After the spinners finished spinning the warp threads, the another type of yarn was needed: the weft. When making cloth, threads are interlaced (remember the over/under technique from paper placemats?) with one another. The warp threads run vertically and the weft threads run horizontally. While the warp threads need to be strong, the weft threads can be soft and scrumptious. This post discusses spinning the weft threads.
What is Weft?
Weft refers to the horizontal threads in cloth. These threads are loaded onto a bobbin (the wooden boat-like item seen in the photo above) that the weaver can easily slide throuth the shed, or the space between the two sets of warp threads. The shed is created with the cross and the process of dressing the loom, or putting the warp threads on the loom and setting up the loom for weaving.
Weft threads are not under tension, which means that structurally weft threads do not need to be as strong as warp threads.
Choosing a Weft Yarn
Both Finn and Rambouillet sheep are known for their fine, soft fleece. Sleepy’s fleece had lots of crimp and was very springy: pulling on either end of the a lock of Sleepy’s fleece felt like pulling on an elastic band. This meant that we had to add one more fibre preperation technique to get a fleece that was easy to spin: wool combing.
Wool combing straightens out the fibres, points them all in the same direction and takes out any short fibres, bits of grass or other debris. For a very fine fleece like Sleepy’s only using the drum carder didn’t straighten out and clean out the fibres enough.
Combing is time consuming but it produces combed top which is very nice to spin from. Thankfully the Guild has some skilled wool combers, like Maureen here, keeping the spinners in combed top.
Spinning the Weft Yarn
In order to maximize the soft qualities of Sleepy’s fleece, we spun the weft yarn medium-fine with lots of air. Instead of smoothing out the yarn to make it tight and strong, the spinners let the fleece keep air between the individual fibres. This meant that the soft qualities of the fleece to translate into the yarn. Each skein of yarn was washed before weaving, allowing the yarn to bloom or become even more soft and fluffy.
In our next post we’ll explore how weaving makes cloth. Stay tuned!