The Finer ThingsThings to Make and Do

Spinning, dyeing and weaving has taken over the cottage!

Part of this take over, as mentioned in another recent spinning, dyeing and weaving post, is what came to be known as the ‘Project’.

The aim was to take raw fleece through all the processes, to end up with a finished textile item – a scarf. The aim, also, was to produce something ‘proper’ and not some strange arty, hippy object pretending to be a scarf.

This is the Ta-dah moment! And here is the story from start to finish.

Raw product – in this case the white parts of a Jacob fleece

  1. Scour the fleece (i.e wash is gently to remove grease (lanolin) and dirt. Also picking through it to remove twigs, seeds etc.
  2. Card the fleece ready for spinning.
  3. Spin the prepared fibre. This involves spinning 2 ‘singles’ and then these plying together. The resulting yarn was quite fine (a little over 4 ply weight). After usually spinning ‘in the grease’ this clean fibre was more slippy and easier to spin more finely – oh but the hours! There was about 1400m of plied yarn by the end, more than required but better to be safe than sorry.
  4. More washing/scouring – both to set the twist and also to remove as much lanolin as possible ready for dyeing.Each skein went through 2 washes – steeped in hot soapy water, left and then rinsed each time.
  5. Mordanting. To prepare the yarn to take the dye.
  6. Dyeing. One skein was left undyed. The others were dyed the red cabbage and cochineal. The cabbage dye colour (top) was subtle compared to the usual sock yarn dyeing results. But cochineal is such potent stuff that it cut through any residual grease without a second thought.
  7. Making the warp. This is the first stage of the weaving process. After a bit of planning and maths to have the correct lengths of yarn in the right colours in the right order ready to go onto the loom.Tied up into a chain here to keep safe and in order.
  8. And at last – weaving! Once the loom was dressed with the warp the weaving part was almost plain sailing. The yarn held up pretty well as a warp, just one broken thread to fix along the way and just a couple of snags. The weave chosen had some texture, the aim being to highlight rather than disguise the yarn’s ‘personality’ (i.e imperfections).
  9. Wet finishing. The ‘Project’ comes off the loom. As well as needing a little tidying up, at this stage it feels somewhat stiff and needs ‘finishing’ to become proper cloth. This basically involves another hot wash, this time with a little agitation, just enough for the threads to bind and hold together, making the fabric more stable and strong. It’s sort of slight, controlled felting. After rinsing it was left to dry, smoothed out from time to time but not presses, wanting to retain the texture.


Oh but the hours!