Monday, November 19, 2007

Back Home to... Handcarding!

After a vacation, it's always tough to come back down to earth. Luckily, this time that wasn't really necessary.

First of all, just look at what I came back to, for Pete's sake! These pictures were taken on Sunday, when it was a little gray out. I really wish I had taken some on Saturday, when we had a blue, crystalline autumn day, so I could show just how incredible the trees looked.

Autumn is always a beautiful time of year here in the mid-Atlantic, and I think after that horrible drought we had this summer, the trees are putting on an exceptionally fine show. It truly lifts the spirits just to get outside and see it.

But to add to the pleasure, this weekend I headed to a local yarn store to take a handcarding class. Yes, I've tried carding a little on my own, in my usual "I can do it myself" spirit. But I figured it wouldn't hurt to get a little help, and besides, the class description held out the extra lure of getting a chance to try a drum carder.

I am so glad I signed up for this class. It was a small class, only five of us, and the teacher was great. After some initial coaching on using the hand-cards and looking at different types of fibers -- wool, mohair, alpaca, different types of silk -- the class focused on blending colors and fibers. The teacher basically made a giant pile of different rovings and locks on the floor in the middle of the room, and let us all have at it, putting different things together and carding them to see what kind of results we would get. All kinds of colors and fibers. I was definitely a kid in a candy store! She provided some pointers and gentle guidance here and there, about how different blending choices would affect the spun yarn, and we learned by trying things.

Here are some of my experiments. The ones on the left are just the ones to get the basic technique with some natural undyed wool. The two in the center were interesting. One was a blend of brown alpaca, black wool, and a coppery mohair. Promising ingredients, but disappointingly blah when carded together. I took part of that same blend and carded in a little bit of a brassy yellow, and it just woke up and came alive. The two on the right were other experiments combining neutrals with bright colors. They both used a shocking pink that was considerably softened by being paired with natural colors. And the one on the right also used an intensely strong blue, which settled down nicely with the pink and some soft gray. In fact, if I took one lesson away from the class, it was to look very differently at those bags of rovings in screamingly bright colors that I see in on-line shops and at fiber festivals. The art is in blending them with the neutrals and each other to get the effect you're looking for.

Finally, to double my pleasure, double my fun, I got to have a go at using the drum carder. For those who don't card or spin and may not know, a drum carder is a hand-cranked machine that rolls the wool between drums covered with little teeth to create a rectangle of carded wool called a batt. And it goes a lot faster than carding with the hand cards, which is awfully nice if you want to do something like processing a whole fleece!

The teacher showed us how to roll up the batt that comes out of the drum carder and stretch it to form a roving. Here's the roving I made. I blended a natural light gray Coopworth wool, some teal locks, and some purple grape-colored dyed wool. I really love the way it came out.

I think my Dear Santa letter may have a little something to say about a drum carder this year!


Knittin' Diva said...

I've always wondered what carding was, and how they got the fleece to lay so nice and pretty when batted. Who knew there were classes out there for that too. So, I'm wondering, when are you going to get your own sheep ;-)

My husband and I tease all the time....that's my dream, to have my own sheep to raise and shirr, spin, and knit. Someday.....

Mary said...

I took a beginning spinning class a few weeks ago at the John C. Campbell Folk School, and we learned to hand-card and to use a drum carder. I decided that I won't be processing my own fleeces or fiber -- I'd rather let someone else do that. But I did like spinning from the hand-carded rolags more than from the drum-carded fiber.

If fiber prep and blended colors in carding is something you're going to continue doing, then I would highly recommend the book "Color in Spinning".

Amy said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful, wonderful vacation! And look at the stuff you made! :)