Category Archives: drum carding

Z is for Zombie

This year our guild, the Langley Weavers and Spinners Guild, worked with the Langley Centennial Museum to plan a gallery show. The show will be in the spring 2017.

We struggled for a while to find a theme that fibre artists in our guild could get their heads and hearts around, and be inspired to create something new for the show. Taking a very linear approach, we came up with this: The A, B, C’s of Fibre Arts. The idea is that everyone will choose or be given a letter. Using that letter they will come up with something related to fibre arts to make, explain, or showcase in some way.

I took the letter “Z”. And immediately thought of knitting a zombie parade. Let me explain. I am not a particularly gruesome person, nor am I a zombie fan. I actually find them quite disturbing and photos of zombie parades quite disgusting. However, a few years ago a friend of mine showed me some photos of knitting that her young daughter did as one of her first knitting projects – it was a knitted zombie. It was the craziest looking thing. Yes it was a zombie, hands rotted off, blood dripping from the eyeball, oozing entrails and so forth. But it also looked so darling having been hand knit.  So that’s what I decided to try. I like the contrast of taking lovely, loving and heart warming crafts like spinning and knitting and making something horrifying and disgusting from them. Besides, I think the kids will really like it.

A quick search on Ravelry and I came up with this pattern by Fiona Goble. I got her book Knit your own Zombie from the library and looked over the entire suite of patterns. This was going to be some fun!

Here’s my plan: All the yarn for the zombies is going to be spindle spun in small batches. This will allow me to mix the colours just right to get the correct “flesh” and “blood” colours. To make the flesh, I started by blending white, orange, and yellow corriedale. I then added some tan alpaca that had serious noils from a bad adventure with a picker – a story for another time. Then to “deaden” the flesh look I added in some green and blue corriedale. I did the early blending on my hand carders, but then moved onto the drum carder to really mix it up and get a good volume of fibre. Here it is right of the drumcarder, ready to be spun.

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I spun it on my Jenkins Turkish spindle. It’s a 50 gram spindle and because of that weight, it stretches out the corriedale. When it’s done the yarn bounces back and gives a light, bouncy yarn. I loved the way the noils were coming through in this yarn. In the finished item, the noils could be viewed as maggots or seeping pustules. I’ll leave that up to the imagination of the viewer.

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And here it is being plied on my Snyder Steampunk spindle. It’s a great workhorse for plying.

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Newly washed and ready for knitting. This yarn did not disappoint. 2015-11-30 07.28.17

I’ve knit up the first zombie and will post photos of him/her tomorrow. Stay tuned.

The Blanket Project

Ginette and I decided to collaborate on a fibre arts project. She’s the weaver and I’m the spinner on this project. A client of hers wants a hand woven blanket that is white, soft and uses a good amount of local fibre. So we went out to Ann’s place. Ann has many sheep. Not only does she have many sheep, but she treats them well so their fibre is lovely, soft and top quality for spinning. We came away with these two bags of Ramboulette/Targhee cross. It’s 3.5 lbs and it’s already washed. BONUS. It is in two bags because the locks in one of the bags has the tips cut. Even better.
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Ginette has some wonderfully soft alpaca that she wants to use as the weft, so what I’ll be spinning is the warp. With that in mind, the first thing I sampled was combing it and spinning it worsted. The yarn that resulted was nearly perfect worsted yarn. Strong, lustrous, and smooth. But combing takes time and produces waste. I wanted to know if I could produce a worsted type yarn, but with a faster preparation technique, like a drum carder.

So the next experiment was to drum card the fibre and spin the batts worsted. Here’s my set-up for making carded batts. What you see below are my tools and equipment. From left to right are the brushes, doffers, carding board and drum carder.

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I get the fibre ready for the drum carder by teasing it on the carding board. Just a few passes with my hand cards and it’s ready for the big machine. See how it opens up the fibres and gets them ready for the drum carder? This saves tons of time. I used to this teasing lock by lock. It got rid of more straw and bits, but it took a lot of time.

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Once I have teased up about an ounce of fibre, I start putting it into the drum carder. Nice and slow. Little layers at a time. The fibre was so clean I only needed two passes on the drum carder.

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For that first sample using the carded preparation, I spun with a short forward draw (worsted) and smoothed the yarn as I went. I was aiming for the same thickness as the weft yarn.

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From top to bottom: 1) combed/short forward draw;  2) drum carded/short forward draw with more twist in the ply than in the next sample; 3) drum carded/short forward draw with less twist in the ply than sample 2; 4) drum carded/short forward draw but I let the twist into it, so it’s a modified woollen draft; the sample below the pen is drum carded/long draw. It was a bust – horribly uneven, but I included it the show and tell anyway.

blanket yarn 002Even though I was focused on making a worsted yarn because that’s what I thought was the best thing for warp – the woollen yarn that I made ended up being the yarn of choice.

While we like all the yarn produced, for this project we decided on sample 2 – the woollen sample. It is strong enough to be used as warp – but it’s light and soft, matching the weft yarn better than any of the other samples. It is also faster to spin than the other samples. BONUS. So I need to card and spin 900 yards of two-ply yarn. If I want a blanket of my own, I just need to spin up another 900 yards.

