I wove up swatches in 2/60 nm wool and 40/2 mercerized cotton weft yesterday. The wool was quite weak, and I had to make an inquiry to WeaveTech to figure out how to unravel it safely. WeaveTech (Darlene in particular) came through, as usual, and I successfully knitted, dyed, and unraveled a blank by leaving the second-from-the-edge needle in, so the second-from-the-edge stitch would be unknitted, making the edge stitch looser. It still catches and breaks sometimes, but far less often. Dampening the swatch also helps.
Anyway, I wove up samples using both wefts, and will take them off the loom and overdye them today. I’ve already decided to use wool, not cotton: the 40/2 cotton is very tightly twisted (perhaps it was manufactured for sewing thread?) and produces a fabric with a tight feel and a crisp “hand”. Useful for other things, perhaps, but not what I had in mind. Cotton also has opposite care requirements from silk, making it a poor “marriage” of fibers in my mind.
The wool, on the other hand, is lusciously soft to the touch. I bought the yarn from Colourmart, which specializes in luxury mill-ends at quite reasonable prices. (Especially since I buy in quantity and thus get a volume discount). This particular yarn is an extra-fine merino spun by Loro Piana, and is almost cashmere-soft. So it produces a luscious fabric indeed!
Here’s a photo of the extra-fine merino, with and without gold embroidery thread woven in:
Why purple? Because I plan to cross-dye the silk using fiber-reactive dyes in shades of bronze and gold. This will stain the wool fibers slightly, affecting the color. Purple is opposite yellow on the color wheel, so will show the resulting color changes most dramatically. So I used purple as my “canary in the coal mine”, to show me the maximum effect of a gold/bronze mix in a fiber-reactive overdye.
Anyway, I am mulling over the gold embroidery thread. I think I will probably leave it out – it dilutes the color, distracts from the pattern, and doesn’t seem to add much. It would work better in the warp, where it would draw more attention to the leaves (which are warp-dominant); adding it to the weft-dominant background makes the background fight with the leaves for attention. But I am not about to rewarp to test this out! For better or worse, the Infinite Warp is on the loom, and it’s what I have to work with.
But I will wet-finish and overdye the fabric and look at it again before passing final judgment.
Both wool and cotton are weaving up at about 70 ppi, suggesting that 60 epi would have been a better sett after all. Too bad; I’m not going to rethread and resley at this point. Especially since the maple leaves are looking good as they stand; squashing the aspect ratio was good for them.
Next steps: cut off the current samples and wet-finish/overdye. Do up another, more precise sample, to determine exactly how much knitted blank I need per inch of weft. Knit up another test blank and use it to test out colors.
Lots to do! Off to do it!