Summer 2019

We have had a very busy summer 2019, and the website fairy has fallen behind in her updates. July’s meeting was about spinning cotton, and most members attending had a go, although they all agreed it was very different and considerably harder than spinning wool.

August’s meeting was somewhat larger than normal as we welcomed Amanda Hannaford to talk about her experiences teaching spinning cashmere in Afghanistan and yak in Tibet. She illustrated her talk with hundreds of wonderful pictures of the people she met and the places she went.

While Amanda was visiting, some members had a chance to learn from her at a workshop focused on english longdraw. After first carding our rolags, we then went on to spin them. Despite several attendees never having spun longdraw before, by the end of the session, everyone had managed at least a few good drafts and were prepared to go away and practise at home.

Amanda also spent the day with us at the RBST wool day at Melsop Park Farm, showing us what to look for in a raw fleece, and examining and commenting on examples both from the farm and brought in by local sheep owners. Many of us came home with some wooly stash enhancement.


RBST East Anglia Wool Day. August 31 2019

Saturday August 31, 10:30-16:00

Melsop Farm Park, Ellingham Road, Scoulton, Nr Watton, Norfolk
NR9 4NT website

Event page on Facebook


Connecting Wool Producers with Spinners and Weavers and discovering how we can promote wool from East Anglia.

If you’re a wool producer, come and find out the real value of your fleeces! If you work with wool, meet wool producers and buy rare breed fleeces.

£12 admission – includes entry to the park, buffet lunch and talks from the Rare Breed Survival Trust.

This year we are excited to announce Amanda Hannaford will also be speaking.

Amanda Hannaford has had 35 years experience as a handspinner, took her Asscociation Certificate in 1997 and a City and Guilds Stage1 teaching certificate 2000. She has been teaching ever since and has travelled all over the UK, Europe and more recently to Afghanistan and Tibet to share her knowledge. When she first started hand-spinning, there was very little in the way of ready-processed fibres available to the public, so naturally she used the fleece that were available locally in Cornwall. Therefore she has had many years experience in skirting, sorting and washing fleece for hand spinning. She has had many beautiful fleece from a wide variety of breeds through her hands, as well as the not-so-nice, and occasionally the downright awful that is only fit for the compost heap or bean trench. When she visits us Amanda hopes we will provide her with several different local and rare breed fleece that she can open out and discuss with us, explaining the good and bad points of each fleece through a spinner’s eyes. She can point out exactly what a handspinner would look for, how they best like the fleece to be presented and what they might make from its fibre.


Tickets are £12 per person and booking is essential. For more information or to book, contact Mary Watkins at: marydoddswatkins@hotmail.com

Payment by bank transfer (details given upon booking) or cheques made out to RBST East Anglia Support Group

April 2019 – Natural Dyeing workshop, and needle felting

This month we moved venue to Mary’s garden so some members could enjoy a natural dyeing workshop run by Kally Davidson. Kally brought along samples of yarn she had dyed from plants she found in Mary’s garden on a earlier visit, as well as some other examples of her work.

Those of us participating in the workshop were given small pre-mordanted skeins of yarn and were told to go around the garden collecting plant matter to layer in the jar with our yarn. Once we were finished, the jar was filled with boiling water, and we were told to leave it in a warm place for as long as we can manage before we get impatient and want to peek!

We also did some more instant gratification dyeing, and made dyebaths from ivy and applewood from the garden, as well as flowers brought along by participants, including daffodils, dandelions, and marigolds. We experimented with removing the green parts of the flower to see if it made a difference, and Kally explained how colour can be modified by using iron or copper. We all had a wonderful day and learned so much.


Those not participating in the workshop also had a great time. They stayed inside out of the rain and learned about the Bugs and Blossoms project, which is part of the Waveney and Blyth Festival, and aims to promote awareness of our native insects and plants, many of which are under threat and in decline, and to encourage people to notice, care and take positive action. Diss Guild members will be creating a textile based exhibit, making bugs and blossoms encompassing a variety of media and techniques. Work was started on making needle felted bugs and blossoms.

March 2019 – Favourite ways to prepare fibre for spinning

Members shared their ideas on fibre preparation, including opinions on scouring and/ or washing fleece prior to spinning. Some members preferred to spin “in the grease”, but it was generally agreed that excess dirt and
chemicals needed to be removed. Some of us like to use washing up liquid, others use anitbacterial handwash.
Mary had attended an AGWSD Summer school on fibre preparation, and had a comprehensive file of tips and techniques. Mary ran briefly through what to look for when choosing a fleece. The “Ping” test is most revealing.
Various methods for opening up fibres were looked at, flick carding, combing with a dog comb or dog brush etc.

