Handpainted Skeins for Warp

This past Tuesday, I was invited to speak at the Richmond Weavers’ & Spinners’ Guild meeting. The Richmond Guild is a wonderfully friendly group of weavers and spinners who have the ultimate in facilities. Their meetings and activities are housed upstairs in the Fibre Arts room of the Richmond Cultural Centre where they have five floor looms available for members to use, along with several table looms, PLUS three dedicated rooms for dyeing! Such a lucky group of weavers!

For this group of weavers, spinners and sometimes dyers, I gave a presentation about handpainted warps in weaving, highlighting examples from my personal heros of this style of weaving. Namely, Sara Lamb and Ptolemy Mann. I absolutely adore the very graphic, vibrant weaving that both these women do. Sara uses her own handspun 2-ply silk yarn that is handpainted and then woven into her warp-faced silk fabrics. And Ptolemy uses handpainted mercerized cotton in her stunning and sculptural warp-faced landscapes.

I reviewed the basics of dyeing and painting warps and then introduced the idea of using already handpainted skeins to mimic the effects of a painted warp. The idea is that if you find a hand-dyed skein that is dyed “across the skein” like you’ll find many hand-dyers do (SweetGeorgia, Lorna’s Laces, Wollmeise, Blue Moon Fiber Arts, to name just a few), you can wind a warp where the colours will line up into blocks. Your warp length will be a multiple of the skein length. Of course you’ll need to be a bit flexible on the length of the warp (you won’t be able to make your warp, say exactly 3.2 yards), but you will be able to do away with having to do any dyeing yourself and you can take advantage of all the beautiful hand-dyed yarns that are so readily available.

In preparation for the meeting, I wove this super long scarf using our Merino Silk Fine (50/50 merino and silk, approx 1725 yards per pound) for the warp. This is 160 ends sett at 22.5 epi and woven on my Louet Spring loom using just plain weave. I used our Spun Silk Lace (100% silk, approx 4400 yards per pound) as weft. I chose it because it is thinner than the Merino Silk Fine and I thought it would lend to the warp-faced quality that I was looking for. It was an absolute breeze to weave this with my trusty old Schacht end-feed shuttle… my selvedges were nothing to be embarrassed about.

Handwoven with Merino Silk Fine and Spun Silk Lace

Handwoven with Merino Silk Fine and Spun Silk Lace

Of course you can use hand-dyed skeins in your warp without paying any attention to making the colours pool. You will get a much different effect, with the colours all intermixing more. The result is that a vibrant skein could be very much subdued by weaving it in this way.

To find out more about using painted skeins for warp, check out these resources: Painted Skeins as Warp, by Syne Mitchell and Handwoven Sept/Oct 2010 issue has an article by Ruth Ronan describes how to use painted skeins as warp. Finally, just for eye candy, check out what Andrea Donnelly of Little Fool Textiles is doing with handpainted warps.

Even before finishing the twisted fringe on this scarf, I was already planning what I want to weave for the next scarf. Have you tried this technique before? Have you used hand-dyed yarns in your weaving? How did you like the result? Would love to hear your thoughts…

  • Ruinwen Dagorielle

    What glorious colors you used in those scarves!

  • Vicki Robinson

    Felicia, I was at the Richmond guild meeting and your presentation was fabulous. Sorry about all the drool to your painted warp scarf after it was handed around the room! thankyou for a very informative and fun evening.