Spinning for embroidery

Shortly I’ll post about my a trip I took to the Laurentians back in August, which included a stop at Laurentian Alpacas, the source of the fibre for the project in this post. For now, though, a bit about my ambition to spin embroidery thread from local materials…

For the past several months I’ve been mulling over ideas for using fibre as a medium for art, rather than its more craft-designated use as a base material for garments (the distinction between art and craft is something I’ve been mulling over too, but that’s something for another post altogether). Many fibre artists use felt and create beautiful work, but my limited forays into needle-felting haven’t been too inspiring for me. Scrumble crochet leads to some amazing pieces, but I haven’t found that to be for me either. Rather coincidentally, I started thinking about getting into embroidery right about the same time I discovered a brand new website devoted to the topic. I was excited to learn and use the techniques on the site to create my own pieces but, as with most of my other textile activities, I thought why not spin my own yarn for it? I went a step further and decided to use fibre only from local, small-scale farms (and am kicking myself for not bringing home some wool from my visit to Pine Hill!).

The yarn for crewel work, a type of embroidery done using wool, is a worsted 2-ply from long-stapled fibres such as Border Leicester. I had some fairly long-stapled alpaca combed top–Laurentian Alpacas had one fleece milled into top this year, and I bought a significant chunk of it–and gave it a go. Using the fast flyer on my Lendrum, I spun a fine worsted yarn that I then plied:

It was tricky getting the right balance between enough twist to hold the single together, but not so much that it felt wiry and inflexible. Fairly typical of spinning alpaca worsted, I think. At any rate, I’m pretty happy with the results but the true test will be when I try it out in its intended purpose. I’ve got some mohair locks to try out next, and next time I’m in Montreal I’ll probably pick up some of the Border Leicester at Ariadne…

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