Friday, July 29, 2005

Diversions, or How I Can Make a Simple Task Expand

I have spent the week preparing warps, dyeing warps, warping warps, and weaving warps for this fabric:

silk fabric1

It is silk, 120/8 reeled tussah from Treenway, woven at 48 epi, with a cotton 20/2 weft. This is a new yarn to me, and has a distinctly crisp feel: the 120/8 is not a simple plied yarn: it is 4 two-element plied yarns, plied back on themselves (4 zzS plied Z). I learned to call this yarn structure *crepe yarn* from Ted Carson, way back in the dark ages, in a class he taught in February 1981 (yes! I still have my notes).

The hand of this yarn is pebbly, or bumpy, not smooth as a reeled yarn would be expected to be. The more I worked with it, the more curious I became as to its final *handle* in the fabric. So today, as I started to weave, I found out. It feels nubby. Crisp, but not smooth, it is interesting.

It reminded me of an old kimono I have:

old kimono

the fabric of which always had a slightly *not smooth* texture: not rough, but not smooth, similar to what I am weaving now.

The kimono is old and worn enough to have holes in it, from which I pulled a couple of very fine threads (gasp!), to see if the yarn structure was the same as what I am using. The best I could tell, from the tiny pieces I extracted (they broke as I pulled them out) is that this is made of a spun yarn (short fibers) in a two element construction, but with both elements spun and plied in the same direction, to make them very tight and cord-like. But not the same as my 120/8 yarns.

Must Investigate Further. Diane Varney describes a crepe yarn as a 3 element technique: a 2Z plied S then re-plied with an S single(non-spinners have now glazed over). My notes from Ted Carson say that a crepe is a 2Z plied S and the reply two of the resulting elements as a 4Z. If loosely plied, this is called knitting crepe, tightly plied is called a cord or cable yarn (which term Varney uses too). I know many knitters who simply call this construction a cable yarn, twist amount notwithstanding. So who is right, and just what is crepe yarn, or cable yarn?

Next, I pull out long dead Aunt Gladys' yarns from the early '50's (yes! I have too much stuff!) and lo and behold:

old yarns

All are 4 plies: 2 elements plied together, then 2 of these re-plied to make a 4 element construction. The 2 ply yarns are spiral yarns, though, two elements held under different tension when plying. This gives the final construction, and the resulting fabric (yes! I have 50 year old swatches! Why throw *anything* away!) a pebbly texture, much like my woven fabric. Is this knitting crepe? None are labeled crepe, cable, cord or anything but Virgin Wool.

Hmmm. Just what does crepe mean? Is it a yarn? Is it a fabric structure? We repair to the weaving books: No mention in either Helene Bress, or Mary Black, of crepe fabric.

In Irene Emery, no fabric is mentioned, but she describes *crepe twist yarns* as high twist singles, which, when woven, "produce a creped or crepe-y effect" fabric. I know many weavers think of highly twisted yarns woven in plain weave as crepe fabric: obviously this has nothing to do with the terminology used by spinners.

And is spinning jargon yet again different from knitting jargon? Why, yes! How else would one explain the *worsted yarn* terminology variations or (excuse me?) *double knitting*? And is *sport yarn* a hold over from tennis, or from cricket? How many other sports wear sweaters? Oh, OK, skiing.

To make matters more interesting: Ted Carson was a Canadian. Is this that old *separated by a common language* issue??

You see how far off track I have gotten. And are we any better for it? No. But we have taken up precious weaving time. And this is for a deadline, mind you. Back to the fabric at hand:

silk fabric3

In this photo you can see the blue in the ikat stripes is (gasp!) darker. It is the same yarns, degummed and processed in the same pot at the same time as the plain blue warps. But it is darker blue. The only thing I can think of is that the ikat tape that it was tied with:

ikat warps

held it down in the pot, therefore getting more heat faster, and the dye striking first. Another hmmm.

Another surprise: the golden tussah color largely washed out in the degumming. The colors in the two photos above show this well: the golden tussah is, sadly, much lighter. It also shows here in the braided area before degumming:

braided warps

And after dyeing:

silk braid

You can see, even in the resisted areas, the yarn is much whiter.

These unbraided yarns work up into the mottled area in the fabric. I first learned this braid/dye/unbraid and weave technique from Vicky Jensen, who now works at ProChem. Vicky has an MFA in fibers, and several of the fabrics from her master's project had this nice braided/dyed feature.

Alas, no definitive answers to all this rummaging through my library, my storage closet and Aunt Gladys' old knitting supplies. But it *is* interesting, at least to me, and has kept me occupied during the hours of prep leading up to this fabric. Any clarifications/further obfuscations gladly accepted. And now to weave.


Blogger Sue said...

Very very pretty weaving! I love the braid/dye/unbraid technique- I'll have to try that sometime.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I've always thought of crepe as a highly overtwisted yarn; I found this on - it's specific to hosiery crepe, but it describes the structure thoroughly.


The crêpe silk yarn involves two stages of thread combination. At the first stage, two untwisted threads are combined by twisting them in one direction at the rate of approximately twenty turns per centimetre. Also at stage one, two further threads are combined by twist, but this time in the opposite direction and at about eighteen turns per centimetre. The two resulting combined threads are then in turn combined in the same direction as the yarn with the lesser turns per centimetre. The threads are combined with about two turns per centimetre. In common with other highly twisted styles, the yarn produces a dull, elastic and strong fabric. The snag resistance characteristic creates a more durable stocking.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Spindlers2 said...

It could even be one of those transatlantic communication things, you know! I was familiar with crepe yarn from an early, pre-spinning, age. Then I visited the US and discovered cable. As far as I am aware, cable and crepe are the same thing, pretty much as Ted Carson described. Mabel Ross in "Fancy Yarns" says: "This is a four-component cabled yarn, that is, the yarns are plied in pairs then the pairs plied in the opposite direction. The four yarns are all similar in thickness and twist...." I have not come across the distinction between amount of twist in the plying - if it is not balanced with the spinning twist, the yarn tends not to work at all, in my experience.

2:17 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

Ah! Carol! Mabel Ross, I'd forgotten her. In the Encyclopedia of Handspinning, she says: "crepe yarn is a high-twisted natural silk yarn which is usually woven in plain weave before degumming. Alternate warp threads should be S and Z twisted and the weave produces a rough surface effect in the cloth after finishing." That's probably the kimono cloth. I think Michael's description is very close to the yarn in it too, perhaps nylon stockings took a hint from this yarn for durability.

Thanks, both of you!

6:37 AM  
Blogger beadlizard said...

I think of crepe yarn as specifically for weaving crepe fabric, thus a high-twist, usually silk, multi-element yarn. Isn't collapse fabric a form of crepe? Thus following, is seersucker a variation of crepe?

Cable is, to me, a balanced yarn when finished, thus the individual strands and elements are a little higher than normal twist so they'll still have some oomph (love the technical terms!)in the final plying.

Your fabric is gorgeous, and thanks for the excellent photo of the braid.

1:46 PM  

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