Dear Spinning Circle,
Each month, I release Spinning Purls, which is the teaching content that those who are Patrons of the community enjoy! Released on the first Thursday of each month is an accompanying PDF download for those Co-Executive Producers of the show – it is an opportunity to read what is coming in the Spinning Purls Vlog for the month, see extra photos and often, charts, tables and graphics to accompany the content for the month.
At the same time, this year, we were studying the sheep breed, Radnor! Katrina Stewart of Crafty Jaks Boutique had created an amazing study for us to engage in for the year – she really outdid herself this year!
The Wool n’ Spinning Community took this study by storm and I had the pleasure of sharing many of your yarns, projects and makes on the podcast throughout the year, including Seussarian socks, combination spun and plied yarns, beautiful chain-ply and more.
I took my time with this study, starting slow and figuring out what I wanted to do with it. There were a few guiding principles – I wanted to maximise yardage for something woven and showcase the two analogous colourways as best as possible. From September 2022 – December 2022, I wrote and recorded Spinning Purls about my journey through this study, including information about the Welsh breed, mostly isolated in it’s breeding program for many generations due to geographical location, spinning this yarn and finally, weaving beatuiful overshot scarves.
Here is an excerpt from November’s Spinning Purls:
Spinning Purls (November 2022): Plying & Sample Weaving
Plying Hill Radnor
To maximise yardage for this project, I decided to take a singles of the worsted spun and singles of the woollen spun yarn and ply them together. Becca from our community did a great sample of this and shared her findings on the Slack channel, which I included in last month’s Community Participation section of the vlog. I have linked it in the Patreon post for you to go back and watch if you missed either or both Part I and Part II:
- September Vlog – Spinning Analogous Colour here
- September PDF – Spinning Analogous Colour here
- October Vlog – Hill Radnor & Complementary Colour Management here
- October PDF – Hill Radnor & Complementary Colour Management here
We have tackled plying throughout the years here at Wool n’ Spinning. I have discussed plying on many occasions. This Radnor was an interesting fibre because on one hand, it was quite toothy and needed a slightly lighter hand in spinning and plying. Many in our community are planning socks for this fibre.
We have tackled plying throughout the years here at Wool n’ Spinning. I have discussed plying on many occasions. This Radnor was an interesting fibre because on one hand, it was quite toothy and needed a slightly lighter hand in spinning and plying. Many in our community are planning socks for this fibre because it reminds them of fibres like Cheviot, Dorset, Suffolk and others. Many have recalled the Down-like feeling of those fibres and compared them to the Radnor. I completely agree. The hand of this fibre is definitely on the slightly coarser side and in fact, Ekarius & Robson (2013) cite the micron count as being 27 – 33 (p. 210). As we have previously discussed, these hardy Welsh Hill sheep have fleece that evolved to protect them, rather than being selectively bred. Even Ekarius et al. state that because they were relatively isolated throughout history, they probably bred from local selection with little to no outside bloodlines. They are slightly larger and rangier compared to some of the other Welsh Hill and Mountain sheep (Ekarius et al.). Lastly, while the fleece is not rough, it may contain kemp and colour, remains dense and crisp, and good for texture in fabrics (Ekarius et al.). For plying, then, we want to ensure that the end yarn is exactly what we are looking for to suit its goal and purpose. As we have learned again and again, plying really tightly is not the right way to go for every yarn and under-spinning, leaving everything really light and under-plied isn’t the answer for every yarn. We need to know what the end-purpose for the fabric is to help guide us in those decisions!
Yarn Statistics & Swatching
Starting to think about swatching with this yarn is where the rubber hits the road. What do we want to do with this yarn? What type of fabric do we want to create? How can we showcase this breed, yarn, colours and fabric in its best light? What are the elements of design we want to draw the viewer’s attention to and away from? Is there anything in particular or are we wanting to create a purely functional piece?
For me personally, it is important to make good fabric, whether knitted or woven. Starting with a gauge swatch allows me to see what the knitted fabric might behave like and how I might begin to design a piece of clothing or accessory. There are a couple of things to keep in mind with this yarn, though, and that is I’m not sure I want this right up against my neck for a long time, if at all, and while this would be amazing for outerwear, I’m not sure I want these two colours in a sweater … I don’t think I would wear it. That said, I have copious yardage to use in a larger project so the mind starts to go wild with possibility.
Further Woven Sampling: Overshot // Floatwork
Just to completely complicate things, I wanted to weave some overshot samples of the Radnor just to see what they might look like. I had a bit of warp left from some lace samples that I had worked on earlier in the Fall. That episode of welfordWEAVES about the lace samples is available on YouTube for everyone to watch and enjoy. I re-threaded this warp into a simple overshot motif that kind of worked … there were some areas where the floats were too long but I made it up quickly based on an overshot scarf pattern from Jane Stafford’s Online Guild and probably should have spent a bit more time. But we are just sampling! This isn’t supposed to be super complicated. I just wanted something to be able to see what might be created – I didn’t even care about the colours. We are investigating fabric here, namely set.
The leftover warp on the loom was 8/2 cotton and I re-sleyed it to 15EPI. Normally we would weave 8/2 cotton between 18 – 22EPI for plain weave and 22 – 24EPI for twill. I love 8/2 cotton set at 22 EPI for twill – it’s divine! It feels like two layers of fabric and the absorbancy is amazing.
Overshot is a fascinating structure in which the ground is woven in plain weave, or tabby, and then an additional pattern yarn is added overtop to create a design. There are literally two patterns being woven at the same time – one in plain weave and one in another yarn to create anything from circles to blocks to ovals and beyond. These patterns are created by creating weft floats, the yarn that we place into the web as we weave up the warp. If woven correctly, according to Black (1957), a 50/50 web with the same number of ends and picks will be found if the pattern yarn is cut away. In general terms, when choosing a wool pattern weft, the set should be for plain weave for the ground yarns or the background but ‘open enough that the wool threads have room to swell with fulling’ (Van der Hoogt, 2017).
After weaving one little sample of the overshot piece to see what the fabric would be like, I knew the set of the 8/2 cotton was too open for the Radnor yarn, which was finer. I needed to either decrease the size of the warp yarn, down to a 10/2, or tighten up the 8/2 set. I know this is a lot of numbers talking but now that you can see the samples next to one another, you can see that the floats of the original sample move around, there are holes and the fabric doesn’t look cohesive. Instead, with the slightly tighter set, here I bumped it to 18 and you can see the fabric progressively change.
Overall, while I set the 8/2 cotton at 15 EPI for an open, drapey overshot fabric, I think it’s actually too open for this particular wool since it’s on the fine side. Weaving to plain weave at 18 EPI creates a lovely fabric for a coverlet or blanket, scarf or lightweight item. These samples gave me a ton of information and I can use them for future ideas, inspiration and learning.
If you are curious about what other Spinning Purls content you would have access to with joining, please have a look here. It’s pretty comprehansive! And of course, the major reason to join is the amazing community you would be accessing, which mostly takes place over on Slack. I hope to ‘see’ you over there!