Category Archives: woolen yarn

We have yarn!

For the last while I’ve had this blanket project on the back burner. It was meant to be a straightforward spinning project. Spin the warp for a handwoven blanket. The fibre, while clean was a bit sticky so it had to be rewashed. Then it needed to be carded. I originally thought to comb it, but really wanted this blanket in my lifetime. So onto the drum carder it went, as you can see below.

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For warp you need a strong yarn, so worsted spinning would be best. But as it’s a blanket I also wanted it to be soft and warm, so wanted a bit more air in the yarn. After some sampling that I noted in the last post I used a short forward draw that I let the twist into it, so it’s a modified woollen draft. And it didn’t smooth the yarn at all while spinning. Just pinch, draft out, let go. Repeat a million times. In the next couple of photos you may just be able to see how fuzzy the yarn is.

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And here are three newly plied skeins totaling about 740 m of two-ply yarn. I haven’t washed them yet. I plan to spin it all up and wash them all at the same time. Now that Fibres West is over an my workshops are behind me, I can devote all my time to this project.

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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.

 

Don’t waste the waste

I love combing fibre as a way to prepare it for spinning.  Several of my blog posts can attest to that.  However, the one thing that really bothers me about combing is the waste.  Last weekend I prepared some fibre for an upcoming workshop I am teaching.  I made a series of lovely combed nests.  After 70 grams worth of combed fibres, I weighed the waste that was left on the combs.  31.5 grams!!!  So — of an approximate total of 100 grams of fibre, I can get 70 grams of finished ready-to-spin stuff and approximately 30 grams of stuff I have to find something to do with.

This is not good.

I usually stuff the waste into the bottom of a sock I find in the laundry.  It goes through a wash and dry cycle and out pops a lovely felted ball.  These balls make great kitchen hockey balls, kitty play-thing balls, and base balls on which to wind spun singles.  However, there are only so many one needs in one’s life.

I knew that some people card this stuff up and use it in their spinning.  It just seemed so uninspiring — all those short bits, random second cuts, fibres of multiple lengths.  But what’s the harm in an experiment?

I took the bags of waste I had collected from the combing — one series was dyed Dorset (green/blue) the other bag was undyed, beautiful white Montadale.  I put them through my drum carder three times, blending the colours and creating two decent sized batts.

I’ve been brushing up on my spinning techniques in preparation for some workshops I’ve proposed for Fibreswest. This batt of fibre was an excellent candidate for the woolen spinning technique. Woolen spinning — is where you allow the twist to enter into the fibres and while it is doing that, you slowly and intentionally pull away.  When you have as much twist as you want — and for a lofty yarn you just want the fibres locked — then you let the whole piece run onto the bobbin.  And then you start again letting the twist enter the fibre source and pulling back.

For those of us who are more familiar with the worsted technique, where you never allow the twist to enter the fibre source — you feed the fibre to the twist — the woolen technique takes some getting used to.  It also takes some getting used to because it doesn’t look all that great on the bobbin. There are bumps and funny bits that you are tempted to remove.  But don’t.  That’s all part of the package.  Apart from the spinning technique, the real magic with woolen spun yarn happens when you wash it.

Here’s a photo essay of my yarn, from bobbin to finished skein.

You can almost hear the yarn moan as it expands, relaxes, and blooms.  I let it soak for few minutes in very warm soapy water and beat it up a bit while it was in the water.  I squeezed it and roughed it up.  And then I did something that I have read about, but never had the nerve to do with yarn.  Right after this warm soapy bath, I squeezed the water out and then filled the sink with ice cold water and threw it in.  While in there I continued the beating.  The point of this is to try to slightly felt the yarn.  Not so much that it loses it’s elasticity, but enough that it will hold together and those shorter bits won’t quickly find their way out of your stitches.  ie. pill.

So here is the lovely skein — my experiment with wool-stuff that would either be a felted ball or just thrown into the garbage.  It is 46g and 82m.  I couldn’t believe how light it was, especially after it dried.  
I can’t knit anything up with it yet because I want to use this skein as a sample — if my class runs.
I’ll just have to make another one.