Spinning iris leaves into yarn


Sometimes an idea just comes to me with such force that I have to try it out.  I had been wondering whether to enter the Royal Show and thought perhaps not, since time has been especially tight and I didn’t have any really great ideas.  Then an idea came to me.  Could I spin string from leaves on the wheel?  And spin shells onto it? I had to try it out (no shells to hand this moment, which is a small hitch)…


These iris plants came originally from the trading table at my Guild.  I recognised them immediately because there are some just like these growing in a street near ours that I walk along often.  I believe they may be Algerian Iris, (Iris unguicularis), drought tolerant iris from ‘Algeria and Tunisia but also … Greece, Crete, Rhodes, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.’ This would explain why they are doing well here, though those that were not watered over summer all died. Before I planted them, I trimmed off the leaves and saved them.  Almost a feed sack full of them.  How can you know when such a thing might come in handy? Ahem.


I weighed and soaked them in water in preparation. Weighed, because a show entry has to be a certain weight–I made sure I had much more than required.


I hand twisted a sample just to check concept.  So far so good.  Much more plausible than daylily leaves, which I had decided against.


And then, on with the apron, leaves in a damp tea towel, leaves divided into narrow strips, and the challenge of working out how to join one strip to the next began.  The short answer is: insert each new strip of leaf at almost 90 degrees to the forming single, make sure it has been twisted between at least two other strips, and then move on.


Before long, I had some extremely ugly, spiny looking string forming.


It took me several evenings to have two bobbins of this, and then to ply.  Before plying I soaked my bobbins, singles and all, in water to make them pliable.  When I transferred the ‘yarn’ onto the niddy noddy, it was soooo spiny.  I took scissors to trimming off the ends.   For an hour or two.


The finished yarn is decidedly less good than hand twined string, both in looks, texture, and strength, but I can’t imagine how long making this much string by hand would have taken.  So… now I have done it, and I know I can do it.  But I am not sure it was worth doing!  I am still thinking over whether more practice would (or course) improve the outcome, or this was just one of those things you do once and then set aside permanently…








Filed under Basketry, Spinning

20 responses to “Spinning iris leaves into yarn

  1. Wow. You are the master of all awesomeness. It is so cool that you not only had the idea, but you DID IT. Maybe not practical, lol, but it can be done. You win.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lee G

    Brilliant thought and inspired execution!


  3. That was a really cool idea. What will you use it for after you’ve entered it in the show?


  4. Pia

    The snipping of the ends would have driven me batty for sure.


  5. Yes they are iris ungularis, keep trying to grow them but with no success, which is annoying as my mother in law had them here in her garden would love to try them again. Find it fascinating what you do, such a variety. You even inspired me to knit socks again.


  6. Rebecca

    I just love your show entries. They set my mind afire with possibilities. You are a spinning aviatrix doing loop the loops and balancing on your wings high in the air.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Rebecca, yet again, a comment to set the heart aglow, even when the aviatrix discovers she is 5 grammes short of what is needful! It is such fun to stretch the possibilities and a spinning wheel is such a versatile tool for the imagination…


  7. At last, all is revealed! What a bummer that you were 5 grams short, after all that effort. One for the pool room?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I think the skein is beautiful…and I like the spikey stuff in progress. Wondering if long strands of it might not make a wonderful natural version of a bug curtain…like those nowadays made of plastic strips or the beaded things with images painted on them….

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Wow!! That’s amazing.


  10. norma

    Really interesting idea – not everything works out, but maybe it’ll lead you to something else?


Please feel free to join the conversation...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s