I think I’ll do just that.

 

Exploring Fibre Preparation Techniques – Fibreswest 2015

wool combing 003wool combing 005wool combing 009For more information about Fibreswest and how to register for class, visit here.

Exploring Fibre Preparation Techniques – Diana Twiss. Half day, Fri.Mar.13/15. 8:30-12:30. $65#106

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a carded roving and a combed top? A batt and a rolag? If you are keen to know, then this workshop is for you. In this 4 hour workshop, you will learn a variety of fibre preparation techniques that will help you understand one of the elemental factors in making the yarn you want to make – fibre preparation. You will learn how to flick card, hand card, comb and drum card a variety of fibres. In addition to learning how to use these tools and creating samples with them, you will also play around with fibre and colour blending.

Materials fee: $15 payable to the instructor

Skill Level: intermediate and beyond. Must be able to spin a continuous thread and be comfortable with plying.

Equipment required: spinning wheel in excellent operating order, lazy kate, three bobbins, any and all fibre preparation tools you may have – flick carder, hand carders, wool combs, drum carder.

Making my favourite yarn

For the last while I’ve been obsessed knitting lace shawls, tidying up my studio and finishing up spinning projects with really slippery fibres. With more space opened up in the studio from tidying up, I was inspired to get out the tools/machines and get some wool carded to make my favourite yarn. Wool, plain and simple.

What I have below is my carding board. It’s a great thing that allows me to quickly tease up the washed fibre and open up the locks. I got out some of white and some grey Romney from Acacia Farms.

I teased up some of the white wool and an equal amount of grey. The grey is quite dark so I like the effect of blending the grey with white, spinning a singles from that, and plying it with a singles of the unblended grey.

Here’s what this yarn will look like: each skein below is a double ply yarn. One singles is the blended grey, and the second singles is either dark grey (the one on the left) or white (the one on the right).

Here are some drum carded nests of blended fibre. Many more followed, nearly a full pound! Will hopefully get around to spinning this up over the weekend, and then dyeing the yarn. Will keep you posted.

Spinning Workshop: Session Four

Last Sunday we had the fourth and final (for now) spinning lesson at my place. We had a lot that we still wanted to get done so I was quite a task master.

First thing we did was a lot of spinning. I wanted to make sure each one not only had the basics of drafting and putting twist into the fibre, but that they were able to troubleshoot any problems at would arise as they spun. Happy to say that all four spinners are making a continuous thread that gets more and more consistent each week. And for the most part, they can figure out how to fix a problem like over or under twisting, and are in much more control of their wheels. In the beginning, we often feel that the wheel is controlling us and it takes some time before your get the upper-hand. Once you do, you are well on your way to being an independent spinner.

They were all interested in fibre preparation techniques, so to make the drum carding session more interesting, I showed them how to make Crazy Batts. Those are the lovely batts you make from a variety of fibres, colours and textures. The resulting yarn from a Crazy Batt looks something like this:

It’s fun and funky yarn. Below is a small sampling of the fibres we were working with — mostly wool in a variety of colours, but there was also some kid mohair thrown in, you can see that in the top right corner.

Added to the mix was all sorts of other things, bits of silk noil, cut up silk hankies, pieces of commercial yarn that has texture. All this gets made into “fibre sandwiches”. Each sandwich has a layer of fibre, some yarn bits, another layer of different fibre, more texture bits and finish off with a final layer of fibre.This sandwich gets fed into the drum carder.  Usually 4 or 5 sandwiches do the trick and you have a decent sized crazy batt. Here’s what our table looked like when we were in full production.

After making crazy batts for about an hour, I demonstrated how to use the picker.

It’s a crazy looking and highly dangerous piece of equipment that you use to tease the fibres to get them ready for drum carding. If you are into a high level of production, it’s a good idea to have one. But one way or another, it’s a good idea to learn the right way how to use that piece of equipment. You can ruin fibres and ruin your arm if you don’t do it right.

Major rule: never, ever put your hands near the teeth.  However tempting it may be to just pull a bit of fibre out of the way. Always use another tool, never your own hand.

So the class and I are taking a break for a few weeks.  Lambing is coming on and other family obligations have us busy for next few Sundays.  But we are going to start up again with more fibre preparation, more spinning techniques and more fibres.

Stay tuned.

Blending Fibre — Photo essay

I started with a pile of wool of various colours.  Pinks, burgundys and some natural brown.  Blended that together and made two good sized batts. It’s the dark coloured batt at the top of the picture below.

I had two good sized batts of cream coloured alpaca in my stash along with a batt of pink and purple mohair. Divided the wool, alpaca and mohair into six equal parts that I would blend.  All this fibre is locally sourced.

I put the fibres through the drum carder in layers.  On the second pass through the carder, I pulled fibre off the end of the batt so I would have a chunk the length of the staple.  I put these clumps through the drum carder sideways.  This makes the fibres blend quickly and evenly.

The final pass through the drum carder is done to straighten out the fibres and blend them one final time.

This is batt #6 coming off the drum carder.

I have six of these batts for a total of 1/2 pound of blended fibre.  That was time well spent.