The upside of the fleece washing

I have more to say about my recent fleece-fermenting experiments, but for now, I’ll just say that having washed fleece on hand has proven to be a Good Thing(TM) and I want more of it.

A couple of weeks ago, I started obsessing over the Boardwalk sweater (and colourway), and (since I’m still trying not to buy stuff), I figured I had a chance of blending it from undyed fleece:

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I’ve been pecking away at the initial batt-building: a bit of this, a bit of that, in the mornings before work. My first-pass batts (not blended at all; just together’d) contain wool from three different fleeces (a mostly-white shetland with some grey, an almost-alpaca coloured Manx Loughtan, and Bolshy), plus some pale fawn alpaca (which seems to be way nicer than I expected – must investigate further):

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(The dark brown is over-represented in that photo). This morning, I divided, subdivided and recombined the batts and carded the first truly blended batt that has a bit of everything in it. The light was too poor to take a photograph, but I’m pretty enamoured with the result. Probably a bit cooler than the original target colour, but a fabulously interesting heathered oatmeal.

I’ve also enjoyed the batt-building/drum carding process way more than usual; probably because it’s been an experiment, and an adventure, and I’ve not been aiming to ‘finish’ a fleece or stick to a deadline.

In short: I want to do more carding and blending like this, so I’m going to need to get lots of fleeces washed so I have lots of fibre to choose from. (I also want to play with dyeing more of the fibre before blending, but that’s another story)

Preparing for the Tour, part 2: we blend!

My last Tour post talked about picking the wool for my blend.  The wool had already had a lengthy, if somewhat unconventional washing – but the alpaca got no such exalted treatment.  I think I said already that this is the seconds from what was probably a cria’s first shearing; this, like the blanket, is lovely and soft, but it is very, very short:

This is better than it could be: seconds are from the neck and legs of the animal, and often include a lot of stiff, straight, prickly guard hair.  This contains almost none of that, so it’s mostly the length that distinguishes it from the rest of the fibre.

I used my trusty Louet Junior drum carder to blend one part alpaca fibre with two parts picked wool.  I discovered quickly that the extremely short alpaca fibre cannot be fed into the drum carder in the usual way: it all becomes embedded in the licker in (the small drum), and none makes it onto the larger drum.  And at this point, I started to realise I was in this for the long haul…

If you have a fibre that cannot be carded ‘normally’, you introduce it into the blend by making a layered construction on the large drum.  After carding a layer of wool, I had to apply tufts of the alpaca onto the drum cloth:

And push it down onto the drum (or else it would just be lifted straight off onto the licker in, just like we were trying to avoid):

The pushing is accomplished by using the cleaning brush/burnishing tool, held so that the backs of the tines push between the tines of the main drum cloth.

A layer of wool; a layer of alpaca.  A layer of wool; a layer of alpaca.  A layer of wool.

The astute will notice that we haven’t actually blended anything yet.  We’ve got wool and alpaca in the same batt, sure, but they are not really mixed together.  Now that they’re in this sort of sandwich formation, with wool on all exposed faces, we can card it more normally.  The alpaca starts to mix in with the wool, slowly but surely:

After the fiasco that was my last big carding/blending project, I’m quite paranoid about getting the colour even throughout the batts.  I’m fine with localised variation – but I don’t want big sections that are noticeably different to the others.  To avoid this, I prepared the first and second pass batts in batches of three.  I weighed out enough wool and enough alpaca for three batts, and then subdivided that, still using the scales, for the first (sandwich-building) round.  Each of the batts in the batch was split into three, and the thirds mixed up, so the second pass batts contain a bit of each from the first pass:

This photo shows all the second pass batts, in their sets of three.  Next, I mixed up the rows, so that each row contained batts from three different batches, and no row contained batts from the same three batches as any other row.  (Why yes, I do tend to overthink these things!  Thankyou for noticing!).

