Thursday, August 1, 2013

Where to purchase tapestry yarn.

One of my private students said something to me the other day and I felt a sinking in my heart. He asked, "if you keep doing tapestry do you end up with a closet full of yarn?" As in, I don't want to store a bunch of yarn. I recognized that he was not a yarn connoisseur and I was going to have to make him into one if he was going to stick with tapestry weaving.

Yarn is something of an addiction. I love dyeing yarn. Making my own colors is fantastic. Dyeing is, however, extremely time intensive and very hard physical labor.

Sometimes students catch the dyeing bug and haul off and learn to make their own colors. But most of them want to know where to buy yarn already dyed. And even if you dye your own, what yarn to start with is still a good question.

Here are some of the yarns I have had some experience with. I'd love to hear what other yarns people use for tapestry. You can post in the comments below (or because some people have trouble with the Blogger comment "prove-you're-not-a-robot" thing, you can also email me at rebecca (dot) mezoff (at) gmail (dot) com). I'll do a follow-up post on what other people use.

I currently use Harrisville Highland (2-ply) for all my workshops and classes and I used to weave all my own tapestries with it. It is available from Harrisville Designs. If you look in the knitting yarn section, you can get it in 3.5 oz skeins (if you want to dye it yourself or buy smaller amounts). It is the same yarn you get on cones in the weaving section of the website. It weaves well at 8 or 10 ends per inch.
Harrisville Designs Harrisville Highland. I dyed these colors myself.
The yarn I use for all my own tapestries now is this singles yarn also made by Harrisville Designs. They do not sell it commercially right now, but if you order enough you can get them to do a special mill run sometimes. I use three together to weave at 8 or 10 epi.
Harrisville Designs Harrisville singles. I dyed these colors also.
A yarn I bought for use in the Helena Hernmarck workshop I took last summer was Vevgarn from Norsk Fjord Fiber (my apologies to all you Swedes out there. I suspect the yarn name is actually Frid and the fiber content is vevgarn, but I'm not sure). This yarn is beautiful and works well at 8 epi doubled. It does come in a fair number of colors.
NOTE: 8/2/13, Excellent correction in comments below about this yarn. Vevgarn means "weaving yarn" and the yarn name is Frid. And my abject apologies for suggesting otherwise, but this yarn is Norwegian.
Vevgarn. I purchased from Norsk Fjord Fiber.
Vevgarn. I dyed these colors except the white.
Glimakra USA carries some beautiful Swedish yarns. Tuna is a 2-ply yarn that can be used doubled for tapestry at 8 or probably 10 epi. I have not woven with this yarn, but there are tapestry weavers that do. There are a fair number of colors available.
Glimakra USA also carries this gorgeous Swedish yarn, Faro. I really like this yarn. It has more sheen than the Harrisville single but is essentially identical in weight. I use three together to weave at 8 or 10 epi.

Weaving Southwest in Arroyo Seco, NM carries a fairly good selection of tapestry yarn. They hand-dye this yarn themselves. It weaves at 8 ends per inch and might even work at a wider sett. I was unable to get it to cover a 10 epi warp. Each of the colors comes in a 5-color gradation and it is a 2-ply yarn. It is much stiffer than the Harrisville Highland.

Weaving Southwest's Tapestry Yarn
Australian Tapestry Workshop has the mother ship of tapestry yarn. Unfortunately I don't know exactly how to get it the easiest in the USA. You can order from their website but I don't know what the prices currently translate to. Any experience by any of you in purchasing this yarn would be helpful!
Australian Tapestry Workshop yarn I was able to try in Shelley Socolofsky's workshop in Tacoma recently.

Tapestry weavers frequently discuss where to get tapestry yarn. I definitely don't have all the answers. I would love it if you all would reply to this post in the comments with your tapestry yarn suppliers! Also specify whether you buy their colors or dye it yourself.

The best news is, that same student who wasn't so happy about the prospect of a closet full of yarn just bought himself a Mirrix. I think he is hooked. Bye bye rigid heddle loom, hello wonderful tool that will last for years. 


  1. I have searched high and low for a "favorite" yarn. My sett is much wider, so that affects what I like. I've been using a yarn from Henry's Attic for several years. It's a two ply, and I'd prefer a single, but...I'll stick with it.

    I've also bought yarn from Burnham Trading Post. Recently I bought Mobelatta from Lone Star Weaving Room, but I haven't tried it yet.

