doesn’t involve time transference except that it does take a bit of time to put a warp on a loom.

Deborah Chandler defines “warp” as this:  the yarn attached to the loom such as the warp yarns of cotton and ribbon tied to the front of a floor loom pictured above.  The warp is always kept under tension during the weaving process. The “weft”, Chandler continues is the cross threads that are woven over and under the warp threads.  “Warp” and “weft” are the essential ingredients of a handwoven product.

Not all looms need to be floor looms like the one pictured.  Here are some simple wood  and cardboard looms.  All of them are capable of holding a tight warp.

Simple wood looms

The loom on the left  is a small sample loom for needle weaving.  The loom on the right is a potholder loom just like the plastic or metal ones we all seemed to have as children.

Cardboard looms made from mat board

Above are cardboard looms cut from mat board.  They are notched at either end and then threaded with a warp of Peaches and Cream cotton yarn.  The two purses are examples of products that can be woven on a cardboard loom.

Harrisville peg loom

Here is a peg loom made by Harrisville Designs. The wooden needle is used to weave in the weft,  in this case fabric or “rag” strips.  The rag purse with braided handle is an example of what can be woven on the peg loom.

Now here is my gripe, other than the one when “loom” is used the wrong way.  If you have ever typed “handwoven” in the search box of an online retail site such as Etsy, you will find many items, most of them lovely.  However, not all have a warp and a weft which is the hallmark of a truly handwoven item. Some are knitted, some are crocheted, some are braided.  Keep in mind that these items are made with sticks, sometimes one, sometimes two.  They are not created on a loom, and they do not have a warp and a weft.  Let me just say, “Buyer beware”.  When you want to purchase a handwoven item, be sure it has a warp and a weft.  This means that it was woven on a loom – any kind of loom, from simple to complex. Weaving is a unique process – it is not knitting, crocheting, quilting, or embroidery although there are people who mistakenly believe so.

As for me, I am lucky to have a loom (several of them in fact) of my own.  And mine comes with a view.

My loom with a view