Planning a Linen Warp

After I spun up that modest quantity of linen singles yarn (the bleached Louet top I wrote about last time), I got excited about planning a warp for it. I plan to use the handspun as weft. My current thought is to use the wet and dry spun yarns in alternating stripes in the weft. I think this will create stripes of different textures. But what to use for the warp?

I have a motley stash of naturally dyed linen yarns, including 20/1, 20/2 and 40/2 yarns. This project seemed like a good opportunity to use some of it. Since most of my dyeing consists of experiments and small batches, I don’t have a lot of any one color. So, I can’t make the whole warp from a single color, which obviously means I need stripes in the warp.

I did some calculations to estimate approximately how many yards of each yarn I have. This is possible to calculate because commercially spun yarns are standardized, and can be reliably trusted to yield a certain number of yards of yarn per pound of yarn. This measurement is referred to as “yards per pound” and is indicated on the label or in the description of most yarns you buy commercially. 20/2 linen is 3000 yards per pound. 40/2 and 20/1 linen are both 6000 yards per pound. They are half the diameter of the 20/2, so the same weight of fiber can be stretched twice as far.

I weighed all my skeins in ounces, converted the weight to a percentage of a pound, and multiplied by 3000. For the singles, I will double up the ends so they are the same size as the two-ply yarns.

Here are the yarns I decided to use:

naturally dyed linen yarns

From left to right, the colors are from woad, orange cosmos, a tree lichen, madder, umbilicate lichen, and black walnut.

Initially I was worried that my yarns made a random, unappealing palette. But they reminded me a little of a wrap that I really liked, which I’d made during a color workshop with Daryl Lancaster in October 2014. In her workshop, we made lots of wraps with different tasks or objectives in mind. A yarn wrap is a fun way to play around with color and plan out a warp. To make a yarn-wrap you literally wrap yarn around a stiff piece of card stock, and tape the ends down on the back. We used folded-over index cards.

This assignment was to select a small number of colors to reflect a particular image, in my case a photograph of The Strawberry Thief by William Morris, and make a wrap that reflected the image in terms of colors, values, proportions, etc.. Here’s an image of The Strawberry Thief:

Morris Strawberry Thief 1883 detail

Here is my wrap (and an incomplete second wrap), next to a postcard of a different William Morris print with a similar palette:

William Morris inspired yarn wraps

Since my hand-dyed yarns are limited in quantity, I didn’t want to use them up making a yarn wrap. Instead I substituted commercial yarns, using the closest colors to the naturally dyed yarns that I could find in my stash. Here are the substitute yarns:

substitute yarns

I have nothing as dark as the darkest-value yarn in the wrap, so my whole palette is much more subdued than the Morris-inspired one. I made a wrap with some stripes and proportions that I liked, and then made some color xeroxes of it so I could play around with a composition.

yarn wrap and color copy

Here’s the plan for the warp as it currently stands:

symmetrical warp with stripes

The white yarn I plan to use in the warp is undyed commercial 20/2 half-bleach, so it is less bright than the yarn I used in the wrap. Here are the two side by side:

half bleach and bleached yarns

So, this plan for a small linen textile is well underway.