Category Archives: Drum Carder

Of Friends and Sheep

When I was little I had a friend who was a few months younger than me – at the age of six the age gap was very important! As we grew up the age difference meant she was in a different school year to me, but we had similar interests – beer, music, motorcycles 😉 (we were older than six by then…). Eventually our lives went their separate ways.

Recently we were reconnected by the power of the Internet. However, we are now many miles away from each other, I’m still on the Sussex coast whilst she’s in Shetland – but she pops back down south to see her family, so we’ve met up a couple of times over the last year. The icing on the cake to rediscovering an old friend is finding that your old buddy keeps sheep and has no qualms about popping a homegrown fleece in her hand luggage when she flies back to visit family! I guess apologies are due to the other passengers, no matter how clean fresh fleece is, it does have a certain perfume to it…

The first bag of fleece was from a fine chap called Black Boy. I’m no expert at washing fleece, but managed not to felt it, then combed it, spun a small two ply skein which was awarded a third place rosette at the local Rare Breeds show in the summer.

Black Boy's fleece

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Currently I’m working on some white fleece from another sheep in her flock, Suzie the Shetland. This is slowly going through my drum carder – I had forgotten how much time and effort goes into feeding locks in and slowly turning the handle.

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There’s still a fair amount of Shetland scenery embedded in the carded fleece, but hopefully that will fall out when I spin it – I want to make something for Suzie’s owner and it probably would be more comfortable if it was made of wool not thorns!

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Batts and attempts at long-draw

I have been at the drum carder again…  Last week I read this blog post by Vampy which describes how to create batts with colour shading (basically layer the colours, split the layered batt into strips, fluff the fibre strips out sideways and feed them through again).  The photos showed lots of sparkle being added – how could I resist 🙂 ?

This was my attempt number one:

It worked, but I think the fibres were a bit too close in colour to show the colour changes clearly.   I used three different colours, pale blue, teal and green but it looks more like two colours.  I tore the finished batt into about 5 strips and spun them in order, then navajo plied them so the yarn would fade from dark to light:

Now, it’s not perfect, but could you just note that most of the yarn is pretty smooth and even.  I’m currently knitting it into some iPod cases using 1.5 mm needles and it’s looking fine.  I’d like to mention that now, because some of the later pictures are not so pretty…

I tried another batt, with a wider colour variation:

This colour combination seemed to come to me from nowhere.  Whilst congratulating myself on my amazing creativity, I realised it wasn’t my creation at all!  I had been looking at artwork online by Lorrie Whittington, a local artist, who has used this pallette of blues and purples in some of her work and it had obviously imprinted itself on my mind!   Do go and take a look at her work, it is swirly and whirly and beautiful!

This time, I split the batt into a dozen or so strips to try and get a more gradual change in colours:

Again, I spun singles.  Then, half way through the bobbin something in my head said ‘try long-draw’…  I’ve been meaning to, having watched Ruth at the spinning group whizz through yarn effortlessly.  The sensible thing would have been to try it out on some fibre that was hanging around waiting to be spun, something ordinary or in a colour I didn’t like particularly – goodness knows that there’s plenty around!  But no, something took over and I started playing around half way through using the batt I had so carefully laboured over. 

I could not quite bring myself to remove my left hand from pinching the yarn and stopping the twist, but my right hand was happily moving backwards with the fibre stretching out in a trail as my hand went back.  I even managed to get rid of my vice-like grip on the fibre, remembering what I had been told at the Weald and Downland when I tried the Great Wheel – ‘imagine it is a butterfly in your hand, you don’t want to crush it’.  So, my attempt was probably nothing like long-draw at all.  I’d call it coward’s long-draw at best!

This was the result – a small skein of yarn which starts off purple and even and smooth and then deteriorates into lumpy bumpyness as it turns blue.  It didn’t help that I plied it whilst my daughter was watching Mary Poppins – there’s something about Dick van Dyke doing a Cockney accent that reduces me to tears of laughter…

I’m pleased I had a go, but it served as a reminder as to how much there still is to learn about fibre and spinning.

From Fibre to FO (a rare event)!

A couple of months ago I purchased some ‘hotchpotch’ packs of fibre from Helen at My Heart Exposed Yarns (www.folksy.com/shops/myheartexposed).  I used one pack to experiment with corespinning and over Christmas I put the other pack of blue shades to good use.

Another rare event happened before Christmas – I won a prize in a raffle!  It was bath goodies and came wrapped in some lovely paper:

I used the paper as inspiration for creating the yarn.  The ‘hotchpotch’ was mainly shades of blue with a bit of plum thrown in – I added some blue merino and some brown mystery fibre that I received in a waste selection from www.worldofwool.co.uk.