February 2019 – Cables and colourwork

The first half of the meeting was spent discussing proposals for the Association AGM. After this was dealt with, we moved on to fibre!

First we discussed cables; different ways to work them, including without a cable needle, and mock cables, and how working cables at the selvedge of a piece of work gives a nice neat edge. We also talked about converting celtic knots into cable patterns. Slightly unrelated to cables, but still on the theme of threads crossing over one another, we discussed sprang and looked at a wonderfully stretchy bonnet that had been made from handspun using sprang.

After this, conversation moved on to colourwork. Two colour knitting using two hands was discussed, as well as different ways of dealing with floats in knitted colourwork. Then we talked about different ways of using colour in our knitting, pairing a very colourful space dyed yarn with a neutral to showcase the colours, samples of all these techniques were passed around.

2019 Norfolk Maker’s Festival

As in previous years, when it was named ‘Maker’s Month’, guild members attended this event to demonstrate our crafts.

On the opening day of the event, the RBST brought along some rare breed sheep to demonstrate sheep shearing. February is a little chilly for naked sheep, so some of our members kindly provided them with coats, sewn from fabric handwoven by the public during previous years’ events.

We demonstrated spinning, weaving, and kumihimo alongside the four other Norfolk guilds, and at times our stand was completely surrounded by interested members of the public.

There was also a gallery area displaying the work of local fibre artists, including some pieces by guild members.

It was a very enjoyable event, with lots to look at and so many different people to talk to, and we look forward to participating again next year.

September 2018 – Fancy Yarns

Kim Morgan from the Saori Shed in Diss gave a wonderful talk and demonstration on how to make fancy yarns. She begun by showing how she uses the drum carder to mix various types of fibre, ‘sandwiching’ the lumpy stuff between layers of smoother fibres before feeding in. Then she demonstrated how she spins different yarns from these batts, showing how to make a corespun yarn, and various ways to ply the amazingly textured singles this makes.

She brought along many examples of different art yarns, some of which had been woven in the Saori style.

Thank you Kim for a wonderfully interesting and inspirational talk!

 

 

How to use a drum carder: Part 3, blending fibres

This tutorial was originally published on vampy.co.uk all the way back in 2009, and has been updated slightly for use here.

This tutorial will show you how I use my drum carder to blend different colours and fibres to make batts. If you don’t already know how to use your carder, check out my first post on the subject about the basics first, as it contains a few tips on how to get the best from your carder.

In this tutorial I am working with commercially dyed merino tops, and sparkle in the form of trilobal nylon (sometimes called firestar) and angelina. Any commercially prepped fibre can be used in this way. If you are wanting to blend any fibres with raw fleece, it’s easiest to first prepare the fleece as shown in this tutorial before moving on to blending.

I won’t be talking about colour or fibre choices, simply the mechanics of using the carder to get the results you want. There is plenty of information online about which fibres work well together, and the book ‘Color in Spinning’ by Deb Menz contains great in-depth information and explainantions about colour theory and selecting colours for your fibre.

My first batt is for a swap partner who previously won some batts in a competition I ran. She asked for another batt that would go with these existing batts so she could use them all in a project together. I decided to go with deep reds and black, with a little yellow, and lots of gold sparkle. I wanted the batt to be fairly well blended, but not a completely even colour all over. Here are the colours I decided to use:

2

(as an aside, the table I use for my carding in these pictures is a knitting machine table, it’s exactly the same width as the carder, and has space either side for my fibre and tools…and it cab easily fold down so it doesn’t take up too much space)

Once you have picked your fibre, you need to get it ready for carding. My eureka moment with this came when I realised that commercial tops aren’t a long sausage of fibre as I’d originally thought, but are in fact a flat sheet of fibre, folded or rollled up. To spread the fibre out to run it through the carder, you just need to find the join, and flatten the fibre out:

3

This will give you a lovely sheet of fibre with all the individual fibres running parallel. Place the fibre in the feed tray of your carder:

4

You will notice that the fibre doesn’t reach the edges of the tray. This is where your other hand comes in, as well as using it to gently guide the fibre into the tray, you can also stretch the fibre out so it fills the full width of the drum. Once you’ve got it started, it will continue to follow the same path, so you’ll only need that hand to guide rather than spread the fibre too. Remember not to pull on the fibre, just hold it gently and guide it along as it gets pulled in.

5

I normally use around a 30-50cm length of tops at a time…shorter if I want a more blended batt, so I can get thinner layers of different colours.

