Tweed Chronicles

jenjoycedesign© spinning tweed

I can’t stay away from the blending board…

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 nor can I stop testing my instincts about color,

and layering them ever so finer … and finer …. and even finer…

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1st batt, 1st carding

 just to see how the colors will work together.

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Because perhaps I am just ridiculous!

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rolags from 2nd batt, second carding, and wonderfully oceanic!

So I have decided to make a new category  ~~  Tweed Chronicles ~~ wherein I can post my tweed yarn making refinements, as I explore both predictable as well as the unpredictable color combinations (maybe especially the unpredictable),  my learned improvements of technique, and so on.

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Techy stuff 

  •  20g of white undyed roving I acquired decades ago, the tweedy “nepps” from the slubby roving are excellent for tweed, 20g of mixed Shetland I over-dyed with color peacock, 10g of Corriedale  aqua, and 10g of Corriedale dark denim.
  • Layered very thinly … I mean really a lot of thin layers… using technique for Fiber Blending Recipe #3 . 
  • Lifted batt, layered again a second time.
  • Drew off rolags.
  • Total of only two “cardings”.

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I have found another gem in the “Hands” series I’ve been watching countless times over the last month, while I learn the technique of long-draw tweed spinning on my little wheel, and learn the art of color in fiber.  And because I have always been so deeply inspired from nostalgia, this one is my new favorite.  Enjoy!

Blending for tweed simplified.

jenjoycedesign© rolags!

I have been refining my technique of tweed color blending on my blending board. But I do think this is the last in my fiber blending posting spree, at least for a while.

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I think of this fiber blending process as a micro wool mill, it is basically achieving the same thing in my mind, that the big wool mills do, the ones which card together whole dyed fleeces of wool and put through massive carding machines to make incredibly rich heathered blends for “tweed” yarn.  Furthermore, I’ve been inspired to simplify the process as much as possible, and with as few tools as possible, in what I call ‘micro batches’ of around 50g.

jenjoycedesign© 1st batt

First batt

In this post I show the different stages of each carding, and with only three times loading the blending board, I almost completely homogenized four separate colors!

An improvement on the last post  in which I talk about my fiber blending recipe #3, this demonstration is ever so much easier, showing finer, wispier layers. Fine layering is key I think, to fewer cardings, meaning faster results.

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Second batt

I’d like to add that the only equipment other than the blending board needed is some sort of apparatus to spin the fiber  with; this can be a spinning wheel, or a rudimentary drop spindle, nothing fancy is needed, in fact, my wheel is very tiny and almost insignificant — I bought it for $250 brand new in 1987, and although there have been times I’ve wanted to upgrade to a big wheel, I resisted the expense, and was determined to do more with less. Thus, making my blending board was a very resonating positive instead of buying a very  expensive drum carder, and I’ve learned that one can really have their own micro wool mill, with very little ~~ so empower yourself, and make some tweed yarn!

A retrospective thought: In carding the colors together three times, each time hazing the colors into each other significantly more,  I must say, I almost wished I’d spun it from just the first batt, as those colors looked so delicious so fresh and softly vibrant!

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And now the technical stuff…

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Corriedale roving: salmon, fuscia, amber, and ruby.

In this blend, I’ve used only colored Corriedale solid roving, no undyed or other fiber. The steps are illustrated with a slideshow at bottom of post, and they are:

  1. Lay the colors in extremely thin wispy layers (as shown in slideshow) It will take a lot of layers to get through all of your fiber, but this is part of the carding process. I’ve used Corriedale roving in; 20g salmon, 10g fuscia, 10g amber, 10g ruby.
  2. Comb down as needed until teeth are full and all your fiber layered. You can see this above, photo captioned “first batt” , and you can draw off into rolags straight from this step if you want a lesser homogenized look, or even just spin from the batt itself , sectioned into strips and coiled up.
  3. With strips of first batt, layer into teeth again, just as thinly as you have been, because again, this a part of the homogenization process.
  4. Lift batt and either spin  from this, or layer once more into a third batt.
  5. Lastly draw off into rolags.

