Once upon a time, I was a science geek. I earned a graduate degree in physics, and spent my youth colliding neutrons, cooking high-temperature superconductors, and other geekery.
Now that I’ve move on to the world of fiber, my adventures are softer and more colorful, but traces of the geek still remain.
Such as my absolute fascination with Habu’s stainless steel/wool yarn. (1/17.6: 75% wool, 25% stainless) This stuff has a bit of shine, holds its shape when you bend it, and dudes: stainless steel!
I’ve seen knitting kits for this stuff, where you strand it along with another yarn and knit on big needles to create an openwork fabric. And I had to wonder: Could the same thing be done with weaving?
There hasn’t been a lot published on this yarn in the weaving world. So I couldn’t look up the recommended sett. So what do do? Start playing…
I knew I wanted an open fabric, but also one that wasn’t sleazy. Based on my experiences with linen (another stiff fiber), and a tip from Judith MacKenzie McCuin, I decided to experiment with sleying the stainless/wool much looser than the thread size would normally warrant.
I took an entire cone (273 yards) and wound a warp of 144 ends, 2 yards long (apparently there was actually 288 yards on the cone, I just kept winding until I ran out of yarn.)
The weft I chose was also from Habu, a 1/14 spiral slub that is 51% wool, 20% polyester, and 29% nylon. The skinny part was about the same thickness as the stainless/wool, and I thought the slub would add interest.
The first sett I tried was 10, sleyed 1/dent in a 10-dent reed. I beat to square, which meant that I was gently squeezing the weft into place. The stopping place for the beater had no resistance, so I really had to pay attention to the spacing.
On the loom, the cloth was really sleazy. You could easily slide the weft out of place with your fingernail.
Off the loom. it created a truly gauzy fabric. The sleaziness was not as bad once the fabric was off tension, but it still was too fragile to wear. It might be nice as a curtain fabric or as a panel in a room divider.
So the next sett I tried was 15 epi.(*) I was still having to press the weft into place, but this time I felt a little “snap” of resistance when I pressed the weft into square in the fell line. It felt like the cloth was telling me: “This is the right sett, see, I’ll help you place the weft.”
I had planned to also try 12 epi, but had so much fun with the 15 epi, and liked the cloth so much, I wove off the rest of the warp in 15 epi.
The 15-dent just felt like real fabric, in a way that the 10-dent didn’t. Here’s a close-up of the two fabrics that really shows off the difference.
I am loving this fabric! The metal gives it body that a fabric this gossamer normally wouldn’t have. Plus the metal in the fabric makes it cool to touch. You can see sparkles of the stainless against the matte color of the wool.
And you can “mold” the fabric a bit. The following photo shows the ripples I created by scrunching the fabric. It’s really fun stuff!
I’m definitely going to play with this fiber some more!
I had dedicated this cone to sampling, learning about the fiber, without any thought of getting something usable out of the yarn. But in a happy happenstance, the 15-dent sample was just long enough, with a little pleating, to make a funky hair band. A special little holiday treat for all my hard investigative work!
P.S. Rigid-heddle weavers, you could weave this warp if you used two 8-dent or two 7.5-dent heddles. See Jane Patrick’s Summer Breeze Scarf project for how to warp two heddles.
(*) How do you try multiple setts on one warp? You cut the warp behind the reed, switch out reeds and re-sley the warp in the new reed. As long as the change in sett isn’t too great (and thus the width in the reed change isn’t too great) you shouldn’t have to re-beam. Ideally the width in the reed should be the same as the width of the warp on the back beam, but in weaving you can often fudge this a little. For this project I changed the width from 14.4″ in the reed to 9.6″ and was just fine.