Pink/Purple Handspun Rigid Heddle Panel, January 2018


I was scheduled to demo for my guild at a local history museum on Saturday, January 27, 2018. I have demoed there before, and it’s a lovely little museum with very nice employees and volunteers. There’s no guarantee how many people will stop by, so any of us who are demoing bring a project. I always bring my 10 inch Cricket warped, my Dr. Who lunchbox with a couple of spindles and fiber, and samples of handspun, woven items and knit items. Whoever is demoing sets up on the porch, as the inside of the museum is full of things to look at. My guild provides a demo loom with a warp on it and quite a few samples of woven items. There was also a lovely display of 1900 ish gowns, quilts from a local group, embroidery, and items on permanent display from the local area.

I warped my 10 inch Schacht Cricket loom on Friday, in the driveway, so I could direct warp without the assistance of cats (they are just TOOOOO helpful). It was a very breezy day, and the yarns kept blowing and catching on various parts of the loom or the slats of the roll up wooden tables I use. It took me about twice as long to warp as it would have taken if it hadn’t been breezy!

I had been thinking about what yarns to use, and hadn’t decided until it was time to put SOMETHING on the loom. I decided to use a variety of balls of handspun in pinks and purples that I had spun and plyed a few years ago. The yarns weren’t remotely the same size, fiber or twist. Some of the yarn was a fine fingering/lace weight and overplyed in spots. Some was a 2 ply with very soft spots, held together overall because I had plyed the softer ply with a well-twisted merino/tencel blend. While they weren’t the greatest examples of my spinning, all the yarns coordinated! I had wool (mostly Merino), a Merino/tencel blend, a Merino/bamboo blend, probably some BFL, a small batt of mixed fibers and colors and a blend that had some silk in it as well. Naturally this was spun before I started (mostly) keeping track of labels for fiber so I would know what I had after it was spun. As I still don’t consistently log how much yardage I end up with, documentation is a work in progress.

I used a 10 dent rigid heddle and started playing with the warp yarns. I was hoping that mixing yarns across the warp, including whether or not I used two very fine threads in one dent or hole vs a much larger yarn in a dent or hole, would even things out after wet finishing. It was fun (other than untangling things in the breeze) and the colors were pretty when it was warped. I missed a hole or two during my initial threading, and simply used a yarn from a nearby slot with doubled threads.

cricket warped with pink purple handspun jan 2018

I learned something I “knew” intellectually but hadn’t experienced before: when you mix yarns that don’t have much recovery/sproingyness (yes, I made that up) with yarns that are very springy, you won’t get a shed if you don’t pull all the yarns very firmly as you wind on. It took me 4 tries and a hand cramp to properly tension the warp so I had a clean down shed as well as a clean up shed. There were a few minutes when I thought about giving up and cutting out the bouncy yarns….

I also remembered why I shouldn’t put that wide a warp on the loom. The sticks and paper I use are 10 inches wide, which is really just barely long enuf for a warp that is over 9 inches wide—at least, the way I wind on. I had a couple of ends that slipped off the paper when I loosened the warp for travel (yes, I know that some people never loosen their warp, but I haven’t tried that yet). I was happy I had my trusty S hooks of different sizes (weights). One of the other two guild members demoing with me is a recent rigid heddle owner, and she really liked the S hook idea. I don’t remember where I first saw them used, so can’t give proper credit. (She is an experienced multi-harness floor loom weaver, does gorgeous bead weaving, and has taken many, many classes to try out different techniques.)

The warp was about 2 ¾ yards long and just over 9 inches wide. I decided to start using the finer yarns as weft and see how far they went, and use the thicker yarns as needed towards the end of the warp. I was really expecting that the cloth would have lots of texture from the springy yarns shortening a lot more than the finer, less springy yarns. I was planning to use the fabric to make a bag to use at future demos to explain how different yarns behave differently after wet finishing. I had about equal amounts of a pale but bright pinky coral yarn, and a purple yarn with bright and intense sections. Both had bits of other colors from the blends I used. The heavier yarns had a wider range of color, including bits of white from tencel only sections.

first few inches pink purples rh jan 2018


closeup pink purple rh fabric jan 2018

another closeup pink purple rh jan 2018

I wove some stripes of different lengths, and just kept going. By the end of the demo, I had woven off about 2/3 of the warp. I really liked the colors, and everyone who saw it liked the colors (although not everyone was a pink/purple person). I did a basic hemstitch at the beginning and end of the weaving. As I assumed it would be unsuitable as a scarf/wrap, I only protected an inch or so of fringe.

I finished weaving the next day, weaving right up to the end of the warp. At the end I used the heavier, textured yarn that had at least one ply spun from the batt. I have a small ball of the heavier yarn left. Off the loom the woven fabric was just over 2 yards long, and 9 inches wide.  You can see the texture in the panel off the loom, before wet finishing.

end of pink purple rh warp jan 2018

most of pink purple rh panel

On Monday January 29, I put the fabric panel in very warm water with Eucalan wool wash I have had for years. Tons of color ended up in the water, which reminded me that there had been a lot of excess dye when I originally wet finished the yarn. I did three more passes with very warm water and a bit of Eucalan, adding a color catcher at the end. Very little color attached to the color catcher, so I called it good enough. I squished out as much water as possible in a towel, and then laid it out on doubled towels on my bed (away from cats) to dry. I changed the towels twice, and even set up a fan to blow on it some. After four hours it was nearly dry, so I hung it over a hanger to complete drying over night.

Amazingly, the fabric didn’t take up in weird and wonderful ways, given the differences in stretch/recovery of the yarns. I expected the prior wet finishing of the skeins would limit how much it would change due to simply being exposed to water. In fact, the fabric is smooth, feels wonderful with the tencel, bamboo and silk, and is fairly soft. Those overspun bits didn’t affect the overall fabric much. It has a lot of drape, and is really not suited to be a tough bag fabric if I actually wanted to use the bag. Now I need to think about what it will become. I can always spin more coordinating yarn to add to the panel, altho I might have a small skein of yarn that will coordinate in my stash of “spun for fun” yarn.

Finished size: just under 2 yards in length, and an average of 8.5 inches in width, varying from 8.25 to 8.75.

Side 1 full length and a bit of a closeup

pink purple washed s1           pink purple washed s1 closeup

Side 2 full length and a bit of a closeup

pink purple washed s2      pink purple washed s2 closeup

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