Weaving and Knitting Yarns

The value of a length of woven material lies primarily in the time taken in design, loom preparation, the weaving and the fabric finishing. The cost of the weaving yarn is generally a very small proportion of the final value. At first sight there is a huge range of yarns available to the hand loom weaver. Poor weaving yarn selection can ruin all the work invested in the fabric. Savings from buying a cheap yarn are rarely a good or wise investment.

All our yarns are designed to be strong enough for use as weaving yarns. They can all be used in the weft and most are strong enough to cope with the strain of being tugged through heddles as a warp yarn. We have increasingly introduced yarns that push the parameter, which make for interesting three dimensional weaving and also mean that the yarns are suitable for a more interesting range of knitting.

Yarn Counts

Types of YarnThere are a great many systems for defining the ‘grist’ of a yarn. Most come from an area with a tradition of spinning a yarn for a specific purpose. This has given rise to ‘Galashiels Cut’, ‘West of England Hank’, and ‘Yorkshire Skein’ counts for woolen spun yarns. There are also a range of American counts derived from local usage.

Silk, Cotton, Linen and worsted spun wool each have their own systems. These counts have the common characteristic of a higher number indicating a finer yarn and vice versa.

What is YarnMany commercial yarns are now described in ‘Tex’ which defines the weight in grams per 1,000 metres. Here the higher number indicates a heavier yarn. Other direct measuring systems are used for silk including denier, and for linen.

A plied yarn is described by the singles count and the ply, but the order is often inconsistent; eg. 2/6 could describe a two ply or a six ply yarn.

Yarn Weights

Yarns from different countriesAll natural yarns, especially wools, absorb significant quantities of moisture. As a result a package of yarn initially wound to a specific weight may gain or lose up to 10% of its original weight before being sold, and this is the accepted limit within the trade. Retailers will always try to give the correct weight but on occasions cops and hanks may weigh substantially over or under the specified amount by the time they are in the weaver’s hands.

The Twist

Yarn made out of SilkThe twist in singles controls its strength and resistance to rubbing. A high twist gives a hard unyielding yarn whilst a lower twist gives a more elastic feel. When the singles are plied to make the final yarn, the twist in the singles is normally balanced out to give a stable yarn. However some yarns are specially made to retain a considerable amount of twist, and are unbalanced. They ‘snarl up’ when left loose. This energy is used to create a fabric which collapses after being released from the loom, creating a crepe finish.

How Much Yarn?

We are often asked how much yarn is needed for a rug. We invariably give Collingwood’s figures for a flat woven rug.

For warp yarn allow ¾lb yarn for a 3’ x 5’ rug and for weft yarn, allow approximately ½lb yarn per square foot or 2.5kg per square metre.

This helps somewhat towards calculating quantities to have in hand before starting your project – but of course every weaver beats differently so it can only be a guide.

Warp Yarns for Rug and Tapestry Weaving

Yarns for WeavingIn most hand weaving the warp yarns are subject both to tension and abrasion as they pass through the loom. This generally calls for a higher quality yarn than in the weft.

Recent changes in commercial wool and other animal fibre yarn production, such as air splicing, has reduced the number of turns per inch in the final yarn. This, with the shorter fibres, lowers the strength of the yarn. In general most commercial wool yarns are now too fragile for use as warps in hand weaving.

We have identified some production yarns which meet the needs of hand-weavers. Increasingly we commission yarns for the hand weaver, or up-twisting existing yarns to give the necessary strength. Special yarns with a very high twist, for producing crepe or seersucker fabrics can be obtained in both wool and silk.

Fibrecrafts has developed a range of hard spun cotton and linen warps specifically for rug and tapestry weaving.

Weave Hand Spun YarnThe linen warp is commissioned by us and spun in Belgium from local fibre. The Standard linen warp is assembled from dry spun singles. This yarn has a rough finish, allowing the more open sett warp required with a heavy rug weft, holding the weft firmly. Linen warp is hardwearing, but inelastic, and places considerable strain on the loom, particular if a deep shed is required. The more positive shedding action of a countermarch loom is an advantage.

The cotton warps are much more elastic, though not as robust. They are valuable for softer rugs, and for use by the student weaver and particularly for tapestry work. The recommended setts for each weight of warp is given in the product description.

Please visit our Weaving section to find out more and get started with some of our great yarns!

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