Tag Archive: fibre-prep

Sucker For Punishment

As if this whole project wasn’t enough of a hare-brained scheme, I’ve had an idea that will make one of the next yarns a bloody ridiculous task.

Bouclé. Real, true, push bouclé, not faux-clé like you get when you thread-ply something (I’m going to thread-ply the next yarn, but that’s another story, for another post).

One of the yarns I’ve been really keen to do for ages now has been one based on the eighth colour of the rainbow in the Discworld, the colour of magic – octarine. The whole mythos surrounding the magical element in the books really appeals to the occult scientist in me, because there’s something approaching intellectual rigour in Sir Terry’s treatment of it, and the idea that magic has a colour, a colour that is beyond the reach of the normal human eye, really got my mind and imagination working.

Shortly after I started this project, I snagged a set of batts from Corgi Hill Farm, the colour of which seemed to totally encompass my mind’s-eye image of octarine.

CorgiHillFarm "Aurora" batts

AnnaMarie’s batts are stunning – smooth, generous and intricately layered, and her colour sense is impeccable. But I wanted my vision of octarine, of magical energy, to have a bit more texture than the ultra-smooth CHF batts allow. I wanted bubbles, I wanted haziness, I wanted complicated.

So…bouclé? What makes a good bouclé coil ply? A strong, inflexible, shiny fibre like mohair or Wensleydale does it really well, and it really has to be in top form rather than a carded prep (at least for a less experienced spinner like me). But I’m allergic to mohair, and I didn’t want to go with Wensleydale this time, as I work with it so much and I’m a little over it. Lately I’ve been trolling the usual suspects for a suitable substitute – I wanted a longwool in a multihued mix of purples, blues and aquas, with a touch of pink … and wouldn’t it be just ideal if I could have some sparklies in there too?? But nothing was just the right thing.

So, to cut this TL;DR* post shorter, I have decided to make my own combed top. I have combs. I have Teeswater locks, and I’ve already dyed them myself with food colouring (what an experience! Talk about magic!).

14-inch locks! Shiny and gorgeous!

Dyed with food colouring - can't believe I got *exactly* the colours I was going for!

I have ordered sparklies (at a prohibitive shipping cost, from a clearly misinformed seller).

I thought to reveal this grand scheme only when my attempt at making top had succeeded, but that’s not what this project is about. I want to share the journey with you all. So I’ll get on making it when I get the sparklies in the mail, but I wanted to bare my soul on this count. Wish me luck!

*Too long; didn’t read

Stripping Batts

It never ceases to amaze me, how many different ways there are to muck around with fibre. See, I could, if I wanted, just spin straight from these batts. But it would be more difficult to get the effect I want, and to get a nice even yarn (not that it’s turning out to be all that even anyway – singles I hate you!).

So. I have found that for what I’m trying to do, it’s easier to spin from rovings than batts – they’re airier and come out less lumpy. To this end, I sat down to process half the fibre I’ve got set aside for this yarn. First I stripped the batts, tearing them lengthways into narrower batts. Then I pulled them through my dodgy DIY diz, drafting as I went to loosen the fibres and get more air into the rovings. Each roving was then wound into a little rosette.

Stripped batts, diz and rovings

One of the batts had fairly pronounced sections of different colours and textures. Because I’m spinning quite a fine yarn, and it’s going to be a single-ply, this could result large sections of my green being either bright shiny bamboo, or dark brown wool, or annoyingly tufty camel down. I want a more cohesive, mixed yarn, so I stripped that batt quite widely, into only four pieces.

Roughly carded batt - I need the colours to mix a bit more

Then I dizzed them extra carefully, stretching out the sections of bright bamboo or dark wool etcetera, as best I could, to end up with a more mixed roving.

Carefully dizzing the wide batt section

Fairly well mixed roving

And voila! Lots of little parcels of rovings, all ready to spin. But for today, I’ve spent hours chained to the wheel already so I’m not going to start on it just now . . .

Fluffy little roving flowers

Dizzy Ptarmigans

Well, they would be, if you spun them, wouldn’t they?

I’ve started spinning the brown ply of the Reversed Ptarmigan yarn. I’m pretty confident on this yarn as it’s not as demanding artistically as the (ongoing) Hedgehog yarn, so I’m going all out. I’ve divided my brown mixed fibre into two equal halves by weight in order to come at the cabling from the right sort of angle. I wasn’t too fussy on how fine it was to be spun but I wanted the final result somewhere in the 8-ply (DK) to 12-ply (aran/bulky) weight range. Plenty of wiggle room. I’m toying with the idea of some funky plying in the first plying pass, but I’ll see when I get there. Long way to go yet, as once I started spinning the brown it kind of wanted to be spun pretty fine; I’ll probably end up on the finer end of my target range.

Sayra’s batts are really lovely and chunky; I admire her work so much because of the incredible texture she manages to maintain in her batts. However, for this yarn, I really needed something smoother, so I had to do something with the batt. This is what it looked like when I started:

Fieldmouse batt as received from Sayra (ignore the random bit of pink fluff)

Now, I prefer the results I get when I hand-card fibre, but my big hand cards are currently on loan to a friend and I was NOT going to use the little ones or I’d be there forever. So I got all brave and used the Ashford drum carder I’ve got on hire from the Perth Handweavers’, Spinners’ and Dyers’ Guild. Because this carder is quite small and I frankly suck at using it, I made sure and split the batt into small bits in order to get a smooth result. What came out was actually quite nice:

Re-carded batts

For the record, I felt a bit bad carding the batts again. I sort of felt like I was running roughshod over Sayra’s work, but I hope she understands my intention and the need for it.