Saturday, January 10, 2009

Combining Fiber Types

In a comment on the previous post, Sue asked "Is it generally true that you can use a different fiber for warp and for weft as long as the entire piece of fabric is the same weave structure and the same yarn? (I have all these odds and ends that I'd love to use up as weft for different towels.)"

With some exceptions, you can combine different fibers in a single cloth. I would think that any kind of yarn that is suitable for dishtowels would be okay combined with any other dishtowel-ish yarn. Cotton and linen and hemp, for example, play nice together. It all comes down to knowing how the particular yarn in question behaves both on the loom and in the washing machine & dryer.

For example, I wouldn't plan a warp with wide stripes of a yarn that shrinks with stripes of a yarn that doesn't shrink, unless I wanted a seersucker effect after finishing. So an unmercerized cotton in stripes with linen wouldn't probably be my first choice. However, a warp of linen with a weft of unmercerized cotton (or vice versa)? No reason why not.

On the other hand, sometimes you want seersucker, and differential shrinkage is a much easier way to achieve that than the traditional method of beaming the stripes on separate warp beams that are tensioned differently.

As with so many weaving questions, the answer is "it depends." It mostly depends on what you the designer want to achieve, and on the means you choose to achieve it.

One of my goals with the dishtowel project was to use up yarn I already had in stock, making some lower-cost items to sell in my booth in an economic climate in which $250 scarves aren't moving very quickly. So any yarn that is suitable for towels is fair game. By using undyed yarn for warp, and a straight-draw threading, then changing wefts and tie-up/treadling, I can make every towel a different color and design.

Having 24 shafts and a computer dobby makes this very easy. But keep in mind that you can accomplish some very fancy and colorful patterns on just 4 or 8 shafts. No need for shaft envy! The purple towel, for example, is just 2/2 broken twill for the body, and the borders could easily be done with pickup or a supplementary weft on 4 shafts, or with twill blocks on 8 shafts. I have a towel made by another weaver (we were in a towel exchange years ago) that has a plain weave off-white body, and overshot borders in a bright color. Four shafts, but absolutely beautiful.

1 comment:

Sue said...

Thank you for answering my question Sandra!!

I guess the whole "it depends" part of the answer is why I've found it so confusing in the different people share different good and bad experiences with mixed warps.

I think I understand now and am eager to experiment! (Of course, if I loved experiments....especially ones with results I don't like, I would have jumped right in without asking questions! I'd like to get over that experiment antipathy!)

Thank you!!