I’ve recently become obsessed with the ‘waste’ left over from processing fibre. You know the stuff. The neppy, knotty, second cutty, short stuff left behind after the picking, when all the best locks have been pulled or the waste from combing. It always seemed a shame to treat it as not worthy of attention. Sometimes there can be quite a bit. And sometimes it still contains usable fibre. There is only so much draughty gap stuffing or mulching in the garden to be done. I find it difficult letting it go. Is it because I’m cheap? There must be something that can be done with it?
A quick trawl through the internet revealed not alot. I did find this excellent post by Deb Robson on how she works with imperfect fleece. I recommend it.
Now, I love a swap. I recently swapped a bag of Alpaca seconds that were too short for spinning with a needle felting buddy. In return she passed me a bag of fibre labelled ‘Wool, South African’ from Forest Fibres. It was unfeltable apparently. At first sight it was unspinnable too. It was nasty. Looked like the stuff left behind after all the locks had been picked. Nepps,second cuts and knots:
But…but it was so fine and so very soft. But all those nasty bits. But. It had travelled all the way from South Africa. Igoing to go on the compost heap. That would be outrageous! all those miles.
I thought it would be an ideal candidate for exploring the question of what can you do with imperfect fibre. I thought you might like to know what I did and what the results were. I hope you find this helpful.
First point. You can not make a square peg fit a round hole. Yes, yes I know you can take a knife to its corners and hammer it in till it fits. But it will always be a square. A square in a permanent state of existential pain. Forced to go against its very nature and knowing it will never be perfect. This sort of material is never going to produce a lustrous, smooth, consistent yarn. It will pill. It will be wilfully lumpy and bumpy. It will have texture and gnarliness and personality. So we are going to have to work with that. I’m thinking tweedy. I’m thinking it will need fulling. It will need spinning in a way that will encase the short fibres and show of its wonderful textured nature. But first how to prep.
Stage 1: Sorting. I could have picked it. I could have sorted it. This would have taken for ever. And what would have been the point? plus I am lazy and who has the time for that. So I only picked out the really obvious nasties.
Stage 2: Opening out before drum carding. I picked up gobs of the fibre, scrapped it onto hand carders and gave it a couple of passes to open the fibre out into sort of cloudy sausages. No picking out bits yet.
Stage 3: the resulting hand carded ‘sausages’ were fed onto the drum carder sideways on . yes, sideways. Go see this post by Yarn Harlot drum carding fibres sideways. I recommend the comments. Very very funny.
Stage 3: I gave the batts a further 2 runs through the drum carder. During these passes I used the trusty tweezers to pick out the worst offenders. I was not too picky.
I ended up with about 160g of very er herm ‘textured’ batts. Something happened to the photos I took of these so I can’t show you how bad they are. But the fibre was so soft!
Next task is to dye the batts. I think that we also need to make a feature of those nepps and lumps and bumps and bling them up a bit. I will let you know what happens in part two when I get round to it.
In the meantime I’m getting prepared for Makers Month at the Forum. Hope to see you there.