Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Going batty

I haven’t posted about spinning in a while, but I’ve been working diligently on my long term project (processing and spinning the fleeces of Tamarind and Muesli that I bought at MDSW this year). The method of washing that seemed to work best for me involved pretty small batches, so it took me a while to work through them. I liked the sample skein I made with hand carded rolags, but when my friend Annette offered to loan me her drum carder, I jumped at the opportunity. Here is Annette showing me how to use it:drum carder

I’ve been using these inexpensive white laundry baskets from the dollar store to store, organize, and tote my fleece from step to step. These are lightweight and stack very compactly. I started with 3 and now own 8 because they are so useful for this project.

Before you load the drum carder, you have to “pick” the fibers to open them up a little bit. I do this by hand, but there are machines out there that can help with this step (just google “wool picker” to see them). Each basket of washed wool turned into about 3 baskets of picked wool. Here is washed wool:20180924_081108

And here is picked wool:20180924_081120

I guess you can’t see the difference very well on the screen, but it’s a big difference. The mat of carded fiber you pull off the drum carder is called a batt:20180923_125707

…and they are generally stored rolled up like this:20180923_154230

To spin them, you can either strip them (just tear them apart into strips that are easier to hold and manage), or z-strip them so each batt is one continuous strip. Here is a batt and a z-stripped batt side by side:z strip

As I started spinning these, I used the z-strip method… but as I progressed I switched to regular stripping. Regular strips are easier to handle and I don’t mind making joins.

When I spin sweater quantities of yarn, I like to store the singles on storage bobbins which hold about 1 ounce each. After making a few batts, it occurred to us that I should weigh the fiber before carding the batt so that I made 1 ounce batts. I can spin 4 ounces on one of my wheel bobbins, so I separate the pre-measured amounts by spinning a bit of red in between them. That way, I have a continuous single, but I know when to break it as I’m transferring the singles to storage bobbins. 20181009_191431

I have the Fiber Artist Supply Co bobbin winder, which is very affordable compared to the major brands. If you are in the market for a bobbin winder, I recommend the review that Sasha Torres did over on The Sheepspot Podcast (episode 36). I don’t have many choices for surfaces on which to clamp a tool, as straight-edged surfaces are far more stable and both my dining table and coffee table have curved edges. I clamp my winder to the pull-out shelf on my antique roll top desk. It’s not super stable, but it works well enough. I do wish that the clamp were more substantial and versatile. winder 

Here is the view from below, so you can see how the clamp interacts with the surface it’s clamped to:20180927_080242

I appreciate the cutout on the wood (many clamps use a simple wood block with no cutout), but I wish it extended longer under the table surface and that the screw was longer. The photos on the website do not show the cutout, so it’s possible they have changed the design since I purchased mine a few years ago.

Anyway, I am happily spinning brown singles from Tamarind’s fleece. Right now I have 11 ounces finished: 20181010_124353But I have LOTS more batts… so many that I think I may skip over spinning some of them for now. My plan for this fiber is to make a Humulus sweater using Muesli’s fleece as the main color and Tamarind (the brown) for the colorwork in the yoke. I would like to have this project completed before I go to Scotland in late March. Big goal! I need to start sorting and picking Muesli’s fleece so I can get it running through my little batt factory.


  1. Thankyou for posting this. I love seeing the process from start to finish. I always learn something new and really appreciate the time you take to post about your fibre adventures. I love the idea of spinning a different colour to mark a specific place. Genius!

  2. I don't spin, but love seeing your spinning process. It seems like you've got this process well under way; maybe when you're done you could take up woodworking to customize your bobbin winder block. :-)