Friday, June 27, 2008

Meet my new baby

I now have visual aids to help those of you not already imbued with carded-batt lust understand what the big deal is.

Here is my new drum carder, and a basket of fiber "nibbles" (1 oz bits) that I am preparing to blend by carding:

I'm sorry to say that I don't know what kind of carder I bought. I have a piece of paper that tells me. All I know is, it was a price I could afford, and good deal according to Irene the Fiber Goddess who brokered the deal, and after I fiddled with the positioning of the drum for a bit, it works. So I'm as happy as can be.

Here is a before and during photo -- the dyed roving before carding, and a drum with a batt on it, not yet removed:

Here is what a batt looks like, carefully folded and glowing in today's lovely sunshine:

And here is my in progress, personal carding project -- my attempt to make something like tweed. I'm using some dark BFL that I dyed burgundy, and all of my considerable leftover bits of wool from the past several months' spinning:

I can't wait to spin it up. I plan a worsted weight yarn done long-draw, to preserve the excellent wooliness of the BFL. If all goes well, I'll use the wool for my next self-designed sweater. I always make a personal project as a model when I teach my 8-week class in knitting sweaters without a pattern. For the past two classes, I've done a kid's sweater so I could be sure that I would finish each stage in time to demonstrate it, but I'm feeling ambitious these days (must be the sunshine). My Fall teaching at the Port Moody Arts Centre is confirmed, and my sweaters class is going ahead pending registration, so I have until September to finish the spinning. Maybe I'll knit the body in advance, come to think of it; that doesn't need to be demo'd.

Weather into the weekend is good, and if the Port Moody Knitters group on Ravelry is anything to go by, it looks like we'll have at least a half-dozen people at this weekend's Fiber Party, maybe more. I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Party at My Place!

This Sunday, I'll be at the farmer's market for my scheduled day, and I'm throwing a party. I'm going to be hanging out, spinning, and playing with a drum carder. And while that sounds like a perfectly fun time to spend all by myself, or just with the friend who is bringing the drum carder, it would be a lot *more* fun if there were lots of fibery people all together.

So, I'm throwing a party, a fiber party at my market booth. Bring some fiber if you want to play with the carder (or buy some of mine); bring hand cards. Bring your spinning wheel or your drop spindle. Bring a pair of knitting needles and you WIP, or bring a crochet hook and stand tall as a representative of the beleaguered-but-belligerent hookers out there.

Also bring your own chair, and possibly some sunblock.

Location: Coquitlam Farmer's Market (click here for directions)
Time: 9am to 1pm

What do you think? Who's in?

Friday, June 13, 2008


This Saturday, June 14th, is World Wide Knit In Public Day. I did not make that up. I have no particular feelings on the subject of this day, but I like any excuse for knitters to get out and publicly fondle each others projects, so I'll be going to at least one of the six events happening in the Lower Mainland.

Specifically, I will be attending the Port Moody get together, which will be held from 11am to 1pm in front of the Social Rec. Centre here in PoMo (that's the building that has been under construction for the past 3 years, to the right of the library). Fingers crossed for sun, because if there is rain, there is no backup plan.

If you're on Ravelry, there is a thread devoted to the PoMo KIP day here.)

I will be raffling off a skein of my handspun at the KIP, and the price of entry is to knit a bit on the baby blanket I'm working on. I hand dyed 20 skeins of gorgeous superwash merino in different shades of blue, and I'm making a lovely log cabin blanket, but I want as many hands as possible to work on the gift; just as many hands help a mother to care for her baby.

Hope to see some of you tomorrow!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Keepin' it real

I've been taking a proper spinning class, and despite the humbling feeling of not knowing how to make my fingers interact with the fiber in such a way as to produce knittable yarn, I've been enjoying it tremendously. But this week, I'm positively singing with creative possibilities.

On the first day of the class, we touched raw fleece and did a little carding, to get the feel for how to separate and then line up the fibers, how to draft and add enough twist. The carding was cool, and it did produce the most lovely little fiber nibbles, but I couldn't honestly see how it was useful for doing volume work -- and it's not. It's a technique for those who have all the time in the world to just enjoy fondling fibers.

Cut to now, some 9 classes later, and we're all working on the long draw drafting technique. For those of you who don't spin, it's like this -- you build up a bunch of twist on a short bit of the yarn you have just made, pinching it so the twist doesn't travel down, then (if all goes well) you quickly swoop your fiber-holding hand down and away, and a perfectly even strand appears almost like magic from the fiber mass.

If all goes well. In practice, my early experiments with this technique have led to slubs, micro-fine thread, and broken bit after broken bit.

I'm not tangenting. Back to fiber preparation now. Last week, we were given some dyed but otherwise unprocessed Romney wool, and told to card and spin it. Carding, as well as neatening up the lanolin-covered fibers considerably, blended the colours up -- yum. Here is my basket of hand carded, sprinkle-dyed, raw romney locks:

I spun them using the long draw method, and even though the fibers were not expertly carded (read: they were still tangled), and even though they were sticky as all get-out with lanolin, I still managed a relatively smooth (read: I didn't keep breaking the strand as I made it) long draw. I felt proud. (I'd show you the yarn I spun, but there is no good light for taking a picture right now; I'll try to take one tomorrow.)

Today in class, I used the drum carder. I created a batt, which is much like a rolag except bigger. The fibers were all aligned, but they were so airy and light, they just drafted like a dream. I actually achieved the "swoop" with very little breakage and slubbing.

So, here are the pieces I have put together now. 1) Home fiber preparation, leading to airy fibers and the possibility of creating my own blends of fiber type and colour. 2) A successful, quick long-draw.

Suddenly, exciting yarn possibilities are open to me. Heathered yarn, which is made from different coloured fibers blended together to create a single colour of marvellous depth and movement, like watershot taffeta, is a possibility now. Tweed is possible.

Did you hear me? Tweed. Am I the only one who gets a somewhat indecent thrill at the idea of a gorgeous tweed?

I have this bag of dark blue faced leicester that I've been saving to do something special with, and I think I have a plan now. I'm going to dye it either blue-red or magenta. I'm going to drum card it with flecks of electric blue, canary yellow, and forest green. I'm going to make tweed batts, spin it up to a worsted or aran weight, and make myself a sweater. A hooded sweater -- it will be my demo project for the next class I teach in knitting sweaters without a pattern.

Then I will never take it off, not ever.

Anyone have a drum carder for sale? I'm looking to buy.