Thursday, February 26, 2015

Obsessed with scarves!

This winter I seem to be obsessed with weaving scarves on my rigid heddle loom. Probably because I'm just a bit stumped on a certain segment of assembling my new 8H loom. Or maybe I just need some instant gratification. Whatever it is, I've been cranking them out in between travel and writing and designing.

The first was from a gradient batt I had lying around. I just wanted to see what it would look like woven up.

Then I got into the bags of striped rolags I'd made on my blending board. There was enough of some colors to do two scarves, so I spun up enough matching colors blended with Angelina glitter to weave two scarves--same but different.

Then there was this really nice dyed top from Blue Moon Fiber's Rockin' Whorl Club, a nice Polwarth that only Tina can work such magic on. While winding the warp, I glanced into a corner of my studio and spotted a small pile of mohair knitting yarn (lots of corners, lots of little piles of things). One of them was a perfect match to the warp yarn. I had enough of the warp left to weave one scarf, so sat down and spun a matching mulberry for the second scarf.

This has been such a fun adventure. I've got a few more scarves in the works, one with beads! I can't wait to see how that one works up. Now if I could just find the time to do something creative with those fringes......

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blending Fibers With a Drumcarder, Part 3 of 3

Last time I talked about the process of making a fiber 'sandwich' on your drumcarder, as published in Yarnmaker magazine back in 2012. This week we discuss a few odds and ends. And I apologize for the lack of pictures; there's a whole disc full of them and at least four that accompanied this section. However, the disc seems to be corrupt and I can't open anything including the photos from the first two sections. :(
If you are working with large amounts that need to be blended uniformly, you’ll need a bit more space, more time and a way to keep helpful pets out of the carding area (yes, I have a curious cat). Weigh, divide and prepare all your fibers. At this point, you should know how many total batts you’ll be making based on the total weight of your fiber and the amount your carder will hold. Remember that number. Let’s say I need to make 16 batts, each weighing 28 grams. Once I’ve made the first layered batt, I divide it into 16 strips and each strip is the beginning of a new pile. The second layered batt is also pulled into 16 strips and added to the 16 piles. Continue in this manner until you have 16 piles, each with a strip of fiber from the 16 layered batts. If there were any discrepancies in the amount of fiber in the layered batts (angelina and the fine exotic fibers are difficult to weigh because they are feather-light), this process should distribute the fibers more evenly. You now attenuate and recard the 16 piles into 16 new batts. Repeat this process as many times as necessary to achieve the blend you want.

Finally, before you run off to play with your new fiber, CLEAN YOUR DRUMCARDER. Trust me, if you don’t do it now you WILL forget. And the next time you use it, those leftover fibers on the drums will adhere to your next batt. They will be unsightly, annoying and frustrating--if not impossible--to remove from the new batt. Follow the recommendations of your drumcarder manufacturer for cleaning. Mine came with a flicker that I use to clean the large drum; my small drum rarely needs a cleaning. Simply hold the flicker against the drum with the wires of the card cloth in the same direction and rotate the drum slowly. Repeat across the entire surface until the drum is clean. In a pinch I’ve also used a single hand card or a stiff scrub brush to clean the drum(s).

Your explorations in blending will become something to share with your spinning friends. You could form a study group within your guild to see what blends the members will come up with and how each person will spin and use the same blend. Spinning should always be fun, and exploring different fibers and blends is an endless journey.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Blending fibers with a drumcarder, Part 2 of 3

Last time I talked about choosing your fiber and preparing it for the carding process, as published in Yarnmaker magazine back in 2012. This week we start the actual process.

Finally, Step Three is the carding process. If you want to repeat your fiber blend with consistency, you will need to weigh out the fibers for each batt and make note of the amounts used. Postal scales work well for this and can be purchased at reasonable prices. I like to work in sets of four or eight batts and divide the fiber into four or eight piles after weighing. Once weighed (or not weighed if you’re feeling free-spriited!), you should prepare the fiber for carding by attenuating, fluffing or picking as dictated by whether you have top, clouds or roving, or clean dry fleece. You should have more of one fiber than the others—this is your base fiber. We’ll be making a fiber “sandwich”, so we need top, bottom and dividing layers of base fiber. Working with one batts-worth at a time, divide the base fiber into one more section of base fiber than you have blending fiber. In other words, when I blend Merino/angelina/silk noil, I divide the Merino into thirds because the angelina and silk noil are my blending fibers and the Merino is my base.

28 g of Merino top split into 3 strips, Firestar and silk noil ready for the carder.

Once everything is weighed, prepared and divided, you can start building your batt. In my Merino/angelina/silk noil example, I start with one third of the Merino, feeding it slowly and evenly into the drumcarder, making sure it feeds evenly on the drum covering it from edge to edge.

Feeding the first Merino top into the drumcarder

Leave about 1.25 cm of the drum edge clear, otherwise fibers will tend to wrap around the axle of the large drum. Next, I feed in the attenuated Firestar or fluffed-up angelina so that it’s also spread evenly on the drum.

Adding the Firestar

This is followed by another third of Merino,

Carding the second layer of Merino top

 ...the fluffed-up silk noil,

Adding silk noil

 ...and the final third of Merino.

Carding the final layer of Merino top

 You now have a batt with layers of fiber, which can be spun as-is for a textured effect or recarded for a more blended, smoother batt and yarn.
To recard, remove the batt from your carder and split lengthwise into appropriate strips.

Splitting the batt

 My carder only holds about 48 grams (1.7 oz.) of fiber, so I split into fourths. If your batts are larger, you’ll need to divide into more strips. Each strip should be easy to handle and easy to attenuate. Once divided, attenuate each strip

Attenuating the four strips from the split batt

and feed evenly into your drumcarder as before. You can repeat this stripping and recarding as many times as necessary to achieve the blend you like.
You can see the blobs of silk noil in this strip.

Re-carding the batt onto the large drum

Yes, I have a howling wolf on my studio wall!
I usually find that two recardings works well on my Strauch Finest carder, but drumcarders differ and you need to observe how yours handles each blend.
Next time, I'll talk about how to deal with large quantities of fiber that needs to be evenly blended throughout several batts.