Tapestry Yarn

I often am asked what yarn to use for tapestry?  The simple answer is:  anything that is beautiful.  Your tapestry is only going to be as beautiful as the yarns you use to make it.  Ugly acrylic yarn from your discount store is going to look just as ugly in the skein as it is in a tapestry.  So let’s start off with the don’t:  don’t use ugly yarn.  DO use yarn that is rich in color, has an inner glow and makes you happy.

You don’t have to use just wool.  You can use anything you want and combine these yarns any way you want.  Wool is the easiest to weave with because it is so elastic.  Silk, cotton and linen will make your life a little more difficult because they don’t have any give.  Problems with pulled in selvedges will happen more frequently with these yarns.

Don’t forget the concept of weft blending:  taking two or more yarns that can either be of the same fiber or different fibers and using them bundled together.  This can product lovely shading effects.  For example:  using a strand of silk or rayon combined with wool.  The silk or rayon reflects light and the wool absorbs it making for an interesting effect.

But let’s get technical for a moment and I will explain what really makes a great tapestry yarn.  The answer is long, glowing fibers from certain breeds of sheep that have been combed (not carded) in preparation for spinning.  Combing fibers aligns them whereas carding fibers gets them more tangled up. Yarns made from combed fibers served two purposes:  they were used as warp because of their strength and they were used for outerwear, blankets, saddle blankets, rugs, etc because of their durability.  Carded fibers are loftier and are used for sweaters, socks and other wearables that would be closer to your skin.  For example, merino, which is a very fine, short fiber is great for sweaters but would be lousy for tapestry.

Who are these sheep that provide great fleeces for spinning tapestry yarn?  Here are some of my favorities:

 Cotswold: ancient breed of sheep wearing along, coarse fleece with lots of gorgeous curls.  Was called “the poor man’s mohair” because it is like mohair but cheaper.  My neighbor bred these guys and I acquired quite a stash of Cotswold fleece I am still trying to wade through.
When you think of Navajo Churro you think of Navajo blankets  because that’s what you’ll find their fleece in.  Churros have two layers of fleece.  The outer fibers are used for weaving tapestry. 

 Ahhhhh!  Bluefaced Leicester produce long wool and are called bluefaced because that simply means white hair on black skin.  Hey, you learned something!  
Leicester Longwool.  I know, you want to take them home.  But don’t.  Raising sheep will take up all the time you should be spending weaving tapestry.  It’s a lot cheaper just to buy the fleece.  The fleece from these sheep find their way into a lot of Australian and New Zealand yarn.

I love this stuff.  I have never actually spun it, but at one point I bought a lot of it from a store in England.  It’s all white and very fine.  Soaks up dye almost as if it’s silk.  Love the stuff.  I still have quite a stash left.  Maybe I’ll dye a bunch of it up and turn it into kits for you.
Romney fleeces are long, lustrous and really great to spin.  It would take me about a year to spin the above fleece!
Now for the problem:  In the US it’s really hard to find yarn made from these fleeces.  We tend to make blended yarns that come from random sheep.  The rare time you hear about the sheep that went into a yarn is, you guessed it . . . drum roll . . . merino.  That’s the big thing these days.  Anyone sick of the term smartwool yet?  Sure, it’s great stuff, but I’ve known for years that wool is better than plastic bottles for keeping you warm.  I digress.  Suffice it to say, it’s really hard to find yarn in this country that is made from any of the above.  That is why I took up spinning. Check out some of my hand spun tapestry yarns: http://www.mirrixlooms.com/yarnyarnkits.html
But if you aren’t planning to do that, I have found a few sources for yarn made from specific fleeces that you can use for tapestry.  It’s not easy to find such yarns and they are mostly made in countries such as Norway, Sweden, New Zealand.  Go figure!  You can also use yarn intended for needlepoint.  I’ll let you do the research on where to find that.

The following is a compilation of tapestry yarn sources.  I am stealing most descriptions directly from websites where these yarns are available.

From Fine Fiber Press:   http://members.peak.org/~spark/FineFiberPressTapestryYarns.htm

ALV (Elf) Tapestry Yarn

This Norwegian tapestry yarn is a 2-ply worsted yarn made from 100% combed long fiber wool.  It works beautifully for woven tapestry.  Kathe uses four strands together, with a sett of 10 warps per inch. There are 700 meters in 100 grams (Approx. 765 yards / 3.5 ounces or 218.5 yards per ounce).  NOTE: We sell it only in units of one or more ounces!!

