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.

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