Weaving Report on Crazy Legs Romney…a very sweet and versatile fiber!

Pale grey patterned cloth
Shawl in pale grey and cream in Wood Diamond Twill

                Weaving for Norma Johnson-Glacy and Crazy Legs Romney Farm this last summer gave me a chance to make an extensive exploration Romney wool.  Norma’s main market is the Fort Edwards Farmer’s Market, a Thursday afternoon summer market located in the old Canal Street Building, Fort Edward, NY.    https://www.canalstreetmarketplace.org     She wanted a variety of items, price points, and designs to appeal to a variety of tastes and pocketbooks.  In our initial meeting, and a long series of emails, we finally decided that Norma would have her wool spun into 2 weights, and three colors. She requested finished objects as lap robes, car rugs, shawls, wraps, scarves, and table runners. We achieved the 2 weights, not by spinning two weights of yarns, but by spinning a single yarn of 1800 yards per pound, and the plying the amount required for the heavier lap robes. Thus we’d end up working with a singles yarn of 1800 yards per pound for the shawls and scarves, a 2 ply yarn of just less than 1000 yards per pound for the robes/car rugs, and a very nice combination of 2 ply warp with the fine weft for a relatively stiff, flat fabric perfect for table runners.  Producing such a wide variety of items from a single breed specific yarn was going to be a studio challenge!

open book to twill patterning images
My favorite twills in Irene Wood 16 Harness Twill Book

But, according to Deb Robson, in her Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, versatility should be Romney’s middle name. She relates its traditional English history but remarks that the popularity of Romney in the United States has increased its fiber variability tremendously and it now ranges from moderately course to fairly fine.  I’ve loved working with Romney in a blend with Corriedale for weaving sewing yardage, but this would be my first opportunity to explore pure Romney across such a wide range of functional products. 

 As a weaver, I’ve got a lot of tools at my fingertips.  The primary elements in this project were yarn weight, and changes to density and structure.  Density is influenced by the sett of the warp and the weft, and is always relative to the weight of the yarn.  Structure refers to the pattern of interlocking warp and weft. Plain weave is the most basic form but twills given an almost infinite variety of aspects, some with highly complex visible patterning.  www.handweaving.net  is a great archive for exploring and studying weaving patterns.

grey and cream blanket on the loom
Lap Robes on the loom showing off the combination of stripes and crepe structure
grey and cream folded blanket
Finished crepe blanket it grey and cream

Lap robes and car rugs from the heavier yarn need some heft but with enough drape to fold nicely around the body. I sett those at 10 ends per inch and used a 14 harness Sassure Crepe, for both. Crepe gives a lot of loft and softness to Romney by making a lot of air spaces and flexibility to the fabric while not creating any pattern in itself. A crepe is a great structure that adds a lot to the fabric while not drawing attention to itself.  It doesn’t compete with simple color striping.

complex pattern twill in grey and cream
Stole pattern in MW threading on the pressing table at Lilly Marsh Studios

  The shawls and wraps were in the finer yarn and sett at 16 ends per inch, and I found a gorgeous complex MW threading for a highly patterned cloth for a few of these. This kind of highly patterned and complex twill is much flatter than a crepe structure, and shows off the Romney.

After such a feast of patterning in the wraps and shawls, I was looking for a change in the scarves, as not everyone loves complex patterning. I dropped the sett down to 14 for these, as a wrap around the throat needs to be softer and ‘drapier’ than one around the shoulder. I went back to a crepe structure and a simple dotted twill and both gave me the added loft I wanted in these cozy scarves.

dotted twill grey fabric on the loom
A simple dotted twill fabric on the loom
grey and cream scarf on the loom
The Sassure crepe on the loom with grey warp and cream weft

Table runners are different. Runners rely on being flat and visually interesting, rather than soft, lofty, or drape-able. By blending the heavier warp yarn at 12 ends per inch, with the fine singles at 18 pick per inch in the weft, the cloth was technically weft faced, or weft dominant, but retained the visual interest of the complex twill.  I used a couple of my very favorite Irene Wood diamond twills for these runners.

dark and pale grey complex twill against a black background
Table Runner on the pressing table at Lilly Marsh Studios

Breed specific weaving is a fascinating study, and I loved working so intensively with the Crazy Legs Romney fibers.  It gave me the opportunity (and required me) to use every tool in the toolbox to change up the final product and emphasize each aspect of the wool at different times.  I would love to do such a project with every breed here in the Northeast!

About the author

Lilly Marsh

Lilly Marsh Studios can help you bring your fiber ideas to reality. As a farmer growing your own fiber and looking for finished products for resale, a designer looking to source local/regional fibers for private label sales, or some combination between, I can help you through the entire process. If you have raw fiber in hand, the Studio can assist in yarn design for specific projects and shepherd you through the milling process. If you are looking to source fiber, we can help find high quality regional materials suitable for your designs. We have small minimums but can also handle larger orders in a wide variety of bed and camp blankets, throws, wraps, home decor and sewing yardage in our solar powered studio.

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