The cost $4.00 per ounce plus cone price of 25 cents. If you provide the paper cone, we will take off the 25 cents. Inquire about cone size. Our winding machine will only use a larger style cone such as those used for standard weaving yarns, not the smaller ones that usually came with the Australian tapestry yarns.

Here is a view of the colors.  However, computer monitors vary greatly so we suggest that you order a yarn card and base your color choices on that card instead of your monitor. The color card costs $3.00.  NOTE: The color card is actually made from this company’s 3-ply yarn which is a larger size than the 2-ply one we sell.  The colors are the same however. They include a sample of the 2-ply yarn in the lower right hand corner of the color card.  The title of the sample says: ALV Kval. prove which means ELF sample.

These are the colors!

From Weaving Southwest:  http://www.weavingsouthwest.com/shop/product/104

Hand-dyed Tapestry Yarn

100% virgin wool
4 oz. skeins
approx. 162 yards.
We have designed this custom spun yarn to be similar to some of the Scandinavian 2-ply yarns. We have chosen 22 colors for this tapestry yarn and dyed 5 shades of each color, each available in up to 4 pound dyelots. Its luster gives a nice sheen to the finished weaving. We use this with our 3-ply worsted warp at 6 ends per inch (excellent for rugs also) or can be used with a much finer warp at 8 epi.
Sample cards are available with 5 shades each of 20 colors.
We just finished dyeing a whole new run of Tapestry Yarn. These colors slightly are different than what they use to be. We have sample cards available of the colors we currently have. We will have all our new colors, plus a few new colors available within about six months. Call us if you have any questions.  $13.00 a skein.

Brown Sheep Yarn Lamb’s Pride and Top of the Lamb:  available in lots of places and is used in our ipod kits


Although intended for knitting, this yarn comes in  a lot of gorgeous colors and works very well for tapestry.  It’s available in pure wool (Top of the Lamb) and in a 85% wool/15% mohair blend (Lamb’s pride).  It comes in solid colors and painted colors.  Below is an example of a few of their colors.  Who knows what fleece goes into this yarn.  What is “wool.?”

Borgs Yarn from Sweden:  http://www.vavstuga.com/store/wool.shtml

Claudia’s notes:  I first discovered this yarn at The Handweaver’s Guild of America’s Convergence.  There was a sale bin full of it.  I bought enough to fill my suitcase.  I was in heaven.  It used to be available at Unicorn Books and Crafts, but no longer. This is a worsted weight yarn you would use at a 6, 7 or 8 warp sett. My research found the above link.

Mattgarn wool yarn ($ per 100 gram skein)
manufacturer size dyed color card
Borgs 25/1 9.50 [view colors]
25/1 Mattgarn yarn from Borgs is a heavy single-ply wool yarn for weft-faced rugs. It comes in 100 g skeins of 125 meters (3.5 oz / 135 yards).

Loomed Earrings!

I just bought the cutest little loom, perfect for making loomed earrings. This is an idea I have been working on for many years, but only feel I am finally perfecting the perfect method. Be sure to look at the Mini Mirrix, here on their website. The ‘Mini’ is not only perfect for travel, able to handle lengths of looming from credit card cases to cuffs, but now that I am working out some patterns and directions for earrings, this would also be great to make loomed earrings too!

Quickly, I am sharing one earring, of one particle pair. I named these, “Navajo Blankets”. They are loomed with sterling findings and hand woven triangle drops. I have many more to show, but I still want to work out some of my ideas before I share them too!

Social Market for a Mirrix

I received a request on my blog to create a piece using a variety of threads and a finer weave but with no beads. So, here goes.

I warped the loom using the 12-dent coil with a warp thread through each dent and I’m weaving with #5 DMC Pearl Cotton embroidery thread and mixed fibers from Ancient Earth Echoes. The piece is only 1 ½ inches wide. Once this piece is finished, it could be used as a bracelet but I will probably use it in a collage at some point.

