Exploring the world of fiber, one draft at a time

My posting can be as frequent or infrequent as my spinning, so be as patient as that fiber, sitting in my stash.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Help me hatch my dragon

Thank you, my dragon is all grown and is an adult now. It is labelled as an earth dragon, able to throw boulders for defense and cause earthquakes by stamping it's feet. I am still waiting to hear it's name.

Edit: It hatched! thank you everyone. If you keep up the clicks, just one per 24 hours, the baby will grow into an adult dragon. I need to think of a name.

OK this is so not fiber related, but I really want to try and get this dragon to hatch. It takes unique clicks and unique views. I do not know if that means one time only, or what, but I thought putting it here would get more unique clicks.

It goes to the website for Dragon Cave, and to all my ability, the website is not harmful or spam. You do not have to sign up, just click on the egg. The page you will go to is my scroll, with the information about this dragon.

Thanks readers, lets hatch a dragon.


Friday, July 25, 2008

A rebellious yarn

It's true, I have a rebel in my stash. However, in my opinion, a rebellous yarn, is a rebel without a cause.

This all started two days ago, when I was searching for some sock yarn. I had not really stored yarns purchased over the last several months, and in the process of doing that, I came across a box of handspun yarn. I decided it was time to get all the handspun into one container. So I got all the skeins together and laid them out on the table.

Now I know this was a perfectly good photo opportunity, but I wasn't really thinking blog at the moment. And in truth this was not _all_ my handspun yarn, just the skeins I will not sell. That's either because I really love the yarn, or really hate the yarn. If I love it, I want to make something from it. If I hate it, well, I am too good hearted to take someone's cash for it.

I will admit, it made a pretty picture seeing all that yarn on the table. I got enthused enough to start pulling 'project' bags from the pile. One bag of 14 skeins of natural colored yarn for a sweater for me. One bag of big bulky black welsh mountain for a felted kitty bed. Several bags of hats, mitten, scarves for whoever. I do not have specific patterns yet for these bags, but I will, thanks to my many knitting books, or Ravelry.

So, that's when I found this: my rebellious yarn:
I remember very well spinning this yarn. I hated it, and posted at length at the time how I hated it. It was a scratchy wool blended with linen. I hated spinning it, and it shows so now I hate the yarn. It's overtwisted in spite of being washed, slubby and unevenly spun. It's only good quality is the very lovely lilac color that it was dyed. Since I purchased it in sealed bag, I had no idea of the quality of the fiber, and went on the color alone. Not wise, but pretty.

It continued to be rebellious this morning as I tried to wind it into a ball. OK, I was lazy, and should have used the swift to hold the yarn. The skein was winding off by itself oh so nice at first and lulled me into thinking I could continue that way. And then of course you hit all the kinkiness of the overspun yarn, and that rebellion rears it's grinning kinks again. It was only because I was on my front porch in the early morning coolness, coffee steaming on the table beside me, and birds filling the air with song, that kept me calm, as I worked through all the tangles and finally had it into a relatively tame ball. Besides, I consider it practice for later, when I have to once again untangle the ear buds of my mp3 player. Ever notice how yarn like those are, and how they seem to tangle the second you take them out of your ears?

I have four skeins of this yarn, close to 800 yards. Yes, I will use the swift to ball the rest, I learned my lesson. And I am too thrifty to toss this yarn. But fortunately I had a gleam of a possible project in mind for it.

One of the state fair categories this year is to weave an article from handspun. Now I am not really a weaver, nor do I have a functioning loom. I do however, have nail looms. A large shawl size triangle loom and two small sampler looms 12 inches in size.

Now I didn't want to make a shawl from this, I doubt I could stand to have it on my shoulders. I could have made two and joined them in the center for a tablecloth, an idea I want to do sometime, but not with this limited amount of yarn. So I decided to play with the sampler looms and see how the yarn looked.

There is nothing better for rebellious yarn, than putting it under tension again. And the weaving is going well. It's almost addicting, in that 'just one more row' kind of way.
Here's a closer look for details of how the yarn is pulled through the loom.