Now, after all this playing with fiber blending on the thing which is called a “blending board” I would like to link to a few of my favorite sources online, all where a spinner/felter can purchase blending boards & fiber additionally, if a nifty fiber & spinning shop is nowhere near you to be found.  (These are of course, USA sourced, but I am confident these can be found probably most anywhere, or available at shops which sell spinning equipment & tools.)

Paradise Fibers Blending Board for $175, comes with board, blending brushes, dowels

Laughing Lamb Blending Board for $185, comes with board, blending brush, dowels

The Woolery a whole selection of blending boards, starting at $149

Oh, and in case you’re still unsure of what a blending board actually does, I’ve searched YouTube for you , all ready to surf through the fun blending videos… HERE 

What I use: I’d like to say that even though I made my own from a 24″x12″ piece of carding cloth (read in this post)  that it would be a lot easier to purchase a regular 12″x12″ blending board already made up, in a kit with brushes & dowels.  However, carding cloth is available by the foot if making one’s own is preferred.  Additionally, although many people use blending boards on their lap, I find it much better to use on a table top, secure & flat, with the foot of the board hooked on the edge of surface so I can pull the fiber into the teeth and pull the needles toward me when drawing off rolags — not away from me, or sideways.   I have found that large slippery metal knitting needles work better than dowels, and use a pair of my mother’s old aluminum ones, size US 13- 9mm.  Lastly, the only other tool I use, other than the needles and blending board itself, is a paintbrush comb, which can be found at a hardware store, something like this  with rigid teeth and very sharp points, to lift the fiber off of the carding board.   I use the palm of my left hand to gently and carefully hold the fiber against the teeth as my right hand pulls the fiber along the carding surface. That is all I use; carding board, needles, and comb.

All my posts related to blending boards in this category.

And now …. here’s the show!

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Fiber Blending Recipe 3 – Carded

jenjoycedesign© carded mix rolags

Tweedy mossy wool sausages are the most recent in my string of obsessive experiments in color blending, and this time in which I am basically carding by using the blending board alone! I lay down the layers, and lifting the batt after teeth are full, section out the batt and with little pieces I pull down into the teeth again and again and again. This process doesn’t need hand carders, I am able to homogenize colors & fibers with the blending board as the only carding tool!

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The depth of color created from blending many colors together create a stunning result! Compare to the original solid dyed olive roving, to the tweedy rolags with a prism of colors hazing into each other, all together making a very similar green. (I will show spun yarn photos later, for I have notes on actual spinning that I want to go into a little depth about)

jenjoycedesign© carded mix with original olive roving

I am documenting my tweed yarn making process, hoping that I will arrive with a few tested methods which I can use as recipes in future to refine my own tweed color palette. I am inspired now, to do it all with only my blending board , because there is such freedom unfolding ahead of me, in discovering I can perfectly well make my own personal tweed colorway from an array of solids in the fiber of my choice  ~~ making the vertical hand-made experience all that much more in depth & customized.  I feel like I am my own micro wool mill, and I am unstoppable.  

Meanwhile, I hope all of this fiber tech stuff does not bore the socks off of you ~~ if so, I promise, this will be a string of a few more posts, then I will move on to my usual philosophical banter about life on the mountain.

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Now back to the techy stuff…

Edit In: I have posted HERE a final best method of my Fiber Blending Recipe #3.

Notes on Blending Recipe 3: For the best homogenization of color I have used only wool fibers, they are: undyed fawn Shetland, olive Corriedale, mallard (dark teal) Corriedale, and amber corriedale.  Here is what I am doing , as illustrated by a photo slideshow at the bottom of the post.  In case you want to make more than one micro batch, a good idea to write down weights of each color, so you can repeat process.

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  1. Portion out the fiber I want to mix, weighing if possible.
  2. One at a time, ​thinly layer each color into the teeth of the blending board, combing down the fiber between each layer, until all the fiber is loaded onto the board and the teeth are full.
  3. ​With comb lift whole batt off of teeth.
  4. ​Divide batt now into small sections, and again thinly layer into teeth, pulling and drafting & “carding” as you thinly layer again. You are essentially carding using your hands to pull fiber along one carding surface.
  5.  Repeat this process until the fibers and colors are fully homogenized, or as desired.
  6. Draw fiber out into rolags!

