Hand Spinning & Natural Dyeing - Sarah Matthess

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Saori Handspun Yarns

Weaver Misao Jo, the creator of  'Saori Weaving', once said...

“All flowers are beautiful, even though each individual flower is different in form and color.  Because of this difference, “all are good”.
Because everything has the same life, life cannot be measured by a yardstick.  It is this individuality that makes everything meaningful and the uniqueness of each thread that creates the tapestry of life.”

Saori weaving is one of the most beautiful woven art forms there is. In my opinion it is in weaving, what French Impressionism was to art in Monet's day.

This article is about what I call Saori-spinning! Not too many rules, lots of colour and texture, and fun.

I have been developing Saori-yarns with Saori weaving in mind of course.  The latest is called 'Carnival'.  It incorporates every colour that is on the colour wheel, and has four parts to it. Most of it is spun from my own hand-spun yarns, but I have incorporated commercially spun cotton, and novelty yarns as well as BFL hand-dyed locks and other hand spun art-yarns in there as well. 'Carnival' differs from my previous Saori-spun in that it has little hand-felted and hand-dyed balls incorporated.

Essentially this is a core-spun yarn. Over the core are layered lots of random smaller pieces of hand-spun, locks, novelty yarn, and whatever looks good.  I then add another 'layer' of handspun merino, or commercially spun cotton in multi-colours, and in the case of 'Carnival', another 'layer' of little hand-felted, hand-dyed merio balls, and some seed beads. Theres a good bit of spinners-discussion on how to incorporate beads and other objects into yarn.  Sometimes it pays to thread some fibre through the bead or object, and spin the fibre into your spinning as you go.  That's a good method so long as the fibre is strong, and has a fairly long staple.  If it's very fine and short, as some merino wools are, then it is not adviseable because the bead can just rip out very easily.  So you would need to make a decision on that according to what you are spinning.  In the case of 'Carnival' I chose to thread the felt balls onto a strong but fine commercially spun cotton thread which 'disappears' into the yarn.  If you are doing this, when you bring up your beads or objects to be incorporated into the yarn, make sure you over-ply the area with the yarn the bead is attached to, so that it doesn't loosen and 'hang' when the yarn is finished. This can be trickier than you would imagine. So this yarn is not a 'beginners' yarn.  But we learn by doing.

I recommend that you don't try this unless you have about 4 days to spare as it is very time consuming to make. But the whole idea of Saori weaving, like Saori-spinning, is that time is not the issue. It is about the pleasure of making.

Using a similar technique, I also made another version of this yarn, which I called 'Scribbles'.

And another called 'Bazaar'... which does not have any felt balls in it, but is equally bright and colourful.
There are really no limits to what can be done. Try experimenting with different ideas. People are spinning paper and paper on wire, cloth, waste fibres and threads and doing so much more than just knitting sweaters! Try crocheting a door mat!?
In this next yarn, I've felted the core yarn which I spun from multi-coloured hand dyed merino. It's called 'Jelly Beans' and is essentially a core-coil-spun yarn that is over-plied with a single strand of the same hand-dyed merino, merino and silk and alpaca. Really soft.  I hand-felted the core yarn before plying and as wool felts it shrinks, giving it this squiggly spongy look which looks slightly plump. 

'Forest Floor' is the same technique as 'Scribbles', only I have used natural dyed wool and fibre only. I love the earthy look. 

And again, another yarn similar to that above, 'Woodland Walk'... which is the same technique only over-plied with handspun suri alpaca.  In this yarn I incorporated some locks dyed green with Chlorophyllin plant extract from Wild Colours 

Chlorophyllin, is an extract derived from spinach
So far, I have dyed these fairly bold greens with it, but I plan to dip-mordant my next batch of fibre in weak copper and iron to achieve other shades.

When dyeing with plant dyes, I soak my fibre over night before mordanting it, and try to dye it from wet, or to re-wet and soak overnight if I have pre-mordanted. I find this gives a better dye-take up.

The next gallery of hand-spun yarns below are all naturally dyed with vegetable dyes, are named after months of the year.  Starting with 'September'.  There were still plenty of blooms about in my garden, as you can see in the background! So this yarn contains those colours. The background green in the yarn is dyed with stinging nettles (see my other blog post on 'Green to Dye For') Although these are not exactly what I would call 'Saori spin' like the yarns above, they are the same idea of paint-as-you-go-with-fibre.

Then came 'October'...
Then 'November'... the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' and of frost.  Salmon red maple trees and golden beeches. At least here in Northern Ireland. This yarn would need to be a different colour way if I lived in a different part of the world!

'Lichen' (below) was a subtle blend of coreopsis flower, stinging nettle, acorn, and horsetail dyes.

The yarn above was dyed to look like lichen, but the one below was actually dyed with lichen. I have called it 'Caramel Popcorn'. The lichen dyeing process is very ancient, and was used in Harris Tweed.  'Crottle' as it is locally known, imparts a fresh heathery scent to the wool, which never leaves it. That's how you will be able to tell if you have a piece of real vintage Harris Tweed! The process is not commercially used on the Isle of Harris any more, probably in the interests of conservation.  The lichen used to dye my yarn is gathered only from wind-fallen wood that would other wise be on the fire.