Morwenna O Hurlihie – Spinning Yarn for a Dress

I have been working on a Fiber to Frock project for a very long time. I set a goal for myself to get all the yarn spun by St. Elegius. I didn’t meet that goal, but at least I’m working on it.

My goal is to make a basic gusset and gores dress, the basic pattern that much of Europe used for around a thousand years. I’m not making a specific extant garment, but going through the process of making a garment, starting from the fiber. I want to really understand what work goes into fabric, and understand to my bones why fabric was so valuable. (And I’m cheating because I’m not raising the sheep, I’m starting from mill prepared fiber, I’m using a spinning wheel, and I intend to use a horizontal loom.) To make this garment, I will need about 8 yards of fabric, so I’ll need a 9 yard warp. My loom has 24″ weaving width, and I’m aiming for about 36 end per inch. 24 x 36 x 9 = 7,776 yards for the warp, double that for the whole project, or 15,552 yards of yarn.

At this time, I am getting about 1,000-1,200 yards per 4 oz of fiber, with the yarn at roughly 0.5mm in diameter. I’m spinning a Dorset-Romney cross, Shetland, and some mystery wool from my stash, all medium-grade to mimic wool from early medieval period. The different breeds of wool have different thicknesses will have slightly different quantities. Based on this math for this project I need to spin at least 3.33 pounds of fiber. To have extra, I’m just going to go for 4 pounds. At my current rate of spinning, it’s going to take me at least 18 8-10 hour days of spinning to get this done. When I actually work on it, I’m getting 4 oz done a week, spinning in the evenings after work, making dinner, etc. Here’s hoping the yarn is done before next year’s St. Elegius.

3 thoughts on “Morwenna O Hurlihie – Spinning Yarn for a Dress

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  1. That’s A LOT of yarn to spin! I’d be using a wheel too (and have, for a lot less yardage than what you need). Are you using different techniques to spin the warp yarn versus the weft yarn, or will they both be the same?

    1. I wasn’t going to, and then reread some books and a lot of fabric in the early period in Northern Europe was woven S/Z. I’ll probably do two pounds Z and two pounds S.
      I’m mainly doing my default short forward draw, except when the cats help.

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