Help Me Choose My Yarn: Part Two (An Adventure)

I find it interesting in this era of rampant consumerism that there are not more choices for tapestry yarn. Then again, it makes sense. There just aren't a lot of tapestry (or weft-faced) weavers. Until now. That is changing. But what is not changing is the scarcity of options.

Beads! In my humble opinion, there are too many beads. Too many shapes, too many sizes, too many holes, too many finishes. Yes, glorious all of it but when it comes to beads I can get really boring and tend to stick to the originals. It's the color and the finishes I am after. For a while beads were it. So bead manufacturers created every possible shape, size and color to satisfy the consumer need. And then the consumers got a little bored with the whole thing and started turning their attention to fiber weaving. Which is really quite thrilling but where is all the stuff to make it with? Good question. Make a cup of tea and let's talk.

There were not a lot of tapestry weavers for a very long time. Yes, back in the day when they were dressing the stone walls of castles, I am sure it was the thing to be. But in the last couple of centuries tapestry has not topped the charts of the list of career choices guidance counselors hand out. In general, in the U.S. (because there has always been more interest in tapestry and weft-faced weaving in a bunch of other countries where tapestry yarn is easily available) this weaving thing in any form hasn't been a huge thing. And at the bottom of it all was always misunderstood and ignored tapestry. Not anymore. And now it's time to talk tapestry weft.

Now I am going to tell you what to look for.

I mentioned in part one of this blog that I stumbled across rug yarn way back when and dyed it. This is always a great option and hence the one with which I begin. Sure, dyeing is a tad messy and you have to learn how. It's one of those things where you can read a book and just do it. What it opens up for you is color. You can always find off-white, natural, white yarn (whatever you want to call it) and you can also find yarn that is an ugly color (in your opinion) and with the dye knowledge in your toolkit you can transform something colorless or something ugly with your special magic tool: the dye box or the paint tin. You can haunt yarn shops and buy from their ugly yarn bin. Life just got better for you. But wait? What yarn should you be buying in the first place? Ah, good question.

If you are creating a decorative tapestry or even a useful item like a purse or a saddle blanket you want your yarn to be strong and rich in color and sheen. The strength comes from the fibers that make up the yarn. So long, shiny fibers from sheep such as Cotswold or Wensleydale whose fibers can be many, many inches long growing to the ground if left unsheared. They are always slightly curly and thicker than the fibers such as merino that provide warmth and loft because they are fine and short.

The rule is very simple: long, strong, shiny fibers create the yarn you would prefer for tapestry. Back in the day when I was buying what was called rug yarn, I knew I was buying stuff that could be walked on. It was also 100% yarn which is a point I have to make here. You want your yarn to be wool for about a thousand reasons but I will only share a few: for strength and beauty. It's also really warm but I don't think that is our goal here. In addition, if you are dyeing your fiber you need to know what it is since they dyes I use, for example, only work on silk and wool.

Where does one find these fibers? If you are planning to go the spinning route you are going to have become familiar with that whole world. I will talk about that in a future blog. For the purposes of this blog you are either buying undyed yarn or dyed yarn. You want a good consistent source. The more colors, the merrier. I can't give you exact sources for undyed rug yarn. It's just something you find if you are lucky. You might stumble onto it at a yard sale. I found this place where they sold it by the pound sight unseen. It gave me a ton of practice yarn I could rip out without guilt.


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