The Ancient Earth Echoes fibers are bundles of disparate yarns in defined colorways that were marketed by Maria Teresa Stoa of Ramah, NM. I used to buy them from Joggles.com but Barb no longer appears to be carrying the line. Fortunately I stocked up on them in various colors when they were available. They’re perfect for projects like this since each bundle was made up of short lengths of a variety of art yarns. The hunt is on for a new source.

I’m still contemplating how I’m going to embellish the last piece I finished. It definitely needs a little “something” but nothing I’ve tried feels quite right.

Zentangle and colored pencil

I took a zentangle class at www.noagallery.com/ a month or so ago.  It was the first class I’ve taken since college!  I loved the class but experienced a bunch of fits and starts when I tried to zentangle on my own.  First my hand was all crampy and did not enjoy holding a pen for that long.  Then I had to do a search for the paper I wanted to use.  In the class we used little squares, which is a common practice for zentangle.  I wasn’t comfortable with the small format size.  I think I was looking for a long-term piece, something I could return to again and again and not have to start with a new little square each time.  In zentangle, one normally uses just a black pen of the marker variety (fine point and archival ink) and a pencil.  The pencil is used to initially draw some boundaries (they call them strings because you create a squarish shape and then divide it up with these strings or lines) and ultimately used for shading.  This shading can contribute to some very fine three-D effects.

I snuck out to an art store and bought myself a large high quality pad of tag board.  It is smooth enough to take the ink lines without bleeding.  I then unburied my “art pen” which is a fountain pen designed for drawing.  I am a big fan of fountain pens in general.  I own about three really good ones that I use regularly.  So it made sense that I would want to draw with real ink and pen if possible.  Turns out this pen is great for these doodles and it works great on the tag board.  Success!  I also bought a set of colored pencils.  I had bought a set of fine-tipped color markers before I took the actual zentangle class but found no success in using them (although I now plan to revisit that option now that I have gathered more information having to do with my personal relationship to zentangle).  Back to the colored pencils:  I tried a zentangle on the tag board and started putting down some color BUT it wasn’t working.  It wasn’t singing.  I let it sit for a day and then threw it out.  That’s my way of dealing with failure:  get rid of it!

And then this weekend THE BREAKTHROUGH.  I got all warm and cozy in bed with NPR, my ipad and a little zentangle book I had bought that fills in the alphabet with zentangle designs.  It’s a good reference book to use on the fly.  I decided that my format would be a series of squares and rectangles.  It’s good to establish such a framework.  At first I was thinking I wanted to fill in fish shapes or turtles, but the squares and rectangles created an easier starting point.  I started doodling.  Then I bravely took out my set of 24 colored pencils and I started filling in the doodles.  But more importantly, I started shading the doodles with the colors versus applying just solid colors.  It worked!  I couldn’t stop.  My hand only got tired after about three hours.  My sister had advised me to not grip the drawing instrument so hard.  When you are having fun that is easier to do.  When you are tense and frustrated, that pen gets gripped like a weapon.

This is the result:


Colors in real life are much brighter

 Next I want to experiment with gilding, paint, markers . . . anything that brings color to this very fun art form.  And then, of course, I am going to turn them into bead patterns.

Hope your New Year has begun on a creative foot too!

Social Market for a Mirrix

Welcome to 2011 everyone!

It’s a new year and there’s a new weaving on the loom. It’s so nice to finally be back in the studio weaving that I’m just enjoying the process and letting this piece evolve. I’m using an 8-dent coil and the loom is warped with a warp thread through every other dent to accommodate the bulk of the yarn I’m working with. The width of the piece is 10 inches and I’ve started out with Tahki Maya yarn. I love, love, LOVE this yarn because you get such an interesting texture when you weave with it. Right now I’m not sure what other yarns I’m going to be using. I have a box of candidates sitting beside my work table and I’ll just see what strikes my fancy when I finish the sections I’m currently working on.

One of my goals for 2011 is to be more aggressive about promoting my artwork and part of that process is going to be entering shows. The first show on my calendar is the Handweavers Guild of America’s Small Expressions 2011 with a deadline of 03/07/11. So, I’m hoping some of the pieces I finish between now and the end of the “Social Market for a Mirrix” campaign on 02/28/11 will be viable options for submission.