In the last few years three great books have been published in the US and Europe on active yarns:

Anne Field – “Collapse Weave: Creating three-dimensional cloth”

Ann Richards – “Weaving textiles that shape themselves”

Lotte Dalgaad – “Magical Materials to weave: Blending traditional and innovative yarns”

Anyone interested in fabrics that move should have all three in their library as their content does not overlap as much as you may think.  For instance, Ann’s book is quite technical and she does not have as many drafts as Lotte’s.  The examples and photos are all interesting and very inspiring.

Because I like textures and three dimensionality, I fell in love with these books and all the beautiful yarns they use in their work.  As a result, I have started to import all sorts of active yarns – mostly from Italy.  They range from the more traditional overtwisted or crepe yarns to a huge range of fibers plyed with polyhuretane/elastic.  I have also started exploring the possibilities of shrinkable yarns such as polyester and metal yarns – which also move depending on your finishing process.

One thing I have learned in my various experiments, is that is very very important to sample.  Structure choice, yarn selection, sett, etc.  will all have an impact on the look of the finished piece.  When I teach, I always suggest to my students to pick one or two structures and just “play” with all the active yarns so that they can get an idea of what will happen.

For example, the two samples below were woven on the same warp.



The warp was my Tussah 2/260 (but it would have worked with any other fine yarn).  For half of the sample I used only an active yarn as a weft (brown elastic cotton, turquoise Colcolastic).  For the other half I alternated one shot of active yarn every so often.  I used the same warp yarn in between.  I played around also with spacing between the active yarns shots just to see what would happen.  The results are very interesting.  Oh.  Almost forgot, when sleying the warp, I skipped some dents.

The elastic cotton drew in somewhat more than Colcolastic.  Also it gave me very regular vertical pleats:  the fabric neatly folded where the empty dents were.  Also the interspersed shots gave me a fairly regular rouging.  Colcolastic, which is heavier than the elastic cotton, and heavier than my warp, gave me a more organic looking fabric.  Same warp, same set up, different looks.

Ah the design possibilities……..