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.

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.

1 comment:

Earthdowser said...

Thank you for the thoughtful valuable information!!