Sunday, September 16, 2012
Handspun Alpaca & Silk Shawl
One handspun alpaca and silk shawl woven! What a long, long journey if you look at the dates on the handspun yarns I dug out to weave this piece. Some of them went back to 1999 when I decided I had to spin up everything I had before I bought more fiber. Notice that I didn't decide I had to use the handspun yarn before I filled my fiber coffers again.
I had a reason to weave the shawl. There will be an alpaca event later on in October and they want alpaca fiber arts on display. I knew I had black handspun - some worsted weight, some fine. I also had a lot of black alpaca that had been blended with white silk - in singles for weaving, but for this project I decided I needed to ply it. I turned it into a three ply which matched the weight of the worsted yarns. Thinking thick and thin, I dug out some alpaca that had been plyed with colored silk, some two ply silks in mauve and two balls of finely spun black alpaca.
In order to make the stripes symmetrical and since it is always tricky when you aren't actually sure how much yarn is on each of the balls, I started winding one inch bouts on the AVL sectional beam, starting in the middle. Five inches in the center of the warp with mostly black and some of the alpaca silk, which is silver colored. Then, I wound an inch on each side - two thick threads, two thin ones. When a ball looked like it was going to run out, I could switch to another ball of something to make sure the stripes matched on each side. As I approached 25", I could tell that my supplies were pretty well depleted and I stopped at that width.
I chose a 16 shaft crepe draft and for all that it shows, I could have easily used an 8 shaft crepe. The sett is 12 epi. I had some 8/2 black silk for the weft and beat it very carefully, easing down to just about 5 picks per inch. I was nervous that the cloth was going to be too sleazy, but at that point there was no going back.
Once off the loom it did look sleazy. I lightly knotted the ends of the fringe to keep them from getting too tangled, put it in my front load washer with just a tiny bit of dawn detergent and in the rinse cycle some white vinegar. The setting on the washer is wonderful - silk and wool and it really is gentle. When it came out of the washer, things were already starting to look OK. I put it on a wooden dryer to air dry, twisted fringe and, voila, a shawl that is light, butter soft and very warm. Sometimes you win in spite of your insecurity.