Being a Yarn Architect

Posted by on January 26, 2014 in Observations, Yarns | 6 comments

Back in November last year I made a post, in which I mentioned something of my current direction in spinning, I am calling it ‘yarn architecture’. I know, its yarn.. a bunch of fibers twisted together. But .. what twists we can create! Yarn architecture: building – constructing – layering – intersecting lines and angles. I love the complexity and the simplicity. I also love the challenge.

I had already begun this particular direction earlier in the year, looking for ways of plying and creating, and tending towards over-thinking things anyway, it seemed a natural way for me to go. I particularly liked the idea of taking traditional spinning methods and using them with non-traditional preparations, like, a cabled yarn, made with uncarded locks, or like this one, with bits of sari silk splashed around here and there.



There were also practical reasons for this as well as aesthetic and experimental. I wanted to also identify some interesting techniques that anyone could spin on any wheel, knowing that at any given workshop there will always be a wide range of wheels, each with different capabilities, and also spinners, each with different preferences for spinning thick or thin, smooth or textured. Yarn architecture can be adapted to any of those things, traditional fine singles plied in a crazy multi-layered way, or bulky textured singles tied down with a fine wrap.. and then more layers, wrapping with silk hankies like the Shelob yarn I designed, these things add depth and excitement to spinning and the final yarn, not just in texture but also in colour possibilities. I loved this three ply cable with the textured neon in the middle, its a simple construction but the ability to play around with colour makes it an adventure to spin:

SONY DSCThat is another yarn that can be made large and crazy wild, or fine and intricate. Its really fun to move between those things even within a single construction, to really explore it. There are also possibilties for taking really standard constructions such as a boucle, and to play with the elements within that, for example, I made this super bulky boucle with a fine (traditional) single spun from Wensleydale (for the curls), and plied ย with a very bulky merino, instead of the standard fine single that would normally be used in a boucle.



This has all the elements of a ‘standard’ boucle, but I altered them a little to really change the end result. I also really liked how the sheen of the wensleydale worked against the soft bulky merino it was plied with. This is what I find most interesting about being a Yarn Architect, taking a standard construction and adding to it, or altering the components, or combining them in a different way to ‘build’ something a bit different. Architects have always done this, taken a standard construction, four walls, a floor and a roof, and altered them into new shapes, designs, patterns, and colours. I think its really awesome that I can share these techniques with people who don’t have an Aura or a Country Spinner but are looking for challenges in their spinning.

When Esther Rogers issued me with a challenge to spin a building, it was the perfect time to try out some colour experiments with the cabling I had been messing around with, I had been trying out things like autowrapping before plying the cables, for example, and this worked really well for what actually was architect related spinning! The inspiration for the challenge was a photo (from Stephen West) taken of a building in Copenhagen.


This is what I did:



I thought the white thread made nice ‘mortar’ between the colours and ‘bricks’. It is effectively a 6 ply, ย constructed from two yarns made of two corriedale singles plus a third ply of a white silk. The way the white thread straightens out (and this is also how you can check if a yarn is balanced or not) when plied makes an almost architectural feature in the yarn. Its only a little stretch from there to start thinking about..’what if I used two nplys instead’ and ‘what if one of the singles in each two ply was a textured lockspun? or a Spiral Ply? or replace the white thread with a fine boucle?”.. Even.. ‘What if I coil spin the cable? and then wrap it in silk?” The possibilities seem almost limitless! This is exciting to me and is what keeps me spinning. I have started keeping my own little record of the yarns I am constructing, because quite honestly, I have a brain like a sieve, stuff just falls out of it. I have been known to have to return to a yarn I spun, with no idea what I did to make it, and actually literally take it apart to see how I made it.. That can be a little embarrassing in public ๐Ÿ˜‰

But this does also mean that I am now building up a little library of multiple plied yarns, and maybe you noticed a theme here, the ebooks we just published on are also record keeping log books for spinners, apparently record keeping IS my current focus at the moment ๐Ÿ™‚ I will be making worksheets out of these experiments to give people at workshops this year, and if you keep an eye out for upcoming WoolWench newsletters you are likely to see some of the outcomes of the experimenting and mini tutorials on the most successful of them.


  1. This is soooo inspiring! I love the idea of being a yarn architect (I thought of yarnchitect), not just spinning or plying but we are actually building up layers and constructing a three dimenstional creation. Truly lovely, and that building! I am looking at the buildings around me with new eyes. I love your choice of “structures” (yarn structures and building structures) Thanks so much for sharing your process, I wouldn’t have thought to combine all of those different elements. What a great challenge, to spin a building!

    • Yes, spin a building! Do you think its too ambitious to want to spin the Empire State Building? Or the Taj mahal! ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. Well, that Danish building certainly is great inspiration for your yarn architecture! I love the blending of colors and texture you have been able to bring into your yarn! It’s very lively ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m still learning to spin and haven’t gone near trying to dye any of my yarns yet… in the future. There is just so much to learn about the behavior of the different wools when spinning… a little overwhelming ๐Ÿ˜€ I will look forward to more posts of more exciting things to come off your wheel ๐Ÿ˜€
    Beth P

    • It’s also a great learning challenge to take all the different kinds of fibers you can find and spin each one, find out what they suit best, how to spin them, also a great record keeping opportunity ๐Ÿ˜‰ Happy spinning Beth!

  3. lol the photo of the Danish building and your resulting yarns make me think of Legos (also Danish)! Thank you for sharing some of your mental processes in yarn creativity! I think of doing things like this and then I fall into a ‘default’ spin setting as I’m usually working with a hand-dyed fiber and am happy/satisfied just watching the color spin out.

    • Those colours in our hand dyed fibers are a treat on their own aren’t they!

Leave a Reply to WoolWench Cancel reply