WEAVING WITH HANDSPUN SINGLES…WARP AND WEFT
As I had two nice balls of Sea Island handspun singles that had been sitting around for about a year, I decided to see if I could use them as warp in a scarf. They had not been scoured, steamed or sized and where just like I had balled them on the ball winder months before. I realized that letting them stay under tension for some time would actually help set the twist.
As Sea Island is a very long staple and this Easy to Spin sliver was of top quality, I knew it would be strong and it was not “fuzzy” like short staple variety is apt to be.
I decided on 24 epi as I have a 12 dent reed and would thread 2 in each slot. 6 inches wide and a warp of 2 yards was my goal. The first mistake was I decided I needed just a little color in the scarf and picked up a ball of multi-color handspun singles not knowing if it was long or short staple and did not test the strength fully.
Warping on the warping board took only about 30 minutes and I had no problems. I pulled two threads at a time, having 2 balls of Sea Island and then picking up the multi-colored thread once in a while as a substituted for one of the Sea Island threads. None of the threads broke, that being a good sign.
Warping back to front, I put the lease sticks through the cross on the warping board and brought it over to my Baby Wolf loom. Very quickly I found that I could not pull the warp though the cross. Since I had used a rattle and each inch was securely set in the rattle, I removed the lease sticks and released the cross. It wound onto the back beam with no problem. However, then I had to stand each time and sort out the threads on the rattle, making sure I kept the threads in order.
Threading the loom was by far the hardest. I planned to do basic 2-2 twill using 4 harnesses. So I would move out a heddle on each of the harnesses and then reach back and gather up 4 threads.
I found I had to hold the end of the threads tightly as I separated the 4 singles, or else the ends would tangle and I spent time untangling them until I learned to hold the ends taunt before untangling the 4 threads.
Being singles, they wanted to tangle on each other.
As I separated them, I would bring the thread up and over the top of the harnesses leaving them at least 3 inches apart. (see photos above).
It took me at least 15 minutes to thread an inch as the threads wanted to twist and tangle. However, threading two at a time through the reed was a cinch - I had it all done in less than 12 minutes.
Weaving was the next step and I thought if I used a flat shuttle and did not raise the warp fully that it would be less stress on the warp. Using a flat shuttle gave me a chance to use my birds- eye maple shuttle and the lovely dark wooden one with the turquoise stone in it. Jack Dietrich had made it years ago and I seldom used flat shuttles.
Also, I had put on a fine plied yarn on the sides as a floating salvage. After a few strips of header, I was ready to weave. Soon I realized why I did not use flat stick shuttles; it takes a lot longer to weave than with a boat shuttle.
All went well for about 4 inches and then the multi-colored single threads started breaking. One here and then one there... but it took time to replace them and hang weights on the back and sometime the dangling threads unwound. I found attaching several dangling threads together in the same weight, there was less unwinding. Only one Sea Island thread broke in the whole weaving.
I am an impatient weaver so finally I got my small boat shuttle made by Ken Ledbetter and using it, finished the last quarter of the weaving. There did not appear to be any difference in breakage and the scarf sure moved faster.
The last mistake I made was not hem stitching it before removing it from the loom. I think hemstitching rather than knotting would have looked nicer and more delicate.
All in all I am happy with the scarf. Washed; it is 5 ¼ inches wide and 50 inches long and weighs a little less than an ounce. Oh, I have done better weaving but who is going to look close when I am wearing it around my neck!
Would I use singles for warp again? Yes, but would make sure the singles were strong, preferably long staple cotton and I think next time I will steam the singles a little before using them as warp to prevent so much tangling.