|Spools of Faroese yarn against the border of my blanket|
The yarn company is called Sirri. Here's their label:
It's impossible not to notice in the Faroes that the people there are very connected to their land and their history. It's one way they have managed to continue to preserve their language and culture, which in these days of Internet connectedness and general homogenization would be so easy to lose. I can't help thinking this pride in their heritage is evident right in the yarn label, which itself is very (to me) charming, printed in brown ink on light brown handmade-looking paper.
And I love the nostalgic poem on the back - I wish I could understand the Faroese; it's probably better than the English translation.
So back to the wool. Standing in the store hovering over the bins of yarn, I didn't have a plan in mind. I just saw yarn I loved and wanted to have and use, with no possibility of going away, thinking a project through, and returning later to make a purchase. So I just got several white skeins and then one or two each of the other colours and left the planning until later.
When I got home and turned my mind to it, however, and really checked out the yarn, I found that it wasn't going to make a good warp. A basic warp strength test is to take a length of yarn and give it a yank to see if it holds together. This yarn pulled apart easily. Really easily. It was kind of devastating, because I had my heart set on weaving with it.
Something else I had to come to terms with was the fact that it really wasn't very soft. In fact the opposite; it's pretty scritchy. In this close-up below of the strands of yarn -- the four on the right are my Faroese wool -- you can see how they might not be entirely soft, with those thick strands of wool sticking out. Some of the Faroese yarn wasn't very evenly spun, as well -- which is okay, much of my weaving and spinning involve yarns that aren't evenly spun. It gives an effect to the finished work that I really like. Still, in some places it got really very thin, and I knew I'd have to do some finagling to keep the yarn intact in the weaving, lest the structural integrity of the fabric be compromised.
|Yarn on the left - Alpaca/Silk 2/14 yarn from Maurice Brassard - the warp|
Four yarns on the right - my beautiful Faroese yarns - the weft
|The chosen warp -- the "white" Faroese yarn looks creamy yellow in comparison, because of the lanolin left in the wool|
I'd decided to weave a twill pattern both for a nice hang to the fabric, and because there are so many patterns to choose from that would allow a colour contrast between weft and warp threads. Because of the width of my loom (45") I was going to weave the blanket in panels and sew them together. Rather than trying to match stripes of weft colour changes in the panels, I decided to plan "random" stripes of solid colour that wouldn't align. As I looked at patterns I became fascinated with trying an undulating twill -- which, as the name suggests, is a twill with a wavy effect in the pattern. In the end I chose one from Anne Dixon's Handweaver's Pattern Directory, on p. 199, changing the treadling with each colour change. I sett the 2/14 warp yarn at 15 epi for a light, airy fabric.
|Off the loom and washed|
It wove up fast and as always it was a joy to see the pattern reveal itself in the contemplative back and forthing of the shuttles. I love the way the undulating pattern gives a depth to the fabric. I'll definitely be exploring undulating twills in future projects. There are some really nice ones in Helene Bress's The Weaving Book.
Unfortunately, the white Faroese wool wound up washing so white after I got it off the loom that there's very little contrast with the warp. Still, you can see the pattern, and the fabric is really light and airy just as I'd hoped. It will be a lightweight but warm blanket. In places where the weft yarn was spun really uneven and got too thin for comfort, I broke off the yarn, cut out the thin part, then picked up where I left off. I probably had to do that 10 or 12 times altogether, but only with the dark brown wool, so I wonder if it was just a bad batch or something.
Close up you can see what makes the undulating pattern: the warp threads are sometimes grouped or repeated in twos and threes through the same shaft, instead of changing shaft with each thread. In those places the angle of the pattern lines made by the weft changes to a more gradual slope, giving a wavy effect.
Because of a really ridiculous math mistake in calculating how much weft yarn I had, there's loads and loads of yarn left over. I can easily weave two more panels for a larger blanket, so I think that's what's going to happen. The alpaca-silk was wonderful to work with as a warp -- soft and strong -- so I'll get more of it for the other panels, but I think I'll get a light brown colour for more pattern contrast with all four of the weft yarns, and when I sew the panels together I'll alternate them white-brown-white-brown.
|The vagaries of photography turned this white fabric silver - ah well, at least the pattern shows up well!|