Once carded together they looked like this:

and I even remembered to write down the ingredients:

 

It started to go slightly downhill from here…  The fibre was great to spin, I navajo plied it and got an aran weight yarn.  The mix of colours began to get a bit muddy looking for my tastes:

 Again, I remembered to note down some of the vital facts…

I adapted the stitch pattern from the Spiral Mitts I knitted before Christmas and made a squishy cosy cowl:

I’m still not 100% sure about the way this turned out, but hey, I actually finished something!

Singles

A couple of posts ago I wrote up how I drumcarded a mix of fibre samples from the Fibreholics into a heathery batt in shades of pink.  When we left this saga, the yarn was on the bobbin…

I decided to leave the yarn as singles, so wound them off onto the niddy noddy.  Things looked quite in control at this point:

Then it came off – wheeee!

It went into very hot water, then cold, then very hot again, then cold with a bit of swishing about each time to try and felt it enough that it would hold together.  By this time it was then really, really curly:

I hung it up to dry with a coat hanger hooked in the bottom of it, just to try and encourage it to de-kink a bit.  By the time it was in a skein it looked better behaved:

It came out a bit thinner than I had aimed for, so another skein that goes in the big ‘I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with this’ pile.  The skinniness of this yarn is averaged out by the 200g of Light Grey Suffolk that I spun aiming for an aran-ish weight to make some nice thick boot socks with – it started well, but I got distracted and spun a couple of bobbins of really fine singles before going back to it.  The second and third bobbin ended up on the thicker side so I have some 3 ply bulky-ish yarn instead. 

I have been working on a record keeping system, I just need to remember to fill it in at the vital points so I can remember how I got the yarn the first time!

Drum Carding

Now that I’ve made a start on sorting my fibre/knitting stuff, my Minty drum carder has its own table and I have been doing much more carding.  Having my carder ready to go has meant that I’m doing bits and pieces here and there, rather than making it a major operation to get it out and find space for it.

Looking at the stats for my blog, I can tell that lots of people visit looking for info on drum carders, so here’s a write up with lots of pictures to show some of what you can get up to…

Last February I bought a fibre pack from the Fibreholics (http://www.thefibreholics.co.uk/) – basically you get several 20g samples from a number of different fibre dyers/suppliers.  The theme at the time was Valentine’s Day so there was plenty of pink in the mix – I bought a 200g pack so had ten different samples to play with.  I had started making (but somehow still not quite finished…) a bag, but still had around 60g of various fibres left.  I added in some white shetland and a few other bits and pieces to make it go a bit further, ending up with around 100g:

I split the 100g into two fairly evenly coloured lots and fed it onto the carder.  Given that the fibres were already split into small sections, I just randomly selected them and fed them in, trying to spread the colours equally over the drum and add the white in every so often.

In the end the drum and resulting batt were fairly stripey:

I rolled the batt lengthways into a long sausage and then drafted it once into an even longer sausage.  Just for good measure, I then drafted it one more time until I had a long continuous length of fibre – the stripes were still pretty visible:

I did start spinning this, aiming for a soft DK/Aran-ish weight single.  I didn’t like the result!  Too stripey for my taste, and I felt that it would knit up into blobby variagated patches which is not what I was aiming for.

So, back to the carder… I ran it through again (much easier a second time) and got a more heathery sort of blend:

I removed the batt and tore it lengthwise into half a dozen strips, then drafted each one a bit, just to remove any stray clumps/bumps.  This looked much more promising:

The batts turned into these singles:

 

Which hopefully will become a hat.

Knitting with glitter

Yay!  Second pair of mittens is now finished – just one more to do and Christmas knitting is sorted:

Mittens galore

Knitting gifts for Christmas always seems such a good idea – but why does it always end up taking more time than you have?  The snow and ice has returned and it meant a day of going nowhere and an excuse to do nothing but knit.

I’m doing three pairs of mittens and have finally finished one pair, the other needs another three rows per hand and I have finished one of the other pair (which was the pair I started first…).

This pair are for my mother-in-law, a lover of animals.  The yarn is spun from a batt made of merino, alpaca and angora so represents a good selection from the animal kingdom.  I’m not sure I carded it very well, the angora went into little clumps, but it made an interesting tweedy effect so I’m going to claim it’s a design feature.

Corespinning

I am amazed that there are so many things you can do with fibre.  I seem to have so many things on the go, so many unfinished projects and somehow no self-control when it comes to trying things out on the spur of the moment!