  2. Hi Rebecca, great idea and I will be interested to read about favorite tapestry yarns. I started out using my handspun singles in my tapestry. I love the color blending possibilities and unique qualities of my handspun. They must be very similar to the Harrisville singles you are using because I usually use 3 to 4 singles at 8 to 10 threads per inch also. Then I discovered a singles that was available through Weaving Southwest in lovely hand dyed colors that worked perfectly with my handspun. Unfortunately it is no longer available in the same weight but I do still have quite a collection of it. I have tried various tapestry yarns in classes and workshops that I have taken and enjoyed working with them but then I discovered Ymmyarns from Australia which come in beautifully hand dyed colors of five values each and a matching range of silks. They are plied and a little thinner than most of my handspun but work great on their own or mixed with the handspun singles. I usually use 4 to 5 strands in my weft bundles at 8 to 10 threads per inch or some combination of the Ymmyarns and handspun. I tend towards the more is more philosophy so I often combine, silks, rayons, cotton, metals and linen for their different light reflecting qualities into my wools and don't mind a little texture on the surface either.

  3. I love the Borgs Mora, which is available through Glimakra, they say it's "a fine smooth worsted yarn." It is about the same weight as the Victorian Tapestry Workshop yarn, but plied tighter and with more of a shine to it. It only comes in 3.5 oz skeins though, so I have only bought black and white so far. The white is nice and bright, which I am always looking for. And of course, I have used Paternayan Persian for years, and I hear it's coming back.

  4. Thanks for this, it's gotten me a lot closer to what I want to use. I can get the Fårö here for instance, but it looks as if a Shetland 2-ply (9/2) that I like the colourways in, would be great too.

    Vevgarn means simply "weaving yarn", Frid is the name of the yarn (not the whole brand), and it's Norwegian. ;-) Just FYI.

    1. See! I knew someone would help me with the "vevgarn" condundrum. I should have dug deeper actually. Thanks for the clarification! And also so glad to know it is Norwegian. Of course it is! That was just a dumb mistake. :)

      And I completely forgot that Harrisville Designs also makes a yarn called Shetland which is a 2-ply that is much thinner than the Highland and can be used doubled at 8 epi.

      Blessings upon you for all your help! I need a consultant in Scandinavia obviously.

    2. Well, you are always welcome to ask if you need to - and I'll see what I can do. I'm quite surprised you Americans use so many Scandinavian weaving yarns.

      I've also had my eye on 3 specific yarns from Knoll in the UK, but haven't seen it live.

  5. Wow, what a great post! I scoured the internet for info like this when I was starting out with Tapestry, before I found my regional group of weavers Tapestry Weavers West and had actual people to talk to. But since many of those weavers use Paternayan (supply problems!), I still search for info like this - thanks for writing it and listing the epi and number of strands and everything! I am sure I will refer back to this often. I am also sure there will be many new weavers like me who will come across this and they will have some great tips on how to get started!

    I personally have been using Henry's Attic Crown Colony 2 ply, likely the same as Sherri described above, and dyeing it myself. I came across Mary Zicafoose's website via the ATA website when I was just starting out, and she mentions it is what she uses. I work at Dharma Trading, where we carry many yarns from H.A, so I knew I would have regular, easy access to it. Regular supply is important to me. I need to know I can get it when I need it. I use 1 strand at 10 epi, or 2 strands at 8 epi.

    And since the dyeing process is so time intensive as you mentioned (as if weaving wasn't enough already!), I recently tried a few different commercially dyed yarns- Brown Sheep Waverly Wool and Appleton Crewel, to see if I could still say what I want to say while cutting out the dyeing process. I wove a couple of small test pieces with them and the results were clear- I will be sticking with my hand dyed Henry's Attic. Creating my own colors is part of the deal for me. So I just need to get a better system of tracking repeatable formulas.

    I have often wondered about the Harrisville yarns, and will pick some up at some point to play with.

    I also have some singles that sound like the Faro- it has a definite sheen when dyed like you describe.

    Thanks again!

    1. (oops, I wasn't logged in, so showed up as Unknown- I am Laura Kamian McDermott)

  6. Several of us in our tapestry group have been using Brown Sheep tapestry yarn. It's a two ply yarn with strands together. I use it with 2 strands at 8 epi. The biggest advantage is it comes in a huge array of colors which can be split and blended to create more colors. Biggest disadvantage for me is it is a softer yarn that Harrisville so it may take some practice use it.

  7. Sorry that's 3 strands slightly twisted together.

  8. You can buy ATW yarns from the Shannocks. Great post!

  9. These resources are terrific. I can feel my stash growing!

    I like Alf ( Elf ) yarns a very fine 2 ply yarn which I use 5 strands at 8 epi. Lots of colors, nice sheen. It's available from Kathe-Todd Hooker, Fine Fiber Press.