I am not going to go into details on the weaving right now. I had to consult the internet to learn the process and had to look in several places before it made sense and I was weaving. Once you learn, it becomes easy. The only difficult part is at the very end, when everything is very tight. Getting the yarn pulled through is hard work. You have to weave every nail, or the square will not stay together.
In fact that was my biggest doubt as I did my first square. I just couldn't believe that it would just dissolve into one big ravelly mess. But to prove it doesn't:

Now I normally would not show something so unfinished, but it's proof of two things. One, the square does stay together, and two, the square right off the loom is no where near finished. Whatever project I decide to make out of the squares, will definately be sewn together after a good washing and blocking.
But that yarn doesn't look quite so rebellious anymore, does it?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Carding and spinning cotton

Yarnspinnerstales podcast episode 15 is posted and is all about carding and spinning cotton. I encourage you to go to the website and click on some of the links there, even if you do not listen to the podcast. I have links to videos, both on the website and on YouTube relating to this topic. There's a great video showing how to hand card cotton and create a puni, as well as video of spinning cotton with a support spindle, charkha and regular spinning wheel.

In one segment of the podcast I explain in detail how I carded dyed cotton lint on my Patrick Green drum carder with the fur drum. The pictures below go along with that explanation. Be sure to understand that the only reason this worked is because I had a drum carder with teeth about as fine as a cotton hand card. This process would not work with a wool drum carder.

I was very pleased with the final results of this fiber experiment. The cotton batt was cohesive and spun well with whatever spinning method chosen. The only draw back to the task is that the cotton lint had to be hand carded once to open it up. But that's true of any fiber before being put through a big drum carder. It just seemed like double work because so often wool fiber can just be picked open after washing and laid on the drum carder's feed tray, where as the cotton actually had to carded, it could not be picked open. Still, it's not a bad way to handle a larger amount of unprocessed cotton fiber.

This first picture shows the cotton lint after I had hand carded it once. I did not card to remove all of the lumps, I carded with the intention of opening the fibers. After one or two passes on the hand cards I just gently rolled the cotton off of the cards and laid them in a pile.

The next photo shows one of those hand carded batts being laid on the feed in tray of the drum carder. I found it fed into the carder best if the batt was laid so the fibers were perpendicular to the drum, which feels like it would tangle the fiber more, but really allows the teeth of the carder to do it's work, pulling in bits of that batt. If I laid the batt with the fibers parallel, the fiber would feed in too fast, in clumps.

The next picture shows one of the disadvantages of carding cotton on the drum carder, the fact that there is close to 50% of the fiber that will not feed onto the large drum, it wraps the small drum instead. The small drum is picking up the fibers that are shorter than the distance between the drums teeth, and for this cotton, that meant a lot of the fiber! I probably could adjust the distance slightly so the teeth would be closer, but that is a meticulous process and not worth the bother for this experiment. The fiber on the small drum would never be picked up by the large drum, so it is not worth the effort to try and recard it. Instead, I cleaned it off the small drum and set it aside. It will be usable by carding it with my hand cards and rolling into a puni.

To clean it off of the small drum, I use this small brush, which I keep calling a flicker brush in the podcast. I really don't think that's the proper name, but once I get a name in my head, it's hard to change.

This is what the drum carder looks like once the small drum is cleaned. I can now repeat the process, feeding more cotton onto the large drum, moving the location of the cotton on the feeder tray so I cover the large drum side to side in equal depth.

Once I have all of the large drum covered to the depth of the batt I desire, I need to remove the batt from the drum. The tool for this is shown below, stuck into the batt. On the large drum there is an area where there are no teeth, the starting and stopping point of the teeth's attachment to the drum. That area is covered with a smooth metal and this batt removing tool has a long metal pointed stick on it. That metal stick slides along the metal strip under the batt. Then when I lift the metal pointy stick straight up, the batt breaks and I will be able to remove it from the drum carder. Isn't it fun to think about the tool maker thought process, as that specific tool was being designed?

Once the batt is broken, I can grab the one edge of the batt with my right hand and turn the drum carders handle counterclockwise. This will turn the large drum the same way, which allows me to gently pull on the batt. It will peel off the drum, in one piece if I have carded it to a sufficient thickness. Here's a photo showing it peeling off the large drum.

And finally the desired product: a drum carded cotton batt. I made four of these during this experiment and stored them by laying each batt on tissue paper, with tissue paper between and gently rolling the paper and batts for storage.

To spin the batt just pull about a two inch strip the longways length of the batt. The cotton will spin just like it is, without the need for predrafting.
As I stated in the podcast, when I started this experiment I had no idea if the cotton would come off of the drum carder in a nice batt, nor did I know how cotton carded this way would spin. I am sure I am not the first person to try cotton on a drum carder, but it feels a bit like experimenting in an unknown fiber universe.