A Spinners Milestone: Weaving with Handspun Yarn

I have been spinning yarn since 2005. My first experience with the luxury of working with natural fibers was after winning a gift certificate to Evelise’s Yarn Shop at the Berrien County Youth Fair . An Afghan that I had crocheted with acrylic yarn won Reserved Grand Champion.  With the gift certificate I bought my first designer yarn, a black cotton, and a pattern for a beaded crochet handbag. The bag was a success and I was in love.

learning-to-spin

My first bag made with fancy commercial cotton yarn. Still sparkling after 16 years.

 

Unfortunately I could not afford to buy more natural yarns. I was over the cheapo acrylic and so I stopped crocheting. At college the following year I gained new hope of acquiring “good” yarn when a professor at my university did a show and tell with spinning equipment. I became fixed on the idea of spinning my own yarn.

Online I ordered a kit that came with a book , Spin It by  Lee Raven and 1oz of roving. The book had instructions on how to make a spindle out of a CD. With a pencil, CD, and the small bit of sliver I became a spinner. Shortly afterwards I learned to knit.

spinit-book

The book that started it all.

I knitted a lot of lace shawls with my handspun. I love making them but that was all I would do with my yarn.  After a while I had way more yarn than projects I wanted to knit up. I kind of got bored.

For the longest time (12 years!) I was so afraid that my yarn wouldn’t be strong enough to weave with, especially my cotton. It was only safe to crochet with it.

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Crochet shawl made from hanspun cotton dyed with tumeric. The pattern is Moondrop by Lori Carlson published in Interweave crochet Winter 2016

A few years ago I had crocheted a ruffled throw with my natural colored cotton  See it here that I wasn’t all that happy with. I just kept crocheting in a round until I had used up all of the different colors of cotton in my stash. After a while it started to come apart  where I doubled the stitch count. I decided that I had nothing to lose by unraveling the throw to reuse the yarn for weaving.

I warped random colors on my Leclerc Dorothy table loom that I bought in my college days. With a simple plain weave I slowly but surely realized that my worries were unfounded. Without any special treatment I was able to weave an eclectic little scarf. Oh the new possibilities!

This week I met a new milestone. I am now using my handspun to weave!

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Finished handspun, handwoven natural colored cotton scarf. I’m in love!

Not wanting to lose momentum I decided to unravel a shawl I knit from handspun wool. I alternated a painted handspun with a natural gray that proved to be scratchy against my skin. The pattern was just mindless, uninspired blah. I wouldn’t miss it. Finding a darker grey rambouillet yarn in my handspun stash that was nice and soft  I began warping my Dick Blick Art Craft table loom. Sadly the loom sat untouched for 6 years. I found it at a garage sale in Amish country for $125 and thought it was too fine of a machine to pass up.

So far so good. I am looking forward to doing more with my handspun.

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Handspun wool weaving in progress. I am using stick shuttles because they give me more weaving space on a table loom.

 

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2014 Cotton Finale

It’s been a long growing season (February to November). My 2014 northern Indiana cotton crop is finally in.  This year I tried a few different things in hopes of increasing my yield, like well, planting twice as many plants and fertilizing. It didn’t work. I did not get as much as last year . This probably should not be called a crop (false advertisement right?). The huge yield I had last year amounted to less than 4 ounces 🙂 All the same I enjoyed watching it grow. However small the amount it is still useful. Next year I will most likely need to replace the soil on the side of the house where I grow it and plant less. I think poor spacing and depleted soil caused me to get less yield.

I ended up picking the cotton at the end of October, earlier than usual (mid November) because it kept raining and I didn’t want the cotton to rot. I already had a few casualties at this point.

Too much rain. This cotton boll rotted

Too much rain. This cotton boll rotted

The cool thing is even if you pick the bolls early while they’re still green, they still open up just fine on their own as they dry. It takes about two weeks but they will open. It’s actually kind of cool to watch.

I like the cool, finger-like leaves that cover the bolls

I like the cool, finger-like leaves that cover the bolls

My little nephew Waymel was glad to help.

My little nephew Waymel was glad to help  with the bucket

 

Cotton Bolls picked early

Cotton Bolls picked early

This boll is starting to split

This boll is starting to split

 

I potted two plants and brought them inside. I'm curious to see what they look like next year. Cotton tree maybe?

I potted two plants and brought them inside curious to see what they will look like next year. Cotton tree maybe?

This is it. I haven’t seeded the cotton yet. Right now I’m enjoying the fluffy, cuteness in a bowl on my mantel.

My tiny little cotton crop

My tiny little 2014 cotton crop

Update:2014 Indiana Cotton Crop

I am still obsessed with the idea of growing my own fiber for spinning and weaving. Living on a small city lot leaves me few options. Sheep  won’t work  here and flax needs special tools to process. Last year I was given a single cotton boll with seeds intact. I planted them in my kitchen that February. They grew!! Read here

I decided to plant more seeds this year. Read here.

The little cotton patch. There are about 26 small plants

The little cotton patch. There are about 26 small plants

When I put the seedlings outside in June they were very weak and spindly from lack of sunlight. They have since really perked up. There are plenty of blooms (by northern standards like 6 per plant) and 4 bolls of natual brown cotton have opened up so far.

The nodes where the cotton flowers bloom are forming underneath the leaves

The nodes where the cotton flowers bloom are forming underneath the leaves

A newly opened cotton bloom. It will only last 1 day then turn pink and fall off. The cotton boll forms underneath.

Here is a close up of one of the cotton bolls. It could be white or brown cotton when it opens up. I didn't mark the plants

Here is a close up of one of the cotton bolls. It could be white or brown cotton when it opens up. I didn’t mark the plants

I spotted the 1st boll open last week. It’s brown cotton

Close up of the 1st brown boll

Close up of the 1st brown boll

I found 3 more cotton bolls opened today. More brown.

I found 3 more cotton bolls opened today. More brown.

I’m looking forward to seeing how much cotton I will get this year since I planted twice as many seedlings.  At this point I can only grow them on the east side of my house so they do not get much space. The odds of me growing even 1 pound of cotton in northern Indiana are pretty slim. Nonetheless I will just as happy if I grow 3 ounces.  I should have enough to make a spectacular shawl when I combine the 2 years crops.