When you’ve finished with the first section of tops, repeat the process with your other bits, alternating colours each time. When you come to add sparkle, you won’t need to use anywhere near as much as you would do wool. In this batt I put in 3 or 4 layers of gold trilobal nylon, using about this much each time:
6

Even this fairly small amount adds a lot of glitz to the batt…here it is on the carder:

7

After a few layers of fibre, the carder will start to look full, the fibre on the main drum will be getting close to the top of the teeth. In fact, it’s nowhere near full, it just needs squishing down. Run a bristle hairbrush over the drum while turning the handle, and this will compress the fibres and allow you to add more. The below pic is of the drum before and after going over with the brush.

8

Keep adding more layers in different colours until you’ve used up all your fibre, or until the drum is so full that even brushing it won’t allow you to fit any more on. My carder will hold up to around 110g, though I try not to make batts much larger than 80g.

When removing the batt, use your doffing tool to free a small amount fibre each time, working your way along the space between the teeth until the whole batt is no longer joined.

9

Take the fibre, and roll it up away from the join. If you keep your hands close to the drum when rolling, there shouldn’t be any stray fibre remaining on the drum.

The batt currently looks a little messy and not that well blended, so it’s time to recard it to even it out. Tear a thin strip off the edge of your batt:

10

The strip should be about 1/3-1/2 the width of the feed tray, or less if it’s a very thick batt. Take the strip and pull it apart from side to side, to thin it out, and make it the full width of the tray:

11

Recard this strip as before, gently guiding it in with your hand while you turn the handle.

Repeat this process, tearing off strips and spreading them out, then carding them. When it’s all done, remove the batt:

12

This is the effect I was looking for…blended, but not uniform, so the final yarn has patches of different colour. If you want a uniform batt, then repeat the stripping and carding process again until you are happy with the result. If you are blending different fibres (such as wool and silk), you will probably want to do 3 or 4 passes through the carder in total to get a smooth blend so you don’t come across patches of a single fibre when you are spinning.

For the next blend, I wanted to make a batt that faded from one colour to another across its width, with a little sparkle added. Here are the colours in the sequence I wanted:

a1

When I first started carding, I would have torn off thin strips of each colour and laid them side by side on the drum. While this works, it’s fiddly, and you don’t get a nice shading from one colour to the next….so these days I use the below method instead.

Card your fibre, as above, in layers. Start with the colour you want on one side of the batt, and work your way through them. I split each colour of roving in half, and put a small amount of angelina fibre inbetween the two layers of the same colour…green angelina with the green shades, blue with the blues.

When your batt comes off the carder, it should look something like this, a solid colour each side, with layers of other colours in between:

a4

Now you have to recard the batt to get the colours running across it.

As before, tear off a thin strip from one side of the batt. This time, rather than spreading it out flat, turn it on its side, so the layers of colour are running from one side of your strip to the other:

a5

Repeat for the rest of the batt. Don’t worry too much if the colours don’t match up exactly from one layer to the next, this is what gives the final batt the shaded effect. When you’ve finished, your final batt should look something like this:

a6

I hope this gives you some inspiration and the confidence to try making your own batts. Don’t be afraid to experiment with colours and textures, you may come up with something you really love!

Links to the rest of this tutorial

Part 1: The basics

Part 2 : Carding raw fleece

How to use a drum carder: part 2, carding raw fleece

This tutorial was originally published on vampy.co.uk all the way back in 2009, and has been updated slightly for use here.

This post will explain one method I use to card raw fleece on a drum carder. The basics of using a drum carder are explained in this post, and a future post will cover blending of fibres.

The method outlined below is time consuming, preparing the fleece before carding is a lengthy process, and the amount of pre-preparation needed depends on the state of the fleece, and the desired end result. This is not the fastest way of doing this, but it’s the only way I’ve found that works with fleeces with dirty tips or lots of VM. Unlike combing, which keeps only the best fibre and leaves the rest behind, carding is very much a ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’ process, so if you want top quality results, you must be prepared to spend either a fair amount of time preparing your fleece before carding, or a fair amount of money buying a fleece that has been coated and is free of VM (vegetable matter).

First, your fleece needs to be clean. Using a drum carder with unwashed fleece will get your carder very dirty and covered in gunge that will be hard to remove and will contaminate future batts. It may also damage your carder.  There are plenty of fleece washing tutorials available online.

The fleece I am carding in the below images is a cormo fleece. It was a coated fleece so there isn’t much VM, but some of the tips were caked with mud, and I didn’t want this mud to get into the batts. In the below pic you can see a lock of the fleece, with its dirty tips, and also a few nepps at the butt end (which are a common feature of lots of raw fleeces). [clicking on any of the pics will take you to a larger version in my flickr account].

cormo1

I don’t want any of the bits of mud, or the nepps, in my final batt. It’s very difficult to get a completely nepp-free batt, especially with a wool as fine as cormo, but the method shown helps get out as many of them as possible before carding. To remove the dirt and nepps (and any VM), grab the lock about half way down the staple, and run it over a hand carder laid flat on your lap. You can see that the bits are gone, the wool is fluffed up, and there’s a few lumps left behind on the carder. If the fleece had VM in, most of this would also be trapped by the teeth of the carder.

cormo2

Turn the lock around, and repeat the process to detangle and remove any nepps from the bottom end. Repeat this process for as long as your patience will allow, or until you have enough fibre to make a batt.

