Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Somewhere Over the Rainbow 2015: Weaving with a Ball of Hand Dyed Singles

We had two days of much needed rain, although we could have done without the high winds which accompanied it. The weather was perfect for weaving, so I thought I would show you what I do with those balls of multi-dyed singles that I spin. I set up one of my small Forsythe frame looms with a commercial cotton seine twine warp, selected a ball of yarn which appealed to me and began to weave, without a cartoon or any plan at all, apart from demonstrating how I work with the range of colours available to me in a single ball of yarn. In this photo, you can see the variety of colours in a single skein, which I wound into a centre pull ball:

I have several options when using this yarn; I can work from the inside or the outside of the ball or I can select random sections by winding off yarn until I get the colours I want. In this case, I decided to work from the outside and the inside of the ball, taking the colours as they came to me. I began with the outside of the ball. Working across the width of the tapestry produces subtle stripes, as shown at the bottom of the sample (tentatively named, "Badlands"):

Once I begin to work over smaller areas, the stripes become more evident, shifting into blocks of colour, depending upon the techniques I use (slits and eccentric wefts here). You can see this happening on the left side of the tapestry. If I want to emphasize a particular section, I use an outlining technique - in this case, soumak.

For the background colour (the blue shown here), I wove using yarn from the centre of the ball. I prefer to have a clean surface on both front and back of my work, but in order to maintain a smooth colour transition in the sky, I floated my yarn behind the hoodoo image at centre right. The colour shifts from blue to light pink, at which point, I began weaving with yarns from the inside and outside of the ball. The inside yarn is on the left; the outside yarn is on the right:

You can see the hatching in the centre of the piece and my use of eccentric weft weaving to suggest movement in the sky. The hatching is barely noticeable, but there is a clear difference between the left side and right.

There are a few things to remember when working with multiple colour transitions:

  • When dyeing fibres, make your colours stronger and brighter than you require in your yarn. Spinning with multiple colours mutes everything. If your colours are too subtle, especially if you spin using complementary colours, your yarns will appear muddy and will become more so in your weaving. Choose your colour sequence wisely.
  • Stripes become more prominent as the weaving width covered by the yarn narrows, eventually becoming blocks of colour. The longer your colour runs, the bigger the blocks, so when spinning your yarns, pay attention to the length and order in which you spin your singles. If you want precise placements and shapes, you will have to measure your fibres as you spin. This defeats my intent to make less work for myself, so I eyeball my colours as I spin. 
  • If you want to maintain continuity in your colour transitions, the end which comes off the ball last is the end that goes through the eye of the needle (or is the first to be wound on your bobbin or butterfly). This ensures that the last end off the ball will also be the last end woven. If you aren't concerned with maintaining the shifts, you don't need to pay attention which end came off the yarn package last. 
  • Sample. Sample a lot, especially if you intend to weave larger pieces or if you want to weave specific shapes. Designing with the colours in the yarn is not a beginner's practice. It's easy to get pleasing colours when weaving random sections in a tapestry, but controlling those colours requires paying attention to how the yarn is spun and how that yarn is used in the fabric. Transitions are affected by warp sett, weaving width, beat and techniques. All these things and more affect the final appearance of your work. 

I hope this gives you some idea of how to work with rainbow dyed colours in tapestry. In case you're wondering: "This is all very well for free form weaving, but can I do this if I'm working with cartoons, specific images and larger pieces?" the answer is, yes, you can and I will have more on that in future posts.


1 comment:

  1. Love the colours in this work, Deb! A very interesting series of posts! Thanks for sharing this!