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  • Emma Baker

Weaving with fine yarns of wool and silk

Updated: Jun 24

Introduction to weaving with fine wool and silk yarns

The gift of some fine wool and silk yarns some years ago has finally made it onto my loom. This blog details the project of weaving with these yarns to create a scarf and several cravats.




I was so lucky to be able to purchase my floor loom second hand some years ago and in addition to the loom I was very grateful to be given a basket full of fine wool and silk yarns. For the last 6 years I haven't felt sufficiently confident in my weaving to attempt to weave with these fine wool and silk yarns. The silk yarns in particular I know to be expensive so I have been cautious of using them, feeling the need to use them on a deserving project. This being said I realised that having a basket of beautiful yarns in a cupboard was equally not giving the yarns the chance to shine! A few months ago I decided to take the plunge and I set about weaving with some of these yarns.


Project Planning

The woollen yarns were mostly unlabelled so initially I wasn't sure on the sett to use for their weaving. The silk yarns were a little finer and labelled as 'Pure Italian Spun Silk' as 60/2nm. I decided to do a card winding with the woollen yarns and this gave me an indication that I would need a sett of approximately 40 epi. A weaving width of around 18 inches was going to need 720 warp ends. I decided to have a warp length of 6m. It was clear that this was going to be the finest weave I had ever woven and measuring the warp, dressing the loom, threading the heddles and then the reed was going to take some time!


Dressing the loom



Step 1 - Measuring the warp

The first step in the weaving process after the initial planning was to measure the warp. I used a warping mill to measure the warp threads. I decided to weave bands of navy, blue, and grey yarns of about 60 ends each. The process of preparing the warp chains took me about 4 hours.

Step 2 - Moving the warp onto the back beam

I warp my loom from front the back using the in-built heddle on the top of the loom. This is the part of the process which I find most difficult with fine yarns. I often wonder if using the in-built heddle is perhaps not the best way forward as I find that the finer yarns snag and became difficult to wind on. Several threads snapped in the process and I lost patience with the warp when it became very tangled having got around 5m onto the back beam. The final 1m of the warp threads were cut off. This process took me around 5 hours.

Step 3- Threading the heddles

I chose a straightforward straight 8 warping pattern. This is a threading I use lots, partly because I know and like the range of possible patterns that can be created using different shaft pick ups. This process took me around 3 hours.

Step 4 - Sleying the reed

I used a 10 epi reed and sleyed 4 warp threads through each slot to give me the 40 epi final sett. This process too me about an hour.

Step 5 - Tying on the warp threads was quick

Step 6 - Choosing the lifting plan to programme the dobby bars was quick

Step 7 - Winding the bobbins with the weft yarn - 30 mins


So, after something like 13 hours of work my loom was ready for weaving to begin - hurrah!



Weaving Commenced

I decided to use some of the woollen yarns for the weft at the start and I experimented with different pick up patterns. As is always the case there were a few threading errors which needed to be resolved. In some cases one of the 720 threads had been threaded through a heddle on a wrong shaft and for one thread I had not actually threaded the warp thread through the hole on the heddle at all but on the underside of the heddle. This meant that this particular warp thread wasn't lifted by the shaft at all. Once I had ironed out issues I experiment further with different coloured silk and woollen weft threads. In most cases I doubled up the silk threads to create a weft yarn of twice the thickness. I enjoyed the weaving and think it probably took me another day or so to weave all the warp.


Making cravats and a scarf

I used the fabric to make a long scarf and three cravats with further fabric still remaining. I initially made a couple of cravats as gifts for friends but not wanting to miss out I chose to make a tie/cravat for myself lining it with some 100% navy silk fabric. It has already been worn lots.


So what was good about this project?
  • It was good to use up some of the beautiful yarns I have been gifted

  • I enjoyed doing something new and challenging

  • Its great to learn something new

  • I feel that my finished fabric is OK and I was pleased to be able to gift a couple of cravats to two lovely friends

  • I don't feel so daunted about weaving finer yarns now

What was not so good about this project?
  • It is slow - a week of my time has yielded a scarf and three cravats (although in my biased opinion they are rather nice)

  • My aim was to use up all of the fine yarns that have been left in a cupboard for many years but.... they are very fine and I have barely made a dent in them

  • Transferring the warp onto the back beam was an issue - warping the loom solo I think isn't ideal but none of my family members are too keen on helping with this - I don't really blame them! I have since seen another weaver tie their warp down with books on a table and having tried this on a subsequent warp I wonder if this might help?

So what next?

A little break from the finer weaving, perhaps a revisit to some deflected doubleweave. However I will return to weave some of the remaining (and there is lots) of the woollen and silk yarns later - they certainly deserve further time and attention.


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