spinning/embroidery experiment

The more observant amongst you might have noticed that I haven’t posted a Labours of the months panel since before Christmas. It’s not that I haven’t been working on it, it’s more that I got sidetracked.

At the Autumn garden festival in Harrogate there was a stand selling lovely sheep coloured knitting wool from native breeds, and since the October panel had a sheep in it I began to think how nice it would be to embroider a sheep in sheepy colours. Unfortunately, although the wool was lovely, it was all knitting wieghts, and far to thick for embroidery. So I toddled off home and got out my lightest spindle to see what I could come up with.

Except that being me, I had to try all the sheep coloured wools I had to hand. I actually finished spinning them last year, but I never got round to finishing plying them – for some reason I quite like spinning, but plying bores the pants off me. It got desperate this weekend so I finally buckled down and got on with it – October is finished apart from the sheep cow and pig, and December is also finished apart from a few last stitches

I also mordanted the wool in alum, even though I have no intention of dyeing it. I did this because I’ve done several webs on warp-wieghted looms using drop-spun wools, and I found that I had a far higher proportion of breakages on sheep coloured warp threads than I ever had on dyed ones, despite the fact that all the sheep coloured warps had been properly set with hot water. I’ve also noticed that with Appletons crewel wools I get a higher proportion of breakages in my embrodiery when I’m using ecru than when I use the colours. I’m not sure if it was the action of simmering the wool for several hours that made the dyed wools stronger, or some chemical constituent of the mordant, so I decided to mordant my embroidery wools with alum, since alum doesn’t change the colour. And it can’t do any harm, right?

Then at the market I was dicussing my plans wiht JOhn and Debbie from Mulberry dyers, and JOhn mentioned that he’d read somewehre that mordanting might actaully protect wool from certain kinds of fungal decay, so…


This is my trail to make sure it works ok before I go on and finish October. From top to bottom

Blue Appletons crewel wool, for comparison.

alpaca (Ok, not a sheep, but I had some kicking around, so what the hell)

Herdwick – bit hairy, but sews better than I anticipated.

Jacobs – nice

moorit Shetland – very nice to sew

Black welsh mountain – my all time favourite wool to spin also turns out to be my favourite to sew with.

No, I’m not going to start spinning all my own embroidery wools, but I’m looking forward to seeing how my October animals come out! watch this space!

~ by opusanglicanum on March 25, 2013.

18 Responses to “spinning/embroidery experiment”

  1. What spindle do you use?

  2. I’ll be interested in your experiments – there are certainly some subtle chemical reactions involved in all of these treatments.

    • It’s hard to compare sewing and weaving as to how they hold up, but it should be apparent by the time finish the animals how well the wools hold up. I certainly had no probs with the samples

  3. Now that’s a REAL labour of the month! They do look inspiring. (I wish I wasn’t ‘lergic to wool, sometimes…)

  4. I’ve never even thought to spin thread. I’ve used a drop spindle one time and made a few yards of very uneven yarn. I think it’s amazing!

  5. Lovely. I always gravitate towards the sheep-coloured colours, greys in particular. There is something about them which is very beautiful.

    I look forward to seeing your sheep!

  6. Your work is always so interesting! I have very little textile skill compared to you, but I love learning about it. I’ve nominated you for “The Very Inspiring Blogger Award.” I don’t remember if you’ve received this award yet or not. If you have gotten it once before, well, you deserve to gt it twice! If you’ve never gotten nominated before, you’ve earned it ten times over! Keep blogging! 🙂


  7. Ohh, this sounds interesting.
    So will you see how the different wools are strength wise in a year or something?
    Unfortunately I no longer have access to a strength testing machine, otherwise I could pull them apart for you.
    I should ask a friend, she’s a textiles technologist, weaver, dyer and suchlike and might have heard interesting things.

  8. Do you know roughly what your wraps per inch were on this thread? I’m interested in playing around some with spinning some for an embroidery project as well. Thanks and your stuff is absolutely lovely!

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