February 2021 Ask Me Anything

Welcome to the February Ask Me Anything blog post where we focused on fibre and yarn!

I thought this would be a good way to share a little bit of what goes into running a solo weaving studio from the North East of Scotland. You can ask me anything from the world of textiles, from questions about colour and inspiration to the slightly less fun but just as important business side too! You can submit questions for next month's blog on the first of each month through my Instagram Stories or by posting in the comments below.

Balls of wool fleece in shades of brown and grey
British fleece waiting to be spun

Do you use British yarns?

At the moment, all of the yarn I use is sourced in the UK. For me, the sustainability and ethical background of the fibre is as important as the country it comes from so for smaller, bespoke pieces I try to source yarns which are traceable, organic and local if possible. Most of the yarn I use in bigger projects I'm able to buy by the kilo from a mill in Yorkshire where it has been spun and dyed. Obviously the origin of the yarns has a large impact on the end cost of each piece so it's not always practical to use organic yarns 100% of the time, but by creating a balance I know that the business is as sustainable as I can make it.

What type of yarn do you use the most?

I use 2/17 Nm merino wool in the majority of weaving in the studio. The mill I source the yarn from has an amazing variety of colours and it's beautifully soft too. I enjoy weaving with wool more than other fibres because of the change it goes through during the finishing process. A fabric can be woven on the loom with quite large gaps between each end/pick but as soon as it's washed, it all pulls together to create a solid design. It's exciting to see it change but it also makes the weaving easier because you can spot any mistakes quickly!

When weaving with alpaca, do you order yarns to be processed specifically or do you buy ready made yarn?

I've used a mix of hand spun and mill bought yarns in the past but alpaca has always been a bit of a tricky one. I did look into having alpaca fleece processed specifically for me to weave a small number of scarves with a few years ago but at the time it ended up being so expensive to process a small amount that the end price point of the scarves would have been in the thousands. Since then I've used ready made alpaca yarn for warps and hand spun and dyed the weft yarns myself but it's definitely something I would consider looking at again for a collection with a larger volume of pieces.

What's the most unusual animal/plany you have spun fibres from? (or have heard of?)

I've not been too adventurous with spinning so far, mainly sticking to varieties of wool, alpaca and silk but I did meet someone who's son processed and spun fibres from nettles which sounded really interesting! I find it difficult sometimes to be adventurous with fibres within the business because I always have to consider the end outcome and subsequent cost

What is your current favourite fibre?

At the moment I'm working my way through a couple of Romney fleeces that came from a farm just up the road from the studio. They belonged to two sheep called Roy and Cobweb and were prize winning fleeces at the show a few summers ago! I've been washing, drying, carding and spinning the fleece and am planning on using natural dyes on some once the weather warms up this spring. The yarn is for a big project coming up later this year, I'll be sharing more about it at some point so look out for that!

Do you custom dye your fibres?

I love dying fibres before spinning them and have used a variety of methods in the past. One I come back to often is with acid dyes and wool, it can be done in a day, produces bright shades and doesn't make too much mess.

I have been working on a few natural plant dyes too, it's a much slower method but the resulting colours are lovely!

What draws you to a specific fibre?

The possibilities! Raw fibre has so much potential before you begin processing it and I love to experiment with new textures and shades. I have a little table top drum carder and really enjoy blending fibres together to create new yarns, it always feels a bit like mixing paint colours.

The end use has a big impact on fibre choice too. A yarn to be used in weaving wall art wouldn't need to have the same properties as one to be used in a fabric which will be against skin like a scarf.

Single or plied?

It really depends on the use of the yarn. I use hand spun single yarns in the weft without any issues and find that it's a better weight for my style of weaving. I've never used hand spun yarn in the warp but with the amount of tension it would be under plied yarns would definitely be the best choice.

I've been trying a few methods of plying to create textured yarns which has been interesting, my favourite so far are the spiral yarns!

What is your dream fibre?

I love working with alpaca fibre (even if it is a bit slippery when you're spinning it!) It's so soft right from the start and its a dream to blend on the drum carder. One day I hope to have a few pet alpacas of my own and be able to produce a yearly capsule collection with the fibre!

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