Spinning is by far the largest part of making The 50 Mile Coat. EHS members are hand-spinning the warp and weft, or the vertical and horizontal threads on the looms, as well as the thread for sewing the Coat together. This means that we are spinning different styles of yarn for each purpose.
In this post we are looking at spinning the warp.
What is Warp?
Warp refers to the vertical threads that are placed under tension on the loom. Remember when you were in grade school and making woven place-mats using construction paper? The same over-under principle applies to making cloth: the weaver dresses the loom with the warp threads, placing them under tension so that it is easy to weave the weft (horizontal threads) over and under the warp. Because we’re making approximately 8 yards of cloth for The 50 Mile Coat, we are using a loom that makes the weaving process easier than when you made the construction paper place-mats. We’ll talk about the loom in another post.
Choosing a Warp Yarn
The yarn spun for the warp has to be strong because it must withstand the tension of the loom. We chose to use the fleece from Brandy, a Gotland ewe raised on Dover Farm, for the warp yarn. Gotland sheep have long, lustrous fleece with an open crimp and very little spring (aka when you pull on the fleece there is very little elasticity). The qualities of the Gotland fleece translate into the yarn spun from that fleece – long and strong with very little bounce.
Spinning a Warp Yarn
To make sure we maximized the long and strong qualities of the fleece, Joan, our expert spinner leading the spinning component of the Coat, advised us to spin a higher twist, medium-fine yarn. Twist refers to how many times the fibre has been twisted by the spinning wheel before it is wound onto the bobbin. A high twist yarn has less air between the fibres, producing a stronger and tighter yarn that can stand up to the high tension placed on warp threads.
Next Time…Dressing the Loom
Brandy’s fleece produced a beautiful, grey warp yarn that was quickly wound onto the warping mill and chained into a warp. We’ll talk about dressing the loom, aka putting the warp onto the loom in the next instalment.