You can find all of my experiments in blending & Fiber Blending Recipes HERE

Okay then, here’s the show!

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A blending hybrid…

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I am deeply immersed in fiber and color mixing with fiber.

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More like obsessed!

This study of tweed & color is finally starting to take a direction.

It all began a few months ago when I was discovering one after another of old mill videos, and longing to make tweed yarn by my own hand, and without the colossal expense of a drum carder.  I talk about it back in a mid-summer post.  Since I  made myself a blending board, I can’t leave it alone, and so naturally I’d be inventing my own blending recipes which I am merrily posting quite feverishly lately, and I am progressing quite rapidly to understanding tweeded color in yarn.
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Okay, so these plum wool sausages are the most recent experiment, a hybrid actually, wherein I am including hand-mixing and also a bit of carding,  with hand carders against my blending board, just like a flat rendition of a drum carder.  You don’t need to use hand carders, you can use a wire tooth pet brush too.

((Actually, a bit of a spoiler, but next blending experiment I will only card, and using only the blending board without a hand carder, and in doing so I realize that doing both the hand mix and carding in the same is overkill. ))

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This big beautiful batt of once carded fiber, gets loaded back on for a second finer mix, and then the final mix gets drawn off into rolags.

And then I’ve begun to spin….

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For the best homogenization of color, I feel that I need to steer away from varying fiber textures, so this is all wool & alpaca, no bamboo or silk, because I want no clumping up of fibers if possible in this finer tweed color mix, with solid colors still coming out in hints , but no color splashing.

Here is the final result of this fiber blending recipe, although the camera is not catching the spectrum of colors well, they’ve hazed into a nice grey plum pudding!

jenjoycedesign© hand-mix plied

Fibers used in this micro batch are: grey baby alpaca, blue Corriedale, red Corriedale, and fuscia Merino.  Here is what I am doing , as illustrated by a photo slideshow at the bottom of the post.

  1. Portion out the fiber you would like to mix, weighing if possible.
    Divide into smaller manageable piles to mix by hand.
  2. One at a time, mix fibers in the smaller piles by hand, holding each end and firmly pulling fiber apart. Repeat as desired — I did this about 10 times each, but you can do more or less.
  3. Fill teeth of blending board with hand-mixed fiber.
  4. With hand carder, card wool and then pull off of carders.
  5. Repeat until all fiber has been carded, and lift off batt of remaining fiber on blending boad.
  6. Fill teeth with carded fiber,  combing between applications to fill teeth as much as possible.
  7. Draw fiber out into rolags!

For all posts on my Fiber Blending Recipes HERE

Here’s the show!

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Fiber Blending Recipe 2 – The Hand-Mix

jenjoycedesign© handmix only rolags 1

This is my first experiment in hand-mixing the fiber before it gets loaded into the blending board to draw out into rolags.  Going for a slightly more tweeded affect, I blend the fibers more — by hand — so the colors begin to haze into each other a little bit.

jenjoycedesign© handmix & carded rolags 4

One thing, when using a blend of different types of fiber, adding shimmering slippery bamboo for instance, the odd fiber tends to clump up, which is desirable for a loose mix. Its a little more blended than the fiber lasagna, but not as blended as if it were carded.

jenjoycedesign© handmix & carded rolags 2

Solid colors still coming out in stray untamed splashes…

jenjoycedesign© handmix & carded rolags 3

Fibers used in this micro batch are: grey Corriedale, grey baby alpaca, fuscia solid Merino, salmon solid Merino, topaz bamboo.  Here is what I am doing , as illustrated by a photo slideshow at the bottom of the post.

  1. Portion out the fiber I want to mix, weighing if possible.
  2. Divide into smaller manageable piles to mix by hand.
  3. One at a time, mix fibers in the smaller piles by hand, holding each end and firmly pulling fiber apart. Repeat as desired — I did this about 10 times each, but it can be more or less.
  4. Fill teeth of blending board with hand-mixed fiber.
  5. Draw fiber out into rolags!