    I also like Ymmyarns which was mentioned above by Janette. A fine 2ply highly twisted hand dyed and moth proofed yarn from Australian. I use 5 strands at 8 epi. I get a slightly bumpy surface with this yarn. It comes with 5 values per color. You can get this from Janette Meetze Fiber Studio.


  10. Trish White - Tangled ThreadsAugust 4, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    I have tried a number of yarns. I have little enough time to weave and am not at all in a position to dye. So a yarn with lots of colours is important. I started with Paternayan. I love the colour range but the supplier I use only sells in 4 oz hanks or smaller hanks made up of 33" pieces. I wish I could get 1 or 2 oz in one long piece. When I used this yarn most recently, I took the loosely twisted three strands apart and used 4 at 8 epi. So on top of a whack of colours, I can blend the strands. I have a lot of Harrisville that I purchased through James Koehler. So it was hand dyed at his studio. I don't like the Harrisville very much for a couple of reasons. There are lots of bits of twigs or straw in it and I am obsessive enough that I want to pick these out and it is time consuming. Also it is thick enough that I would use just one strand at 8 epi and so I can't colour blend easily. I have some Weaving Southwest and the colours are very nice. But again, I would use just one strand at a time. I also have a bit of Norsk Fjord but find the colour palette limited. Then I happened upon EPiC (Excellent Production in Craft)in Waldoboro, Maine. This is a very fine yarn - 18/2. It comes in about 110 colours through their site and I learned about a small hand dyer quite close to me who took some EPiC natural I purchased and hand dyed about another 30 colours for me. I am using the EPiC at 5 strands at 8 epi. This allows me lots of colour blending.

    I must say I am quite interested in the Australian Tapestry Workshop yarn as it has so many colours available. But, really, I DO have a closet full of yarn already. Well, actually, shelves and shelves. So I think I need to use what I have as there is nothing wrong with it and it is just yarn lust that is pushing me toward the Australian. But I am glad to know about the option for future reference.

  11. Donna Loraine ContractorAugust 4, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    I use Weaving SOUTH WEST's tapestry yarn exclusively and always have. I don't have the facilities for dyeing myself, I have a fantastic range of colors from all the different dyelots of the same colors, and they are local and my good friends!!

  12. Here is another bunch emailed to me by a tapestry weaver:
    I love NM Churro which I use in my tapestries. I have Weaving Southwest's, Earth Arts and Tierra Wools Churro. I also have lots and lots of Borg's Swedish Tapestry Yarn, Norsk Fjord's and Glimakra's Tuna yarn which I use also and last but not least Harrisville's Shetland Yarn. Harrisville's yarn is what I started weaving tapestry with.

  13. so for a new tapestry weaver, which one would everyone recommend. I am currently a rug hooker and the yarn I currently use is a bulky 3 ply that I dye myself...don't think it will work for tapestry.

    1. You'd think that question was easy, but it isn't! It depends on what colors you want access to and whether you want to use a single ply yarn or mix singles. If you want singles, I really recommend either the Weaver's Bazaar yarn (and this blog post is old enough I didn't even review this new yarn) or the Faro singles. If you want a single yarn where you don't have to mix plys, something like Harrisville Highland works well. Since you dye yourself, you might want to consider dyeing the Highland yourself (or the Faro--it dyes very nicely). I dye a Harrisville single yarn for my work. Singles are a little more difficult to use as a beginner, but not impossible by any means. The Norwegian Vevgarn is a gorgeous yarn, but at 8 epi you have to use it doubled. It is a great option though. I need to update this information soon!

    2. You'd think that question was easy, but it isn't! It depends on what colors you want access to and whether you want to use a single ply yarn or mix singles. If you want singles, I really recommend either the Weaver's Bazaar yarn (and this blog post is old enough I didn't even review this new yarn) or the Faro singles. If you want a single yarn where you don't have to mix plys, something like Harrisville Highland works well. Since you dye yourself, you might want to consider dyeing the Highland yourself (or the Faro--it dyes very nicely). I dye a Harrisville single yarn for my work. Singles are a little more difficult to use as a beginner, but not impossible by any means. The Norwegian Vevgarn is a gorgeous yarn, but at 8 epi you have to use it doubled. It is a great option though. I need to update this information soon!

    3. If you like exploring something completely different in your work, you might be interested in the 52 pounds of Persian rug yarn I bought in Iran in 2002. It’s hand spun and “vegetable dyed”; it appeals only to a small niche of craftpersons. It weaves like heaven if you make rugs, tapestries, or purses, but it’s not suitable for garments. Or if you do ply braiding, or repair rugs or nomadic pieces like saddle bags, it’s perfect.