Again, each batt was split into three, and mixed up with the others from its row.  The second pass batts are much more blended than the first pass ones, but distinctly stripy.  To help get rid of that, I pulled short sections from the batts and fed them into the carder edgewise.  That means the carding action will be perpendicular to the direction of the stripes, smudging them out, and producing a much more even blend – or at least that’s the theory.

And it works!  These batts are evenly blended enough to spin.  However, they do contain quite a lot of neps – short, nubby pieces of fibre.  You could just give in and consider these to be added interest, or pick them out as you come to them in the batt, but I’m spinning this long draw, which means that they actually get in the way of the twist as it flows through the nascent yarn.  You can still pick them out as you come to them – but for me, the spinning is smoother and much more fun if I don’t have to.  Also, the fibre seemed to flow better after a fourth (yes, a fourth!) trip through the carder – so back they went again, this time in the same direction as the previous pass.  Luckily for me, neps seem to ‘float’ to the surface of the fibre as you card, so I could pick them off as I went.

Now, can anyone tell me what there is in that that took me a week and a half to finish?!

(Joking.  That was a lot of work).

Waiting for daylight (and I should know better than this)

This post was supposed to be updating you on the progress of the Lorna’s Laces top that I’m spinning for the Sandi Wiseheart Sweater-along. And, it is. But I don’t think I’m spinning for that project any more.

I thought I was going to be able to tell you that I was half way through spinning the singles. But actually, I think I’m done.

I had two 10-ounce bundles of this hand-painted roving.  I’d been bitten before by strikingly different dye lots in roving, but I’d checked the numbers.  I’d eyeballed the colours in the two bumps, and they looked the same.  So, way back in the summer, I carded up the first braid of roving, and set to work.

Yesterday, I started carding the second lot (and I can’t tell you how much I love my drumcarder.  This kind of colour blending would be next to impossible using hand carders, at least over 20 ounces of wool top) – and immediately I thought the blend looked ‘light’.  Sure enough, spinning up a sample shows it’s significantly different in both hue and value to the first set:

I’m not sure it shows in this photograph, but the two sections on the rightmost end of the bobbin are lighter and yellower than the rest.  It’s seriously noticeable in real life, even under electric lighting (which I think makes *everything* yellow).

Today, I’ve carded up the rest of the second ten ounces, in the hope that the first batt was some sort of outlier in the batch, but they all look pretty close to me.  (The first batt is the one in the middle, that has been pulled into roving.  It looks lighter in this photo, but I think that’s the flash.)  However, I’m not hurrying to a conclusion.  I’m going to wait for daylight and give these batts a close inspection, to see if there are any I can use to continue this project.  If not, I redistribute the singles I have (not including the yellowish bit) and ply up what I can; I should still have around 750 m, I think.

74) Again with the blending! Also, comments.

Remember the grey?  It's happened again:

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But more colourful.

Inspiration for this year's Rampton challenge has finally struck.  We're supposed to be blending this little lot:

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Then creating a bag out of it.  And we're supposed to be finished by November.

The inspiration has really been a long time coming.  Last year, I b!tched that I don't really *do* scarves.  Well, I don't really do bags, either.  And the colours??  Ewwww.  OK, I know we're supposed to be blending them, and colour blending is some serious magic, but… not inspiring.

Recently, though, I've been seeing a lot of colour gamps around.  Well, heyyy…

So, the plan is: blend fibre into rainbow hues.  Weave colour-gamp yardage (hence extending the colour blending theme further). Make bag.

This rocks, because weaving is faster than knitting, and I'm seriously late starting.  Also rockin' the show is my drum carder, because it's a heck of a lot faster than hand carders.  A heck of a lot faster.  And it still took me upwards of four hours to card up this lot.

Still, though, it's magic, right? (confession time: the yellowest yellow is a cheat, from another pack, and I haven't used the white at all).

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Oh – and Typepad fixed the comment issue!!  It's not back as it was, but it's workable.  I believe TheNorma is almost singlehandedly to blame responsible.  Yayyyy TheNorma!

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