I have wanted to try corespinning for a while, having tried spinning coils earlier in the year.  I sat down last night to ply some singles to make gloves for a Christmas present, but somehow I accidentally ended up corespinning…

I bought some fibre from Helen and Angelica at http://www.folksy.com/shops/myheartexposed a week or two ago.  They specialise in using natural dyes and come up with an amazing range of colours.  Helen and I seem to share a love of autumnal colours, so this mixed lot of fibres particularly appealed to me.  I put the fibre through the drum carder and threw in some gold nylon to add to the autumnal feel, ending up with a mix of burgundy/pink/rust/copper colours.

I then spun some white shetland singles, adding lots of twist.  Next time I’d use something closer in the colour to the fibre I was using to wrap my single – in some places in my yarn the core peeks though, but you live and learn.  The end result is rather twisty – not as curly as some singles I have produced, but maybe another time I can get it to balance a bit better.  I love the end result and hope to use the rest of Helen’s fibre in this way (when I have finished the Christmas projects…).  It’s currently drying on top of the woodburner, but I am impatient to try knitting a swatch, just to see how it behaves.

 

Warm and toasty

My first project using a batt I created is now finished:

I made three batts of various orange/rust/gold/brown shades of merino blended with some copper coloured trilobal nylon.  Each batt has a slightly different style – one was layered, one was randomly blended and the other graduated from dark to light across the batt.  Each batt became a single and resulted in a worsted-ish three ply yarn. 

The colours lent themselves well to the Candle Flame cowl (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/candle-flame-cowl) – I managed to complete two and a half repeats of the pattern and squish in a couple of purl rows and end up with a yard or two of yarn left over – result!

Elegantly Wasted…

The quest to put more and more fibre through my carder is continuing.  I began to worry that I might not have enough fibre to keep me going.   (I ignored the boxes of stashed away stuff.  Variety is what I was after…)  In need of an instant fix I ordered a 500g mixed waste bag from World of Wool http://www.worldofwool.co.uk/products/36/special_offers.htm

A very well stuffed bag arrived a couple of days later – it must have had the air well and truly squished out of it as once I undid the knot at the top it pretty much tripled in size.  Here’s what I got:

Mostly merino (I think!) – there’s over 100g of the green merino in the bottom right of the photo, but also some humbug looking something (shetland or BFL) shown on the bottom left.  Should keep me carding for a while?

Batty…

Maybe I am too keen on my drum carder, I seem to have fluffy fibre batts everywhere..

I have yarn. What next?

Having carded and spun the batts I’ve made I’m ending up with smallish skeins of yarn which are pretty but need to have some sort of purpose.  Perhaps if I put a bit more thought into what I was making right from the start it would work better…

The pink sparkly batt is now half an adult sized hat, one that won’t work because there just isn’t enough yarn to finish it.  It needs frogging and reworking in a smaller size but I just haven’t got the heart to do it at the moment.  So I’m starting another hat with some of the other yarn. 

The new hat’s yarn was a mix of some dyed fleece in all sorts of autumn shades which I bought at the East Sussex Guild Textile show last year – I think I paid something like £2 for a carrier bag full.  I blended it with some plum and dark green silk and threw in some mid-brown merino.  I made two batts, one with more of the  dark fleece the other with the lighter, brighter shades in it.  Then I spun one bobbin that was 2/3 dark then 1/3 light and the other 1/3 dark and 2/3 light,  my theory being that it should the finished two-ply would have a gradual colour change.

The thing I am really impressed about is how I can wind a centre-pull ball – this one is very neat!!

I just need to find the right hat design now for 100 yards of bulky-ish yarn…

My New Drum Carder

I’ve been saving  for a few months now, waiting to get a drum carder.  The time finally came and a decision had to be made…  I compared several carders in my price range, including the Ashford carders, particularly the Wild Carder which appealed to me because it was a compact design.  However, I eventually plumped for a Minty carder, 72 ppsi with extra-deep sides and a packer brush (http://mintyspinningsupplies.com/page3.htm).  A couple of factors swung it for the Minty – the deep sides mean you can put the carder on the floor or a table and there is room to turn the handle without it crashing into the surface and crushing your fingers, and it’s good to support a local craft supplier instead of the big guys for a change.

It arrived by courier a couple of days after ordering, well-wrapped and the only construction needed was adding the handle.  Since then, nothing has been safe from the carder – the dog is looking nervous again, after having escaped from the purple dye earlier in the year!  I seem to have an addiction to angelina sparkle and have added it to two of the three batts I have made so far.

 

I’ve thrown merino, shetland, angelina, washed/dyed fleece and silk into the mix so far and it’s going fine.  Putting the fibre through twice helps and I’ve learned the hard way to be patient and only add a little at a time.  I’ve also discovered that there is a fine line between having a range of interesting colours and everything turning sludgey…