This method is pretty loosely mixed, but still more homogenized than my Blending Recipe 1 – fiber lasagna.   Splotches of color still are varied and add color explosions to the spinning.  And here it is spun up…

jenjoycedesign© spun hand-mix

Spinning has a way of hazing together the colors more than the rolags show, quite a bit in the spinning of the singles, and even more after plying two singles together. I  have to keep this in mind when I make the rolags, knowing the spun result will play the colors down far less dramatically.

jenjoycedesign© spun hand-mix 2

Almost a disappointment, although I hate to admit, after careful ‘painting’ of the colors and all the work hand mixing, to have the colors melt into each other so much. Again, one learns for the result, how to prepare the fiber. For big splashes, I prefer the fiber lasagna, and for fine splashes, the hand mix.

And next will be my experiment with a combination hand-mix & carding, for a far more color integrated tweedy result, so watch this space!

And now for the show!

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Spinning seashells…

jenjoycedesign© spinning seashells

This fiber “Optim Ultrafine Merino” is just so luxurious, and in a way, effortless to spin, yet really takes some practice.  I posted the blending recipe the other day when I made the rolags “the color of seashells”  , I remark  how the fiber base Merino Ultrafine is incredibly downy soft, and fine….

jenjoycedesign© seashell detail

But let me tell you, it is slippery and not easy to manage without breaking it a lot while spinning, that is , until you get the hang of it.   I am practicing sort of three new things at once; long draw drafting from rolags, fixed my wheel so it can go high speed, and also spinning this new gorgeous slippery fiber.

jenjoycedesign© seashell rolags 2

This woolly confection is inspiring me to put up a shop on Yarnings just to sell a few little luxury ultra-handmade things ~~~ knitted things that I’ve knit from yarn I’ve spun from art rolags I blended on my super nice blending board that I made, and in my own designs of course.  A little too much in all directions, yes, I’ll agree, but oh boy these tasty wool sausages are sweet nectar to my eyes, and deserve as much publicity as I can muster up!

jenjoycedesign© seashell rolags 3

Life is good and Autumn is near!

The color of sea shells…

 

jenjoycedesign© sea shell rolags

I am back at my fiber blending board, trying out more fiber mixing!

I am striving to achieve the colors in shells, particular the conch shells like these…
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I believe it to be a color match success!

jenjoycedesign© conch shell rolags

All the colors in the shell, these rolags are wonderful colorways for a future spin.

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The end whorls of soft downy ultrafine merino are a lovely woolly confection!

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The white base fiber is Ultrafine Merino top, and I swear, it is almost exactly like the suri alpaca that I have, extremely soft & silky!

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I like to change fiber texture in the layers, between base fiber and secondary colors, so the salmon & fushcia pinks are a different grade of Merino top, and the shimmering gold is bamboo. Okay, here’s the show!

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Main Fiber = Paradise Fibers Ultrafine Merino Top (white); layered between everything.

Secondary Fibers = Paradise Fibers Solid Merino Top; layered thinly, salmon first, then fuscia.

Accent Fiber= Paradise Fibers Bamboo Top (topaz); layered last, in scant stripes.

Two repeats of sequence.

A fiber blending color trick….

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Gorgeous pearlescence like beach shells…

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Made from nice combed top roving,  so there’ll be no bumps and slubby bits in this batch, and the amazing thing is that all the color in these rolags are from combing tips of stash yarn!

During my last blending post, I discovered a “yarn brush” technique, and having invented this for myself, I feel like I should explain how I do it.  From doing a few times I think it is easiest to to cut a handful of the yarn, in lengths about 4 to 6 inches, loop around and hold the ‘brush’ firmly in the middle. I am using my paintbrush comb, but you can use hand carders or a fine tooth comb, and comb the ends of the yarn to loosen up and fray the plies, which then you can then push into the carding teeth…

jenjoycedesign© yarn combing

I’ve found that most of the looser plied fluffy yarns, like some Berocco  Inca Tweed I had handy, work best, and certainly any of the single ply yarns work beautifully without the combing the tip, they just brush off into the carding cloth easily.  In the slideshow, if you hold your mouse over the images, the text will explain what I’m doing.

