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Weaving with fine yarns

Posted: 2nd October 2023
Author: Catherine Wright

Many weavers feel nervous about weaving with fine yarns. Some start using rigid heddle looms as a way to use up their stash of knitting yarns. And what a great way to work with all those colours and textures, especially if you have small balls of yarn that you've been wondering what to do with all this time.

On our Weave a Scarf Workshop we use our own hand dyed sock yarn. It's brilliant in the warp and because of the high twist it's reliable on the day - the last thing you need to be worrying about is dealing with a broken warp thread.

Some people are nervous about using finer threads though, or cottons and this can seem a little daunting but with a few tips it's very attainable.

How can you weave with very fine thread on a rigid heddle?

At the moment I'm weaving with very fine white cotton and I absolutely love it. The warp and weft are both in the same yarn, a 47wpi fine cotton which I bought from a man who used to work in the textile trade and sold me 6 large cones a few years ago. If you're interested in weaving with fine cottons but don't want a huge outlay and you're in the North West of England, take a look at Fairfield Yarns in Heywood, Bury. There is a huge selection and David has extensive knowledge which he is very happy to share.

At first I had really no idea how to work with it on the rigid heddle but using two heddles has opened up so many more options. So for instance our sock yarn is 19wpi (wraps per inch, the amount of time the yarn wraps around an inch). To decide which heddle to use, you half that amount, so on our workshops we use a 10dpi heddle for our sock yarn. This measurement is called sett.

Which heddle would I use?

So where does that leave us with a yarn that is 47wpi on a rigid heddle? The finest heddle size Kromski sell is 12dpi. The answer is to use two heddles which doubles the sett. So if I halve my 47wpi I get 23.5wpi and if I use two 10dpi heddles I get a sett of 20, if I use two 12dpi I get a sett of 24. So either of those options are useable in this case, one will be a slightly looser weave than the other. You can also double up your threads if you only have one heddle, two threads in the slot and two in the hole. This will achieve the same sett with a slightly different look

I've chosen to weave diamond twill pattern on this fabric. When using cotton it's important that the tension is as equal across the warp as you can get it. It doesn't have to be overly tight but consistency is extremely important in the woven piece. I've found tying on in the neutral position but then also tightening in the up position can also help.

Also, when tying on, make sure the string that holds the apron rod is even, the last thing you need is for it to go wonky as it goes over the front beam.

One last point, if you can do a sample piece, please do! There is nothing more disheartening than spending a long time warping up only to struggle with the weaving or having to cut the warp off the loom. It's really worth taking the time to sample and record your findings.

The diamond twill here is very subtle as it's white on white but the effect with a darker warp is more pronounced. Solid colours will work better than variegated too.

Diamond Twill woven on Kromski rigid heddle loom

Want to understand a bit more?

If you're bamboozled by these terms then why not join us for our Double Heddle Workshop where you will learn what sett is, how to work with these calculations, weave Diamond Twill and double width cloth.

Click here for the upcoming workshop dates

Spinning a Single Fleece Read More
Weaving with fine yarns Read More

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Teaching spinning and weaving workshops and Kromski looms, proudly based in Liverpool, UK
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