Second Iteration, Part Two

This is the second part of my second round of batt color management experiments.  Last post I made better fiber choices, and got results closer to what I was expecting when making a striped batt, then dizzing the fiber from the drum carder. This is the result from using the same fiber and technique with a layered batt. I used the same wool in the same proportions as my striped batts, and dizzed a roving off of the drum carder, working back and forth and using the largest hole on my diz.magenta yellow and blue layers of wool on a drum carder

This time the fiber distribution was much more consistent, and I got all three colors going the whole length of the roving.pink, yellow, and blue striped wool roving

I found, though, that when I spun the singles I was still ending up with long segments of first one side color, then another, with the center color mostly blended. I realized that this was due to a combination of staple length (about 4″) and the tendency of fiber to draft first down one side of the roving/top, then across, then down the other side, especially when dealing with a fairly thick roving or top. I wanted to see if a thinner prep would decrease this effect, so I made another identical batt, but this time I dizzed off through the smallest hole on the diz, resulting in a longer, thinner roving.pink yellow and blue striped roving

This actually made the single-color segments longer

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Lesson learned – making a thinner prep does not result in more even color distribution!

 

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Color management in batts, second iteration

In recent years a technique that is starting to be seen more frequently is removing fiber from a drum carder as a roving, rather than as a batt, by pulling the fiber off through a diz. This can be done going back and forth across the width of the carder, or around the circumference. I wanted to see what kind of yarn you got from two of the more common color configurations in smooth batts – layers and stripes.

My first experiment with color management in batts didn’t go well, mostly due to poor fiber choices. I had used equal amounts of fiber by weight, but the middle fiber was bamboo rayon, which was very slippery, and tended to clump together. This is my second attempt, using all the same fiber.

This time I chose turquoise, mustard yellow, and magenta. Because yellow is a high value color, you need more of it in a yarn for it to appear to be there in equal amounts.  For my first attempt at a striped batt with these colors I used roughly double the amount of yellow as of turquoise and magenta, with the yellow being the center stripe. My goal was a yarn that had distinct segments of each color, with minimal blending.

My current drum carder is pretty small, so I try not to go much over 35g of fiber on it, usually sticking to 25g for mathematical convenience. I did the same here using 8g each of turquoise and magenta, and 14g of yellow.  I split the batt in half, and fed each half back through on its side to make a striped batt.  The process went much more smoothly this time, but I found that by only splitting the bat in half I was getting much more color blending at the center than I wanted.batts-series-2-1009165482

As I dizzed the wool off the carder, I found that the narrowing of the center stripe caused by the aforementioned blending made it difficult to get sections of roving that were mostly yellow.  By the time I had stopped picking up blue fibers from one side I had started picking up pink fibers from the other side. I also noticed something that I should have remembered from dyeing combed top – namely that when going back and forth across colors, the color repeats at either end will be twice as long as the color repeats in the center, from changing direction and repeating the same color twice. This needs to be taken into account if you want the colors to be roughly balanced.striped-batt-2-1011165489

I made a second batt, this time with a total of 40g of wool, 10 each of the turquoise and magenta, 20 of yellow.  I also split the bat into fourths, rather than in half, when feeding through sideways to make the stripes.  This time I had much less blending, and the center section was about twice as wide as the sides.striped-batt-2-1011165490

I still had a fair amount of blending as I dizzed off, but I suspect this effect is strongly related to staple length.  With a shorter stapled fiber I would have probably been able to get much longer sections of “clean” yellow.striped-batt-2-1011165491

As you can see, comparing the two singles, the second of these two batts did have much longer segments of color with less blending than the first, and both of them are much better than the attempt with the bamboo!striped-batt-2-1011165492

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Battiness

When I first learned to spin nearly 20 years ago, “painted roving” was the New and Exciting thing. The barrier to entry for indie dyers is pretty low – combed top and acid dyes are easy to get, it can be done in a small space, and there are numerous books, magazine articles, and tutorials about the various ways it can be done. These days braids of painted top are one the most prevalent forms of ready-to-spin fiber preps.

