Handspun From Scratch

Virtually any fiber of any preparation can be spun into a knotting yarn or cord. Sample H2-H4 demonstrate this well.

But the fibers will limit the uses of the knotting yarn. For instance, soft, fluffy fibers need to be used on clothing and not for household purposes (angora, sample H2) or jewelry. Fibers need to be tested for each planned project.

The cords used for jewelry, accessories of ornaments need to be very dense, at $60 and up a pound, silk becomes prohibitively expensive (sample H3). Historically, much of the silk cords were core spun over hemp.

As with all yarns, the fiber preparation will dictate many aspects of the knotting yarn or cord. Woolens (sample H4) will need more twist than worsteds to stifle the undesirable elasticity. Worsted preparations will yield and smoother, more desirable cord than a woolen preparation. Combed fibers give the ultimate results. Yarns spun from commercial roving will spin easily to a compact yarn (sample H5), more desirable for knotting than knitting.

Variegated and space died cords are difficult to knot. These color do not exhibit optimum distinction in the knots (sample H1). Better to use two dissimilar colored cords side by side as with the polwarth sweater. But if the knot is very open, loosely tied and on a smooth solid background, a variegated cord can give an effervescent display (silk butterfly jacket).

The handspinning of the knotting yarn from the natural source allows us to completely integrate and coordinate the knotting into the completed project as in the polwarth sweater. The weft, ribbing, knotting yarn and some of the weft are all the same fiber. Where can you obtain such a variety of different type yarns that will fuse so completely?

Samples H6-H8, illustrate the potential for intermingling warp, weft and knotting for a couch pillow. The warp becomes knotted fringe to edge the pillow. A simple weave will be highlighted with ridges of phoenix tail knots (sample H7). The possibilities are infinite: knotted curtains, knotted fringe on afghans, tablecloths, placemats, rugs and wall hangings.

First be aware of the final intent for the yarn: diameter, number of plies, use. The intended use will dictate the desired density of the final cord. Spin the singles as tight as possible with twist approaching 45 degrees. This is very difficult to control when plying so have a good lazy kate, tension box or other means of controlling tension on the over twist. Ply extremely carefully. Extra twist will be needed while plying if the yarn will be plied again. The more plies the cord is directly proportional to: how much it will abrade while knotting, how it will wear, how defined the knots will be, how much it will stretch out of shape, how difficult it is to spin. Generally, the more plies the better the knotting cord. I would not consider knotting a three ply angora, but the six ply was acceptable (sample H2).

Make sure the yarns are balanced. Excess energy will be release in the finished knot and it will twist out of shape if the yarn is not balanced. If when the yarn or cord is finished and it is not balanced by careful spinning, set the twist with a commercial steamer for protein fibers or by boiling vegetable fibers.