Bulky Scarves for Winter
By: Melissa Ludden Hankens
A couple of months ago, I discovered the Fibershed project (fibershed.wordpress.com). The challenge of the project is for the author, Rebecca Burgess, to live for a full year in “clothes made from fibers that are solely sourced within a geographical region no larger than 150 miles” from her home. This also includes any dyes used to color the fabrics. Check out her fashion show post to see some truly inspirational handcrafted clothing!
If you have seen the new natural dyeing book “Harvesting Color”, you may be familiar with Rebecca, who, along with being the author, is a fiber artist and educator. I now find myself longing to live in Northern California, or at least within driving distance of Sally Fox’s natural cotton fields.
All of this got me thinking about where my weaving yarns come from. For a while now, I have been interested in the whole sheep-to-shawl at-home concept: Start with a fleece fresh from a furry animal, prepare it for spinning, spin it up, and then turn the yarn into something useable. I like the idea that I have looked into the eyes of the animal who spent a year growing some fiber for me. Even if you aren’t a spinner, it is still possible to get yarns from local fiber producers and have it spun by a handspinner in your area or at a mill. A favorite of my weaving guild’s is Still River Fiber Mill in Eastford, Connecticut (stillriverfibermill.com).
I was so fortunate to receive some gorgeous alpaca fleece from Parker River Alpacas in Byfield, Massachusetts (pralpacas.com) as a gift from my guild. A few weeks ago we had our guild meeting there, and I was able to meet three of the four alpacas I was spinning: Stella, Terricci and Kokomo. With the images of these gorgeous alpacas and the Fibershed project in mind, I sketched out my idea for this month’s project, a wide scarf made entirely of local alpaca I had spun. I met with a couple of bumps along the way. My lessons:
Lesson #1. Listen to your weaving instincts. I spun a lovely fine singles and instead of plying like I knew I should, I decided to try it as a singles. The warped proved very sticky and too weak, and after weaving about eight inches, I cut off what I’d woven and decided to start over.
Lesson #2. Washing your handspun yarn is a good idea. I didn’t wash my singles, so the twist was
not yet set. When I cut into my warp to remove the woven section, the remaining unwoven, unwound
warp threads twisted up on themselves, making a tangled mess.
I unwound the warp, making sure that the groups of threads twisting together were fairly small. If I couldn’t warp with them and I couldn’t weave with them as singles, I would use the twisted up groups of singles to create a bulky weft. I wasn’t about to let all of my hard work spinning go to waste.
I still wanted to weave a delicate scarf with my singles, but was also thinking that a bulkier scarf to keep me cozy this winter might be nice, too. So why not weave two scarves! Setting aside the Fibershed project for this month, I decided to head in a slightly different direction. I was curious to see how my handspun alpaca would pair with other yarns so I went to my stash to see if there were any good warp options to choose from.
I quickly selected some gorgeous Southdown to warp my bulkier scarf. (Having made the woven cube in Issue 16 using this same yarn, I knew it would wash up beautifully soft and be plenty sturdy as a warp yarn.) I spun a 3-py yarn of Kokomo, Terricci and Stella to create a brown and white heathered yarn that matched the Southdown in weight. Here are the project details:
Warp length: 108”
Width in reed: 12”
Ends per inch: 8
Picks per inch: 9
Warp: Worsted weight Southdown ~288 yards
Weft: 3-ply alpaca created a worsted weight yarn ~270 yards and about 10 - 20 yards of bulky or extra bulky weight yarn to create a change in your weft, if you are so inclined.
This was woven on my Flip loom in plain weave. I used my bulky strands of recycled alpaca warp to add some textural interest at both ends of the scarf.