Yarn First – Project Second
It happens to the best of us. Weaver sees yarn. Weaver buys yarn. Weaver has no idea what to do with yarn.
We’ve all been there.
In fact, if you’re like me you have quite a stash of yarn that is sitting and waiting to be used! Skeins and cones that I picked up just because I liked the color or as souvenirs. So what happens when you find this amazing yarn, but you don’t have a project in mind? Have you ever thought about letting your yarn determine your weaving project?
Let’s go over how to create a weaving project around your yarn instead of the other way around.
Know Your Yarn
The first thing you need to do is determine what the yarn can be used for. You need to look at the size, fiber content, strength, color, and feel.
I go over finding your perfect warp yarn in THIS post so check that out if you’re wondering about whether your yarn will work as warp. Once you determine that, you can move on.
Generally speaking almost anything can be used as weft, but not every weft is created equal. At least not for every weaving project.
Think about this in relation to the warp you are choosing. Perhaps you are using the same yarn as warp and weft, in either case, think about how your yarns will interact.
Your yarn size plays a really important part of the type of weaving that you are trying to create. Consider what type of weaving works well with the yarn you have. If your yarn is really thick, it might serve you best as a rug weft or couched onto the surface of your tapestry. Really thin yarns aren’t always ideal for tapestries unless you are weaving something intricate – unless you want to be weaving forever.
The yarn’s size can help you figure out what EPI you should use or at least start with for your sampling. Even if you didn’t purchase this yarn online, you can always check out the information for similar sized yarns to see what their recommended warp setts are as a good place to start. Hopefully you have the packaging or information stickers from the yarn you are wanting to use. This will tell you what size yarn you have. If you don’t know the size, then you can estimate an EPI to start with by figuring out the WPI.
I talk more about WPI in my weaving planning e-book! You can learn more about that by clicking on the image below!
What’s your yarn made of?
Since different materials have different things that they excel at, this is important to keep in mind. If you find yourself with a wool yarn, you probably won’t want to use it to make tea towels since the wool would take a long time to dry.
Some examples of types of fibers that you might want to use for common weaving projects:
Towels (fast drying) – Cotton and linen
Scarves (warm, drapes well) – Wool, Alpaca, Acrylic. A spring or early fall scarf might be made from cotton or cottolin instead because it’s lighter.
Rugs (holds up to heavy traffic) – Wool, Acrylic, Cotton (mostly as warp)
Tapestry – Cotton or linen warp and wool weft (wool dyes better than other yarn types)
That doesn’t mean you are stuck using these materials for these particular projects. For example, most of my tapestries are made with cotton and linen weft because I’m more interested in the material than the range of colors that I can get. So do whatever feels right, but keep in mind what may be the best fit.
How strong does your yarn need to be? If you’re using it as warp then it’s important that your yarn be strong in order to hold up to the tension it will be under. This is even more important if you are using it for your tapestry warp since it requires an even tighter tension than other weaving types.
Even weft will need a certain level of strength especially if you are creating a functional weaving. Yarn that is easy to break isn’t ideal for rugs that are going to see a lot of traffic. They will be more likely to fall apart after some use.
Different fibers are going to have different strengths mostly due to the way they are spun and the properties of the material. For example, linen is a very strong yarn because the flax plant that is used to create it has long fibers. The longer the fibers are, the harder it will be for them to pull a part.
To test your yarn out you can hold it in each hand and pull! Do this a couple times like you can see above. If it breaks easily, it is most suitable for non-functional work or as an accent yarn.
Color doesn’t play a huge role in the type of weaving you can create, but it might play a role in the type of weaving you want to create. You can play around with color combinations between your different yarns to create fun and interesting weaving projects.
Try wrapping your yarns you want to use around a piece of card stock or cardboard for a super quick way to see how good they look together. You can even save this and put it in your yarn notebook or sketchbook for future reference. On that note, make sure to record your new yarn in your notebook so if you like it, you can remember where to get more!
You could also just have all your skeins/ cones next to each other for color reference, but wrapping them let’s you see your colors in the ratio that you will see them in your weaving. Also, it looks nice! (it’s the little things sometimes)
This can be as simple as holding the yarn.
Is it soft or scratchy?
This will help you to determine if your yarn is suitable for functional weavings like scarves and blankets or better off used on your woven wall hangings.
If you want to use it as a scarf then try rubbing it on your face and neck! Since this is where your scarf will be worn it’s important that it’s comfortable. Something to keep in mind is that some yarns will get softer after washing, so you might want to test it out after it’s been washed. Do this by either washing a woven sample or a few strands of the yarn. Some yarns get fuzzier and some get softer after being washed.
Another thing you can do is to squish the yarn between your fingers to get a feel for how tightly spun it is. Yarns that aren’t spun as tight and have more air in them tend to feel softer because they have some give. Looser spun yarns will compress more when you beat down on them and might even drape better.
The best way to test the drape of a yarn is to – you guessed it – create a sample. Drape is determined by the warp and weft material as well as the weave structure. But, a strand or two draped over your hand unwoven is better than nothing if you can’t weave up a sample.
Create a sample
I’m sure you saw this coming…
Samples are an amazing learning tool that you can use as a new or more advanced weaver. I use them all the time!
Doing these samples can help you figure out certain things like if your yarn is going to shrink after washing it. Does it get softer after a few washes? How do your different yarns (if using more than 1) interact?
Create a sample and then put it through the ringer (or washer) and try it out in different scenarios to see if it holds up to what you want it to do.
This will help you to figure out what to do with your yarn because now you have a real life example of what it is or isn’t good for!
Make sure your sample is large enough to actually get some information out of it – at least 2 inches by 2 inches. Or make more than 1. That being said, if you have limited amounts of this yarn then multiple samples may not be the best option. You don’t want to use it all up before you can fully make something! In that case, prioritize what you need to know in order to get weaving.
Once you have all of this information, the only thing left is to find your inspiration and start weaving! If you’re letting your yarn determine your weaving project then it’s very possible that the yarn itself is your inspiration! In that case – just make sure it will work first!
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