      You can’t buy this in the US. Someone has to bring it back for you. I purchased as a tourist, an oddball world traveler. My name is Judy Dexter and I study early civilizations, have a passion for fiber and color, an interest in ancient and nomadic textiles. For me, adventure is to visit the source for an authentic experience. As an artsy single woman, age 65, wondering what I’d do now that I was retired, I thought I might like to learn to weave.

      How did I happen to be in Iran? In the summer of 2001 I signed up for a tour on “Ancient Persia to Modern Iran” led by a Cornell professor. After 9/11, I wondered whether I should cancel, but I was temping at Princeton in the Middle East department; they urged me to go, saying I’d be safe, the people’s culture and hospitality were legendary, and I’d never have a better chance.

      I went, and they were right. I obtained a referral to visit a natural dyeing factory outside Shiraz, and got a local guide take me there on a free afternoon in the tour. Outside in the vats, they were doing cochineal! Inside their display barn, from hundreds of amazing colors, I pointed at ten I particularly liked and thought would work together. But-- I don’t speak Farsi, so when I asked for 1 or 2 “skeins” of a color I did not realize that the owner’s representative was translating as “kilos.” After my guide, host, and I had finished tea, I was presented with an immense bag stuffed full of yarn and sewn shut. To bring it home I had to buy a huge tennis sports bag on casters that I found in the Shiraz market.

      In 2011 I found the man I must have been waiting for all my life (after a first mistake that lasted 17 years), and we will have our 2nd wedding anniversary Sept.22, 2014. We have a new house and we have Too Much Stuff. I took a weaving course back then, and this wool was a delight compared to the other yarns we used, but I’m never going to become a weaver, so I’m looking for the right person to love it and use it. (I’ll include the huge Wilson bag with it.)

      If you think this once in your lifetime yarn opportunity might be right for you, I’m at tentu98 at verizon dot net and a resident of New Jersey in the six-oh-nine area code near Princeton and Lambertville. Or call seven three seven, thirty-seven fifty-one. I’ll send you some samples, and answer your questions.

    4. What a great story Judy! Thanks so much for sharing it. I don't have a use for this yarn (though it sounds fascinating from a historical perspective), but perhaps someone else will. Ebay is a great way to sell something like this. Or perhaps someone on one of the tapestry lists might be interested.

  14. What a great discussion. I've been looking for just this information. I also dye my own yarn, and I'm looking for the closest thing to undyed Paternayan that is available. I'm in the middle of a series of projects that are basically color sample charts in needlepoint based on Linda Knutson's "Synthetic Dyes for Natural Fibers".. I've been using undyed Paternayan yarn from my stash of many years past. But now I've about exhausted my stash and can't get more undyed Paternayan until the new owners finish building their inventory of colors. It looks like I'm going to have to switch horses mid project. Do you have any recommendations for the closest match? It would save me a ton of work and expense sampling all the different yarns. Thanks very much.

    1. I definitely don't know a lot about Paternayan. I've used it a little bit. I think two strands of the three (or 4 of the 6--I think it is actually three 2-plys plied together, isn't it?) would be about equal to Harrisville Highland, but it might be a little thicker. It totally depends on what epi you're weaving at and if you need to split the yarn and if you ply it or not and a bunch of things! :) I don't know of any 3 or 6 ply yarn that is about equal to the Paternayan. You can always use a singles yarn like the Faro and use as many strands as you need or you can use the Norwegian Frid yarn doubled... clearly I don't have enough information. :)

  15. Hi Rebecca,
    I ordered a lot of Tapestry Workshop Yarns ( fun!). I got them within 10 days :)

  16. The Norwegian yarn up there is from Hillesvåg Yarns, based outside Bergen- Rauma yarns and Hillesvåg make good yarns for weaving, both Norwegian (I'm sure there are very good Swedish brands too, though cannot think of any except Glimåkra company, which also make good looms). But all Norwegian yarns are a little expensive- I looked at Harrisville for that very reason. Otherwise, thanks for the yarn tips!

    (Norwegian novice weaver)

  17. I'm just starting out in tapestry weaving, and have been using needlepoint wool (both 3ply and DMC laine Colbert), mostly sourced from estate sales and thrift shops. As an embroiderer (and thread collector), I have a sizeable stash of both, as well as many other fibers, and knitting yarns.

    If your 100% wool comes in short lengths, as some have mentioned, perhaps you could "spit splice" as knitters often do--I've done this for years when knitting, and don't know why it wouldn't also work for tapestry.

    1. I don't see why you couldn't do this, though in tapestry we tend to either do as the Navajo do and "feather" the ends together when laying them in, or splice which is what I do. The tails from the splice are cut off after you've woven a ways on top of them.