Enter the blending board! Here was a tool that was much less expensive than a drum carder, and didn’t have the learning curve of hand cards. People realized that they could use this tool to plan placement of color and texture in a carded prep. Batts and rolags were no longer expected to be a mostly-homogeneous blend, nor were they limited to stripes. The intersection of these ideas with the rising popularity of Art Yarn has made artfully blended batts A Thing with spinners buying RTS preps.

In an effort to be at least somewhat on-trend, as well as to take advantage of recent fleece acquisitions, I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone and figure out the New Batt.  Homogeneous blends I can do -have been doing for years. Ombrés? Not so much. I have little interest in themed Art Batts – they’re fascinating and beautiful, but I admit the idea of trying to spin them makes my skin crawl. For all that I admire a well-executed Art Yarn, I’m a smooth-or-minimally-textured-yarn gal. Different ways of blending colors and fibers, however, I can do. I am on a quest for different structures and fiber blends, spinning them up, and seeing what happens.

I’ve discovered that it’s harder than you’d think to find 201 or 301-level information on this subject. Everything I’ve found has been for beginners. I’m looking for recipes, not “how to cook.” In desperation I bought Esther Rodgers’ Craftsy class on Fiber Processing, hoping she would go into the details I was looking for, and I found some of what I wanted – I just wish I hadn’t had to pay for a class that was 95% stuff I already knew so that I could get to the 5% I didn’t. There were also subjects I wish she’d discussed that she didn’t, but I’ll get into that another time.

I’m currently exploring striped and layered batts, dizzing the batts back and forth off the drum into a roving, and seeing what the resulting yarn looks like. One of the ways to get a striped batt is to make a layered bat, split it, then run the sections back through the drum carder sideways. I first tried this with the Cheviot X fleeces I’ve been washing, but I didn’t think to take photos, and the colors were too dark to really show the results well online. I decided to repeat the experiment with more contrast.

batts-0920165407Here is my layered batt, using equal amounts of magenta and blue Merino top, and white bamboo rayon. This fiber combination turned out to be a bad choice for this experiment, as you will see later. Among other things, I determined that yes, bamboo is one of those types of fiber that is best applied directly to the drum rather than via the licker-in and the feeder tray. It’s so slick that the main drum doesn’t want to pick it up, it all gets stuck around the licker-in, and you have to then persuade it to go where you want.

batts-0920165408Here you can see the batt section turned on its side, the three colors forming stripes. You can also see how the slipperiness of the bamboo is causing a great deal of separation in that middle layer, and will end up being a bit of a PITA as I try to keep the stripes discernable.

batts-0920165409The resulting striped batt on the carder, with significant blending between the colors, mostly due to the slipperiness of the bamboo.

stripesWhen a striped batt is dizzed off the drum carder, you’re supposed to end up with a roving that transitions through the colors in the stripes one at a time, with some blending between. That’s mostly what I got – you can see large areas of mostly-magenta, mostly-blue, and mostly-white. Again, the slipperiness and density of the bamboo caused it to blend more with the other colors, so that there are nice puffy Merino stripes, but the bamboo sections still have a significant amount of the other two colors visible.

stripes-bobbin-0929165475This is what the singles look like on the bobbin. The sections of blue and magenta are very distinct, but the white of the bamboo has almost thoroughly blended into them, leaving nothing that is mostly white.

Next time I’ll post my experiment with this same fiber combination making a layered batt, and show how that turned out.

 

 

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel!

I’m down to the last two raw fleeces!  I may actually be done with this huge undertaking by the end of October!

Last year my lovely Sister in Law, who is a rural route letter carrier, started bringing me raw fleece from several of the small farms along her route.  These are not fiber flocks, and are mostly used for pasture management and organic lamb.  They are all crosses, with the largest number being Cheviot crosses.  I can’t say for sure what they are crossed with, and the fleece characteristics vary widely, from next-to-skin soft to Pillow Stuffing.  I ended up with maybe 20 fleeces that I have had to wash in very small batches because we only have one bathroom, and my husband strongly objects to the smell.

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I’ve been making giant bags from unused flat sheets to store the washed fleece in, and I periodically stuff a giant vacuum bag full so I can store it away. I eagerly anticipate being able to navigate my studio without needing a string to find my way out!

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