Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Round, Round We Go: Buttons and Bows

Now is the time to discuss adding those outrageous elements to your yarns. First, let me tell you why I don't spin button, beads, bows, etc directly into my yarns.  Since I see yarn as the medium for artistic expression, not the art itself, I want to be able to control the placement of my added elements in my finished objects. It is difficult to do this when your most eye-catching elements are part of the yarn.  If you space your beads/buttons/doll heads too systematically, they can stack up, one above the other, instead of spacing themselves where you want them.  Once they are in your yarns, you can't move these elements.

Next, there is the problem of abrasion.  Button shafts and edges on beads can cut through your yarns.  The bead or button will fall off and the yarn will be weakened.  Feathers, bits of fur and similar elements tend to work their way out of the yarn if they aren't well secured.

Large items may be next to impossible to coax through your wheel orifice, no matter how large that may be.  To date, I've had the best success with the Wild Flyer on my Pioneer wheel, but even that can't handle something larger than a couple of centimetres.  (Spindle spinners take note-you can put just about anything onto a yarn spun on a spindle.) 

Feathers, fur, paper and other items may not wash well.  Colours may bleed and the additives themselves can take on a "ratty" appearance, especially if you want to full your yarn. 

Despite these warnings, I have to admit that experimenting with what will and will not spin into an art yarn is rather fun and worth exploring in the interests of pushing your spinning limits. 

The traditional way of adding larger, non fibre elements to hand spun yarns is to string those elements onto a carrier yarn, often a cotton crochet yarn, plied silk or other sturdy yarn.  You can thread a needle fine enough to fit through your bead or button and tie it to your string, then thread as many beads (let's say) as you need, plus a few extras, in case of miscount or flaws.  Use this carrier yarn to ply with your hand spun yarn, placing the beads where you want them.  In some yarns, you may need to ply this plied yarn back with a third yarn to secure the beads in place.

Loose beads, prestrung beads, buttons--all these can be spun into your art yarn!

I prefer to spin buttons or large beads or anything with a hole or an element which can be pierced with a needle directly into the hand spun yarn.  I do this by using a dental floss threader to thread a section of my spinning fibres through the element hole and then overlapping these fibres and the bead, etc. with my main fibres and drafting them into the main yarn. (If you are adding something like fur or silk cocoons, use a needle to pierce the fur or cocoon and thread the fibre through.)

String your elements on to a bit of roving and spin this into your base yarn as you go.

Using this technique to spin the element directly into the yarn has the advantage of allowing you to add a single large element exactly where you want to place it in the yarn.  It also makes that additive an integral part of the yarn, so the extra element is less likely to fall out of your hand spun. This technique is a good choice when you're spinning a singles, because you don't need to ply the yarn to secure the added pieces.  You can still ply the yarn for extra security if you like, wrapping the plying yarn around the bead or button so that it holds everything in place without appearing intrusive.

"Memories" yarn: wool, alpaca with silk, wool, cotton threads, plastic buttons

If you want to add elements which will resemble bows of fibres in your yarn (fur scraps, bits of roving, pieces of fabric and so on), you can spin your usual yarn, split the fibre supply lengthwise at the point where you want to add the strip, slide the piece of fur or fibre into the opening, then add twist to close the opening and secure the element.  (Please, please, wear a mask when working with fur.  The fibre flies everywhere and can cause breathing problems.)

If you are adding feathers to your yarn, look for feathers with a soft shaft or clip the shafts off.  If you don't, the shaft will pop up from the yarn and be scratchy.  You can add the feathers as you spin or as you ply.  In either case, align the feather parallel to the yarn, then use an extra piece of fibre or yarn to wrap the tip of the feather against the yarn.  Be sure the feather is well secured before you feed it onto your bobbin.

So, gather up those bits and bobs which might, just might spin into or onto a yarn, try a few of these techniques and GO WILD!  (I can see it now: "Spinners Gone Wild: The Video!")

Then get ready to go loopy as we look at boucles, spirals and coils.

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