Why Use Handspun Yarn?
Because it's different, unusual, unique,
I'm sure you've heard that before.
But as a hand spinner, I know that the qualities I impart to my yarn
transform this basic ingredient of a woven or knitted piece into
something that is peculiarly 'mine'.
The way I prepare the fiber
(getting it ready to spin); the colors I choose; how I hold the fiber in
my hands; whether my hands move toward or away from the wheel; the
number of times I treadle before allowing the yarn to wind onto the
bobbin; whether I decide to ply the yarn or intend to use it as
'singles'; and the amount of twist I insert - all are things that I get to
decide about how I want to make a yarn.
The choices become very
personal decisions having to do with technique and design, and elevate
handspun yarn to a category that goes far beyond mass produced
The 'art' of handspinning has
been successfully updated in ways that make it enormously appealing as a
hobby/craft. In the 1960's and '70's the so called back-to-earth
movement created a renewed interest and passion for the craft.
Until that point, handspinning was being kept alive by textile
enthusiasts, museum displays and people involved with living history.
When I first started spinning, the guild in my community was very
strictly limited to the members of the DAR. It was also pretty hard to
find someone raising sheep who was willing to sell a fleece, much less
one that was suitable for handspinning.
In the mid to late 80's
things began to change. More companies were offering products specifically
aimed towards the needs of hand spinners. And the availability of
ready-to-spin fibers (washed, carded or combed, and dyed) - was
transforming the way we approached making yarn.
Today, there are so many fibers
available, in such a wide variety of colors and blends, it seems like a veritable smorgasbord of fiber
art supplies at our fingertips.!
spinners, we have an unique opportunity to explore, combine and manipulate
wide array of fibers in ways that are
often impractical for commercially mass-produced yarns.
Our use of natural and man-made fibers
is not bound by the requirements of mass production. Angora, Alpaca,
Cashmere, Cotton, Bamboo, Hemp, Llama, Nylon, Silk, Soy, Ramie, Tencel™,
Rayon, Milk - and an incredibly wide range of sheep's wool (depending on
breed and breed type) are all fair game.
use all of these fibers in ways that may not be feasible for industry, but make
perfect sense when designing an heirloom quality shawl or creating a
piece of Textile/Fiber Art.
Length, diameter, luster,
fineness, softness, strength, resilience, and elasticity are just some
of the words used to describe the inherent characteristics of fibers - whether plant, animal or man-made.
Yarns that take
advantage of these characteristics are recognized and appreciated not
only for the way they look and feel, but for the way they perform in the
striving for uniformity, hand spinners can maintain evenness and
consistency while creating yarns that demonstrate and
enhance particular fiber characteristics.
We get to choose what we want to make based on
our own personal criteria: Soft?; Shiny?; Warm? Absorbent?; Luxurious?;
Fluffy?; Hardwearing?; Lightweight? - how about all of the above?
We can try it and see.
These days, people learning to spin are as likely to be expert, highly skilled hand knitters,
eager to create and use their own designer yarns, as they once were
motivated by an interest in historical traditions or 'crunchy' pursuits.
Weaving and knitting with
well-made handspun yarn makes a difference that can be seen and felt. Whether
you use my yarn, yarn made by another spinner, or ultimately decide you
would like to learn to make your own - using handspun yarn sets the work
apart and changes it from ordinary into extraordinary.