Place your opened up locks of fibre on the feed tray of the carder. Don’t overfill the tray, you should be able to see the tray through the fibre.

cormo3

Slowly turn the handle of the carder with one hand, while using the other to gently guide the fibre towards the licker in drum. Don’t pull on the fibre, just hold it in place while the carder pulls it in. The fibre will wrap around the large drum in thin layers. If you’re using a fine fibre like I am, you will probably find it doesn’t want to sink to the bottom of the teeth, and there will be patches of wool close to the top of the teeth like this.

cormo4

If there are any noticeable lumps or bits of unwanted fibre/VM close to the top of the teeth, pull them out now, then use a hairbrush or similar to push the fibres down while turning the drum.

Add more fibre to the feed tray, and repeat this process several times, until the carder starts to fill up. You may find that some fibre wants to fall off the edge of the carder like in the below image. For the first pass on a raw fleece, I ignore this, provided it doesn’t start to get near the axel or moving parts of the carder. If it does start to go to places it’s not wanted, pull the fibre up and either place it on the edge of the drum, or pull it off and put it back in the feed tray, and in future try to feed the fibre a cm or away from the edge of the tray to stop it happening again.

cormo5

Once you’ve run out of fibre, or when the drum is starting to get full, you need to remove the batt. Use your doffing tool (mine is called a ‘knuckle saving batt pick and came with the carder)…a knitting needle can be used too, but watch your hands on the teeth. At the break in the card cloth, use the tool to free a small section of fibre at a time, you shouldn’t have to pull hard, if you do, you’re trying to do too much at once.

cormo6

Once you’ve severed all the fibres, run your tool along the gap to make sure there are no more small areas of fibre joined together, then you’re ready to remove the batt. Roll the batt off the carder (some people suggest to roll it around a rod, I’ve never found this to be necessary), keeping your hands as close to the carder as possible to pick up as many stray fibres as you can. You’ll see the drum is almost completely clean, the few straggly fibres which are still attached will be picked up as you roll. On the first pass, there may be a few fibres which aren’t joined to the rest of the batt that want to stay deep in the teeth…remove these after the batt is taken off by running your flick carder over the drum.

cormo7

When your batt is off the carder, hold it up to the light and have a look at it. You’ll see the wool isn’t even at all, there are clumps, and areas where the fibres don’t run parallel…and you’ll also see in my batt, despite my best efforts, there are a few nepps. I am fairly sure these were always in the fleece and weren’t caused by me trying to card too much at once, or being too rough, though with a very fine fibre, you will start to add nepps however careful you are.

cormo8

Take your batt, and tear it into strips lengthways. Each of these strips will be fed through the carder again. In the photo, the strip on the left is small enough to be recarded alone, the others were split in half again before carding.

cormo9

Take one of your strips and spread it out width-ways with your hands, so its about the same width as the feed tray, then recard it, the same as before, turning the handle slowly, and using your hand to guide in the fibre.

cormo10

Repeat this with the rest of the batt, then again remove the batt and hold it up to the light. You’ll be able to see the batt is more even, with fewer fibres travelling in the wrong directions.

cormo11

Tear this batt into strips, and repeat, until you are happy that your fibre is carded enough. I did one more pass, making 3 in total, and I may do another one, but I don’t want to add more nepps.

My batt after 3 passes is looking a lot more even.

cormo12

And that’s it…your batt is ready to spin!

A note on different methods.

If your fleece doesn’t have dirt, lumps, or VM in, you don’t need to comb the locks before carding unless the fleece is matted together. If the fleece is light and airy, you can just grab a chunk of it, and pull apart with your hands to separate the fibres. You will end up with a light and airy cloud of fibres, which can be fed into the carder in the same way as above. As the fibres will not all be parallel in this cloud, you’ll need to do several more passes to get it smoothly carded, I find normally around 6 passes gives me a lovely even airy batt.

If your fleece is clean but a bit neppy at the butt end, you may decide you don’t want to remove the nepps, to give yourself a textured yarn. Again in this case you don’t need to spend time combing them out, just fluff up the fibres and card, and the nepps will be incorporated into your batt.

Links to the rest of this tutorial

Part 1: The basics

Part 3: Blending fibres