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Wasted? Part two

So, I’ve been working on the Wasted? thing.   In the first post I had drum carded the fibre into something that looked like it could be useable.  It was lumpy and bumpy and less than perfect.  Adopting the philosophy of true beauty and harmony comes from working with what you have and not how everyone thinks it ought to be I decided to roll with those neps and bumps.

I space dyed the batts with brown, orange and grey leaving quite abit undyded.  After dyeing, I ransacked my ‘bling’ box pulling out some dyed silk neps in turquoise, shocking pink and orange.

Batts post dyeing with silk neps in from
Batts post dyeing with silk neps in from

The batts had already been through the carder three times prior to dyeing but dyeing had compacted the fibre a bit plus I wanted to blend the blend the colours and add in the silk neps.  Plus the really chunky woolly bits were standing out so I could pick them out as I carded (or not depending on how lazy or bored I got).  Carding again also meant I could pull off the batt as rolags (or should I call ’em fauxlags to suit the pedants?).

carding to open out fibre, blend colours, add neps
carding to open out fibre, blend colours, add neps

The woolly chunks show up well don’t they.

fauxlags rolled of the drum carder all ready to spin
fauxlags rolled of the drum carder all ready to spin

I decided to pull of the batt as rolags because the fibre was so choppy and was quite short staples.  Drum carder rolags are quite tight compared with those from hand carders.  I like this as it puts a bit of tension on the draught.  I like to spin with a relatively high tension.  No particular reason other than its what I prefer.  I like to see the crimp and the fibres pulled nice and straight.  Heres a couple of pictures of the singles, the first as it was spun the second on the bobbin:

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singles
singles

The lumpy thick and thin nature is quite obvious. It was spun long draw – sort of some bits I went short worsted. It was a real joy to spin.  I just let it do its thing.  Some bits draughted smooth and relatively thin.  Other bits clogged in the rolag and draughted chunky and bumpy and thick.  I only pulled off neps if they offended me but mostly I ignored them.  I really didn’t do much quality control at all.  It was fast and fun.

And here it is plied:

plyed
plyed

 

Isn’t it lovely. Not my hands though, definitely not lovely.  I had been in the veg patch planting broad beans (too soon?) and went straight in to the workshop to get the plying done so excited was I to see how it was going to turn out.

The final stage was finishing the yarn.  As this yarn was intentionally neppy and would have loose bits that will pill or fall off I decided that it would need to be fulled to some degree.  Yes.  It needed a bit of felting.  On purpose.  And how do we felt wool.  1 heat.  2 soap.  3.  Agitation.  4 Temperature shock. So two bowls.  One seriously hot with some non foamy detergent (I use wool wash, but baby shampoo has been recommended) and the other nice and cold.  Plunged the skein in the hot soapy water and gave it a jolly good thrashing.  Pulled it out gently squeezing it and then throwing it into the cold bowl for a swish and rinse.  Repeat. You need to watch your yarn like a hawk.  Blink and you will miss the point where fulling becomes felting and you end up with a very lovely very thick dreadlock rather than the fully integrated lovely soft usable yarn you were aiming for.  I only did this twice before I felt the fibres begin to lock together.  a quick spin dry and hang and hey presto Isn’t she lovely:

finished skein
finished skein

I’ve just finished knitting up a sample:

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Its super soft and very textured.  Ought to have used bigger needles to really let it fluff up and show off its best bits.  I think it looks its best in simple stocking stitch.  So please with the outcome.  I have had a rummage in the workshop .  This one is Hebridean carded with silk neps ( I very nearly ruined it by over fulling it so it is not as soft as it was and i regret that a bit):

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And this one is some castle milk Moorit and Shetland with some soy silk fibres:

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the lumpy bits tended to spin out of the yarn in this one. Not my favourite.

I hope this has inspired you to dig out your ‘waste’ and have a go.  If you do I would love to know how you did it and to see the results.

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Wasted?

fluffy-black-sheep-wheelie-bin-stickers-panel-blue-500x500I’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:

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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.

loading handcarders with fibre
loading handcarders with fibre
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fibre after a couple of passes on hand carders

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.

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Feeding on hand carded ‘sausages’ onto drum carder sideways for first pass
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On drum carder first pass showing neps.

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.