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Okay,  here’s the show!

 

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Voila!

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Voila!

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In this post   I show you the blending of fibers for this handspun yarn,

and the recipe I am calling Fiber Blending 1.

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59 grams of yarn; relaxed, slightly slubby, infused with jewel tones.

I’m off to town, see you on the flipside with a more in-depth look at a little trick I discovered while blending the fiber for this yarn!

Blending Recipe 1

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Finally a few hours to play with texture and color!

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 I finally got into spreading color all over those metal carding teeth…

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Just look at these colors drawn into delicious fiber sausages to feed to my spinning wheel…

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Blending boards are an excellent tool to put color in the fiber mix; just little hint of color, or dramatic splashes of color! On the blending board colors can be laid out in stripes along the board then rolled off of the board into a rolag, and then the rolag can be spun from the end and each color will come out of the rolag the same as it was layered on the board, one at a time with some blending between color changes to create a nice transition from one color to the other.

A sort of multiple fiber ‘lasagna’ can be created on a blending board by making very thin layers of different fibers, or thick layers, then repeating the layers until the board’s teeth are full. You can peel off as a batt, pull through a small hole to make roving, or as I like best, to draw out with knitting needles to make into rolags. Because the fibers aren’t mixed, but only layered, a spinner gets to enjoy the little color & texture surprises as they appear.  I have worked out a sort of general recipe I’m calling Fiber Recipe 1:

1.  First, a main fiber, or fiber blend, of longer staple, for it will be the background color that is holding it all together. Think of it as the pasta layer of a lasagna.  In this blend I have an over-dyed teal roving of Shetland mixed dark & light, mixed with the white roving of unknown origin, and I hand mix it together to get a general base mix.  Then carded it on the board to produce a nice base for the bulk of the rolag. Between each addition I comb the fiber into the carding teeth with a paintbrush comb.

2.  Then there is the next layer of fiber & color that I wish to make secondary to the main fiber & color, and which is brushed on maybe half or a quarter as much as the main fiber.  For the secondary fiber its good to use the soft luxury roving, and also a good chance to balance the texture, for instance, if my main fiber is on the coarse side (which it is), I might want my secondary fibers to be ultra soft to make the yarn a little nicer overall. I like to think of this layer as the sauce, which is just as essential as the pasta.  As this was the case, I added secondary layers of  alpaca wool blend (drafted off of some super bulky yarn of alpaca wool mix) and some ultra soft Huacaya white alpaca.

3. These are the colors that I want to peek through, and the use of the color wheel can come in handy. These colors can be tertiary colors to the main or secondary fiber colors, or even opposites, however you want to create a little ‘wow’ in the blend. A texture difference is nice too, unexpected or even bright colors in different staple lengths.  In this blend I layered little splashes of amber & magenta Corriedale roving, then deep blue bamboo (adding a lot of shine with the color), as well as recycled sari silk, and little ‘brushes’ of  Shetland 2py yarn that I unplied and broke into pieces to hold together like a paint brush (more on this discovery of mine a little later). I like to think of these accents as the flavorings.

If I plan to make several hundred grams of the rolags, very precise notes are necessary, and weighing each color and addition and noting in which order I apply, and number of layers.  Two full layers can be achieved before the teeth are full, but today I put down all of the ‘pasta layer’ first in one thick base, then switched between ‘sauce’ & ‘flavorings’ .

Anyway, here is a visual slideshow for you to see what I just did, beginning with the blue & white cloud of hand mixed fiber…

 

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After I drew off all the rolags, I divided them in equal halves for two bobbins. After both bobbins are plied I predict to have about 50-60g skein when I am finished spinning it up, it was a small batch just for the purpose of making this slideshow.

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I almost think I enjoy creating the rolags more than I do the spinning of them, which is an entirely new art for me!

