Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Somewhere Over the Rainbow 2015: Spinning Yarns

My last post walked you through one of the dyeing techniques I use for my hand spun tapestry singles yarns. Once I’ve rainbow dyed, washed and dried my Romney fleece, I sort it into locks and more jumbled fibres. Both sets of fibres will be used to spin tapestry yarns, but I treat them differently. Individual locks are divided into colourways for spinning from the lock, either as is or after combing with a dog comb. The rest of the fleece will be carded or combed on wool combs, depending upon its end use.

Spinning from locks retains the beautiful lustre of this Romney fleece and allows me to produce colour gradients, either subtle or distinctive, in my yarns. It is also easier for me to produce yarns which mimic tapestry techniques when I spin from locks. Tapestry woven with lock spun wefts has a smoother surface and higher lustre than tapestry woven with woollen yarns; however, the strength of the yarn and the parallel arrangement of its fibres mean that the wefts don’t pack as well over the warp yarns. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I do a lot of needle weaving and don’t use a shedding device very often, so I sometimes find that worsted singles shred as I weave them over and under the warps, usually when I set up a linen warp. While woollen yarns may pill in the shed, worsted yarns tend to drift apart all at once, so I have to work with short pieces of yarn and overlap my joins well. In most cases, this isn’t a problem – my pieces are small and require only short wefts and experience has taught me to anticipate any yarn drift which I can prevent by rolling the yarn between my fingers in the direction of the twist as I weave.

All of the yarns from this batch of dyeing were spun Z, cut end to tip on a top whorl spindle. This photograph shows Skein #1, spun directly from locks which were opened at the cut end, but which had no other preparation.  This yarn is slightly more textured and fuzzier than the next two larger skeins, which were spun from dog combed locks. Note the PVC niddy noddy – after spinning the yarns, I wind them on these noddies, twist the noddies flat to produce more tension on the yarns, then wash and dry them on the noddies.The locks below are the original colours in this skein. If you are planning a colourway using this technique, remember that the colours are stronger and brighter in the locks. Colours opposite on the colour wheel will blend to produce browns; equal amounts of opposite colours can muddy otherwise clear colours. Experiment a bit before you spin an entire batch to determine which colours work well together and how gradually you want your colours to transition.

This batch of lock spinning produced approximately 475 yards of worsted style weft yarns. You can see the strong colour shifts in the larger skeins. Depending upon the effect I want, I can use these yarns from either end or from the centre to place the colours where I need them. If I decide that I want a gradient shift in my colours without using tapestry techniques – such as winding multiple colours on a bobbin and then dropping or changing out colours as I weave – I spin fewer locks of any one colour and make them into smaller skeins which can be woven as is across the web. (This then begs the question: am I weaving tapestry, i.e., discontinuous weft-faced weave or am I weaving rugs? I’m not a purist and tend to go with whatever works best for me.)

There you have it – step two in the long, but rewarding process of weaving tapestry from hand spun singles.



  1. Beautiful yarn, Deb! Can't wait to see the next step!


  2. Thanks. It will be coming, but it's too hot here right now to weave.