(Fogra 39) Job:02-28051 Title:RP-Textile Artist Handbook
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(Fogra 39) Job:02-28051 Title:RP-Textile Artist Handbook
#175 DTP:225 Page:53
050-069_28051.indd 53 3/6/12 7:53 PM
The TexT ile ArT isT 's sTudio hAndbook
s pinning, k niTTing, A nd CroC heT
Spinning yarn and then using the yarns to create
your own fabrics (from start to finish) through the
processes of knitting and crochet is one of the most
creatively rewarding textile experiences. It encom-
passes fabric design from the start with raw fibers to
the finish, with the creation of fabric yardage through
knitting or crochet.
For those who focus on textile art and design with
ready-made fabric (screen-printed yardage or shibori
dyed cloth, for example), you should consider adding
spinning, knitting, and crocheting to your textile en-
deavors. These processes allow you to design from
the absolute beginning and better understand the
structure and therefore behavior of yarn and fabric.
Also consider combining techniques. Dye your own
yarn or use strips of cut fabric to knit a chunky wall
decor. Knitting and crochet can be used beyond
traditional winter scarves and hats. Consider them as
techniques that can be applied in many other ways.
We recommend keeping knitting, spinning, and
crochet materials and equipment in your studio. The
basics, listed here, are a minimal investment, easy to
store, and versatile.
Ball winder and swift If you purchase yarn in skeins,
you’ll need to wind the skein into a ball, and these
tools make it easy.
Crochet hooks With minimal expense, you can
invest in crochet hooks in many sizes. They will come
in handy for mending knit garments.
Drop spindle The drop spindle, either the top or bot-
tom whorl, come in a variety of sizes and styles. Nei-
ther style is better, but you should try using different
ones at the store to see which you prefer. Your first
drop spindle should be heavy enough to keep a good
spin going, but not so heavy that it’s hard to operate.
Discuss the options with the store clerk.
Roving or Top Make sure you have a variety of fibers
in the form of roving or top in a variety of colors. Top
is ready to be spun, with all the fibers aligned and
carded. Roving needs to be carded before spinning;
however, uncarded roving can be used to create a
bulky knit or crocheted fabric or for both dry and wet
felting. (see Spinning a Skein, page 58).
Knitting needles Stock your studio with straight and
circular knitting needles in a variety of sizes. You
might get a set of double-pointed needles for knit-
ting in the round too.
Yarns Head to a yarn store and browse; you’ll love it.
What colors, textures, and fibers are you drawn to?
Start collecting yarns slowly with a few basic skeins
and don’t overbuy as you will certainly fill your studio
in time.
Tools and Materials
Here is an example of how hand-
knitting can be used as a vehicle for
sculpture. As part of her exhibition
at the Textile Arts Center in July 2011,
artist and designer Julia Ramsey
explored the use of knitting and
crochet for her sculptural elements.
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Spinning Overview
Spinning is the creation of yarn from natural or man-
made fibers. After harvesting fiber, it is the next step
in textile creation. When you spin your own yarn, you
have total control over the type of yarn you produce.
You can select the type and blend of fibers, the colors,
and whether or not your yarn has a mottled effect (see
Space Dyeing Project) or uneven slub (see the yarn
used for the Circle Scarf project). You have so much
opportunity for creativity.
Spinning yarn is one of the oldest and most vital
textile arts. Evidences of spinning in some form shows
up in many historical artifacts, some from 20,000
years ago. The first methods of spinning involved tak-
ing animal fibers and rubbing them up and down the
thigh. Over time, the need for yarn increased and the
methods of spinning became more advanced to help
meet the demand. Two tools, the spindle and distaff,
were early spinning tools. The distaff was used to hold
the unspun fiber, so hands were free to pull the fibers
while spinning them. The spindle was a drop spindle,
pretty much the same as we know it today. During the
industrial revolution, the rate of spinning needed to
increase, so while a drop spindle was quick, the spin-
ning wheel, the tool that revolutionized spinning, was
much quicker and efficient!
Spinning in the Studio
When most people think of spinning, they picture Ra-
punzel, who sat at a spinning wheel. A spinning wheel
is a fairly large and expensive tool, certainly worth the
investment if spinning becomes your passion. The
Schacht Spindle Company sells small, portable, and
quality spinning wheels at a good value.
If you aren’t ready to invest in a spinning wheel,
the drop spindle is also a popular way of spinning fiber
into yarn, and it is small and inexpensive. We suggest
starting with a drop spindle and exploring this first
before moving on to a wheel. Learning to spin many
kinds of fiber is fun and will keep you busy. Merino,
alpaca, silk, and cotton all spin differently; and there
is no replacing practice and trial and error for learning
which fibers you like to work with most. See the tuto-
rial on page 58 for a very brief introduction into the
spinning world.
The following sections are about how yarn is used
to create fabric by knitting and crochet. While it is true
for all textile media, the world of knitting and crochet
is especially huge. Our intention is to help you to un-
derstand the very basic principles of both knitting and
crochet so that you can begin to use these media at
home and further explore them for yourself. Your lo-
cal yarn store will be a fantastic resource for learning
more about yarns and for taking classes.
Art of Spinsters
During the Middle Ages, many poor families in
need of spun yarn kept the unmarried women
and girls of the family spinning yarn in their free
time, and they became known as “spinsters.”
This skein was completely hand spun
and wound using a drop spindle and
merino roving top. Does it look that
different from what you’d buy in a
store? You can do it yourself!
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