Bluefaced Leicester handspun used for a warp… this is ready to put on the loom now.

Sometimes when I’ve spent a zillion hours dyeing the fibre, spinning fine singles yarn, then plying the yarn (ending up with half or even a third of the original yardage) and then soaking and setting the yarn… I feel done. All I want to do is just want to rest and stare at the lovely yarn I’ve spun. My eyes travel along each strand of the yarn, inspecting the twist, the consistency (if any!), and the oh so subtle shift in hue. It’s literally mesmerizing. And then the handspun yarn that I’ve lifted to “too precious” heights ends up sitting there on the shelf for ages, admired and loved from afar. It’s too bad, because handspun yarn calls out to be used.

When you made the yarn, didn’t you have things in mind for it? Didn’t you design it as a 3-ply instead of 2-ply because it would be stronger? Incorporate nylon binder for added durability? Did you strip the handpainted roving lengthwise or crosswise to select for colours? Of course. When you spun the yarn, you designed it for a purpose that was already in your mind. Sure, sometimes it’s relaxing to spin mindless bits of gobbledygook, but most of the time, I have reasons for all the teeny tiny decisions I made during the handspinning process.

I like these colours.
Baby Surprise Jacket in progress

Lately, I’ve been going through my handspun yarn stash determined that no yarn is too precious to use. And so some of the very first Navajo-plied handspun yarn that was originally destined for socks is now being knit into Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket. Actually, my thinking was that this lovely yarn was too nice to be pushed into boots and worn underfoot. Now, I do think that I’ve muffed the instructions for the jacket though… forgetting where I left the instruction book for a few days and trying to figure it out on my own… never a good idea. I see that they have these BSJ “Row Keeper” notes on Ravelry… seems like a good idea. I’ll have to go back and start counting.

Handspun Bluefaced Leicester in a scarf…
This is leftover hand-dyed mohair from Michelle’s Great Big Green Blanket

Handspun yarns in weaving… I think I had always heard not to put handspun yarn in the warp, but really, it’s about making decisions while spinning that will make your handspun suitable for weaving. Warp yarn needs to be strong (handspun or not, cashmere yarn in the warp REALLY blows), so that it can withstand high tension and abrasion by the reed and heddles. So make your joins in the handspun yarn nice and strong. Plying your yarn adds strength too, although Paula Simmons swears by singles yarn (says she’s never plied in her life). And if you really want to put slubby singles on your loom as warp, maybe try to find heddles that will stretch or bend to accommodate the yarn (like texsolv…).

Cricket loom on my desk at the studio

Yesterday, I received a shipment of the new Schacht Cricket Looms and managed to quickly warp one up with my handspun merino and silk yarn. I know some weavers will turn up their noses at rigid heddle looms, especially one that is tiny and only 10″ wide, but rigid heddle weaving is seriously one of the quickest ways for people to see how weaving works. I was able to build the loom, warp it, and start weaving on it within an hour. It’s a good, inexpensive way to dip your toe in the water and see if the weaving bug bites. For me, it offers nearly instant gratification to see my handspun in woven fabric.

Handspun yarn is beautiful. It’s full of life and precious… but nothing is too precious to use and enjoy.