I have been waiting so long to blog about this project. I had to wait until today because it was a secret. If you follow me on instagram then you’ve already seen pictures, but I haven’t been able to put this project on Ravelry or on my facebook page.
Last fall, a dear friend who has taught me so many things about spinning, knitting and life asked about replacing her favourite scarf. She had had it for years and it was starting to show its age, so she was curious of any of her weaving friends would be able to help her out. I’m a person who loves a challenge and any excuse to try something new. I asked Catherine about colours, showed her some hand painted warps I could buy, and then promptly decided I was going to take this on and do it myself.
I have done a bit of dying, generally with good results (but not always), but I had only ever dyed protein fibers (wool, alpaca and silk) and was most comfortable with using food dyes. For this project, I decided to go in a completely different direction – using Tencel and fiber reactive dyes, and painting the warp rather than using a dye pot.
It was an adventure! I had some help and guidance from Liz of Good Fibrations – she supplied me with everything I’d need and reminded me to read up on it before I started. I did a lot of reading, I planned my pattern, I measured out my warp and mixed my dyes and got started.
I admit, once the warp had dried, I was a bit scared. You see, I was out of my comfort zone of blues and purples. That bright red and dark grey had me scared I had done something horribly wrong. I wasn’t sure it worked together – colour theory has never really clicked for me and I rarely stray from my comfort zone.
I had sampled, and sampling had made me chicken out on the red (thinking it was too strong), so I diluted it a bit more than the others. I thought it would help, but it still looked like it overpowered everything else.
Putting the warp on the loom didn’t help matters much. Somehow the bright red had turned into an intense pink. I was now quite far from the original scarf I was hoping to replace, but I took a breath, and continued on. I knew the black warp would tone the colours down a bit and sort of work to ground everything together. At least that’s what I hoped would happen. So I started weaving – plain weave with black tencel, the same size as the warp.
Some sort of magic happened as I started to weave. The colours seemed to pop and shift and blend together – even the red.
I had added a bit of sparkle thread to the warp and the little bit of shine and flecks of bright colours seemed to pull everything together – yellow and pink and green catching the light here and there. I was in love.
I had warped enough for two scarves, and decided to go with a twill for the second – a bit weft dominant because of the sett. It darkened the fabric down a lot – which was expected – and it was fun to see the difference between the two structures.
I tried to keep quiet about this project because I wanted it to be a surprise, but it was hard. Quiet is not my thing and I’m very glad that Catherine hasn’t followed me on Instagram so I at least had that outlet. I was so thrilled to get to the spinning retreat and give her her gift, and she was just as thrilled to receive it!
I have been told this is her new favourite scarf, and I’m just so pleased she loves it. It was such a fun project for me.
I would do a couple things differently were I to do this again. First off, I think I should have done longer bits of colour rather than just a few inches. I also would like to play more with the colours – mixing and changing the concentration – but I didn’t have time time (or enough of the Tencel!) to play around with it that much. I think my next hand painted warp will have some sort of pattern to it rather than just a straight twill, but I also really love the plain weave – it’s so light and airy. I would also play with the sett so that it’s more warp dominant (now that I’ve realized I don’t have to be so afraid of colour).
I had spun Tencel, but never woven with it before and it was a fun experience. The yarn is so soft and shiny, but after dying it felt crisp and crunchy and lost a bit of it’s luster. I thought maybe I hadn’t rinsed well enough, but then realized that by handling it, it was softening up again. The other thing I learned about Tencel is that it is very linty. I had it sett 20epi in a 10 dent reed and there was still more lint from two scarves than I generally get from a 10 yard warp of tea towels!