Spun

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I am experiencing a bit of a renaissance in hand-spinning. I never was that much of an intentional spinner, although I am attempting to be now…. perhaps I’ve grown up a little bit? With this alpaca that I brought out of the recesses of my loft closet, I worked it from raw fleece and  in this post  I show the carding & blending process.  After spinning it up, here I am measuring & weighing the yarn to discover what gauge it is.

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Here is what I do:  I run the yarn through a ‘winding station’, which measures yardage while winding off the skein on to a ball, then weigh the ball, and take notes.

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This is about an aran weight. Getting more savvy in substituting hand-spun and I am itching to ‘paint’ again with fiber on my blending board. Recycled sari silk (yes, made from silk cloth of saris), bamboo, rose fiber… the works, and Oh! This was my most recent creation over the weekend, taking some very coarse Lincoln-Corriedale I’ve had for 30 years (from my sheep Hazel, plus another part fleece I have long forgotten where it came) , and blended it up together into a bat of 50/50 dark & white, which the white was extremely slubby (thats having little bits of wool puffs) I used that blend to layer with some ultra nice dyed corriedale roving  I recently bought, in colors amber, mulberry, and ruby, and also a little Huacaya Alpaca , and made tasty little wool sausages….

jenjoycedesign© tweed rolags

And, over the weekend, here is what I spun up…. slubby, exotic woolen spun blend

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Meanwhile, the general news…

Emma is in her last days of having to endure The Cone, for the surgery she had a week ago already (to remove a low-grade sarcoma on her front leg, she will be alright, no reason to be alarmed). My nieces have started school already, Miss Seventeen is a senior this year, and Miss Fourteen is now in 9th grade!  I’m very busy presently working up two patterns to be available in a double download, and prototyped in the hand-spun alpaca!  And we’re having some gorgeous cool foggy mornings at last! Life is good.

Emma in the cone

Emma 2 days after surgery.

 

Carding & Blending

jenjoycedesign© rolags

I’ve been lured into somewhat of a trend. The trend is carding & blending boards!  Such a beautiful tool are the ones purchased by Ashford, etc, and I was so excited to buy one, but I resisted knowing that I was perfectly able to make my own. So with Jeff’s help, I did…

005I bought  24″ of  very expensive 12″ carding cloth, but still less expensive than a new 12×12″ board.  We cut some plywood to size, and after a quick glue & nailing down the carding cloth, added a footing to the head, and a handle, and ended up with double the size of the regular blending boards available. Not bad!  I then spent hours practicing on some old weedy raw fleece I had hidden away, found my old carders, and had a go with some alpaca.

jenjoycedesign© carding alpaca

Mixing first by hand, then carding three times on the board,

it eventually looked like this…

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Then I drew the 3x carded alpaca back on to the board, caught the tips in between two dowels, then began to pull out, roll, pull out & drafted it rolling into rolags…

jenjoycedesign© making rolags

Eventually I got through all 240 grams of it and made finally into some nifty rolags ready to spin, after a heck of a lot of work …
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Honestly folks, do you have any idea how much work goes into making a simple 100g ball of yarn from raw fleece?   I’m sure there are some of you out there who do.

Which brings me back to the carding & blending board. I did say that it is a bit of a trend, I mean, just look at the process of making art rolags…

The video shows really what the blending board is all about.  I was actually using it in my above photos as a carding board for raw fleece, now I think I’ll go clean up the weeds and fluff that has spread all about my loft, because I am actually waiting for some combed top roving to show up in the mail.

Its such a strange modern era.  I feel that I have shifted from wanting to create from the roughest and unrefined of raw materials ~~ my old self ~~ into craving the ease of beautiful prepared combed top roving to spin from, or with which to create those beautiful blend rolags ~~ my new self.  I think I have worked something through here, and am considering offering to the wild all that old coarse wool from my earlier spinning days, and face a future of pleasure spinning clean exotic selection of fibers, as there is just so much available now.  I have definitely reaffirmed my respect for those who spin from animal-to-yarn, I just can’t seem to be one to run with the flock anymore, but that is okay.

I do feel the urge to spin yarn again, after a long hiatus.  I am very excited to come back and show off some really artful blended rolags from my plus size blending board, as well as the yarn spun from them!