Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Makin' It Work: Using Your Art Yarns

At the beginning of this series of articles, I explained that I don't consider my art yarns to be art in themselves. They require craft and care in the making, but my intent is to use them in projects.  If you are happy arranging your yarns artfully in a bowl or basket and leaving it at that, that's fine.  I often do this, but in that case, I'm spinning meditation yarns.  The purpose of spinning meditation yarns is to stay in the moment, without looking to the past or the future.  Depending upon the meditation exercise, I'm not necessarily concerned with form or function when spinning those yarns.

 For everything else I spin, theoretically, the yarns I make will be transformed, for better or worse, into something else.  I'll give you a few tips and ideas for projects in which to incorporate your art yarns.

Silk boucle yarn as trim on a scarf

Consider the weight and texture of your designer yarns.  Many of them will be heavy and many will be very textured.  A little goes a long way here, especially if, like me, you are short and have a small frame.  Tall people look dramatic draped in art yarn projects; I resemble a short, colourful Sasquatch.   You may want to use these yarns in small projects or as trim on a plainer piece.  Do remember that art yarns don't have to be "big."  Many of the yarns discussed in the previous articles can be scaled back to suit specific projects.

Meditation wrap knitted with hand spun Polwarth wrapped and looped with commercial cotton

Detail of meditation wrap

If you decide to make an entire piece from art yarns, keep it simple.  Cables and complex patterns will be lost using these yarns.  Now is the time for garter, seed, and stockinette stitches.  You can balance the weight of a heavy yarn by using large needles or simple yarn over lace patterns.  Remember that crocheted pieces tend to be heavier than comparable knitted pieces, so go up a hook size or two.

Magical things happen when you use art yarn in freeform projects.  Wraps, hangings, blankets, bags-all these and more can become one of a kind designer projects, with a special touch only you can give them.

Freeform scarf with looped respun sari silk yarn

Scarf detail

Designer yarns are perfect for weaving.  They are usually best suited for use as weft yarns because the texture can catch in the heddles, causing abrasion and breakage or poor shedding.  The warp supports the weight of a heavy art yarn, in contrast to knitting or crocheting, where the yarns must support their own weight.

Spend some time working to balance your art yarns when you spin them.  If your yarns are not balanced, as is often the case with coiled yarns, do some testing before you use them in a project.  You may want to sew that coiled yarn onto your scarf, rather than knitting or crocheting it in, which can cause the entire piece to skew and bias.  Heavy yarns such as coils can make fantastic art pieces or funky baskets when you coil the coils.  For more examples, most of them bolder than what I've suggested here, check the Novelty and Art Yarn Spinners group on Ravelry.

Just as you did when spinning these wonderful yarns, allow yourself time to play and find the best use for your designer yarns.  While you're doing that, arrange those yarns artistically in that bowl or basket and put them out to be admired!

Neck piece knitted with sari silk and wool hand spun yarns



  1. I have really enjoyed this series of posts about art yarns. Thank you for sharing your expertise and experience.

  2. I am fairly new to spinning but have been a devoted meditator for the past 10 years. I think one of the things that draws me to spinning is the meditative aspects. Thanks for a really great blog - I'll be following often!
    Brenda P.

  3. Thanks so much to both of you. I enjoyed writing about the art yarns; it's wonderful when I can combine my meditation with my spinning!