IS #62: Drum Carder Explorations

Remember that Southdown fleece I washed a while back? I’m still trying to figure out the best way to prepare it to make a yarn I want to spin. Since I’ve rented my guild’s drum carder, I gave it a go on that.
IMG_5868This was my first time carding anything, really, so I probably overloaded the machine a little bit. See all those fibers sticking to the smaller licker-in drum on the left? They shouldn’t be there.
And even though there was still a lot of vegetable matter (VM) left in the batts themselves, the carding process also removed a ton of the stuff (as evidenced by my now icky tabletop).
IMG_5870But I have to admit, I was really not a fan of the amount of VM remaining in the batts. Because anything caught in a batt will likely make it into the finished yarn, especially if the wool you’re working with is a short, fuzzy, sticky, down breed.
IMG_5911So even though the finished skeinlet puffed up adorably with washing, I’m really not pleased with the VM in it. HOWEVER, after doing a little research on the ever-helpful Ravelry boards, it seems like people have had good luck with flicking open Southdown locks and spinning straight from the lock. Alternatively, people will flick open locks prior to carding in order to open up the fibers and remove the VM. This is what I will try next, I think.
But first, I wanted to cleanse my carding palette with a blend that is basically the opposite of Southdown wool: baby alpaca (natural) and silk (dyed)! I used about 5 oz of alpaca and 1.3 oz of silk, mixing them together on the carder in small bunches. I also added a teensy bit of white firestar, for occasional sparkle. The photo above shows one bunch after its first pass through the machine.
Once I had passed several bunches through, I began tearing them into chunks and combining random chunks from different bunches (very technical terms, here) together and running them through a second time to further blend the fibers.
IMG_5942I ended up with 10 delightful little batts (weighing between 0.5 oz and 0.7 oz each) that are basically airy, fluffy, silky bundles of joy. Seriously, they are instant happiness. I couldn’t resist spinning a bit of it up right away.
I am really going to love this yarn, guys. Truly. I’ve learned a couple of useful things from my messing about. 1- Don’t throw too much fiber on at once, and hold it back a little on the feeding tray so it doesn’t all rush in and jam up. 2- I should’ve run some kind of bristle brush over the top drum while it was spinning to pack the fiber in more, I ended up using my hand which was less than comfortable at times. 3- Baby alpaca fibers get absolutely everywhere. Everywhere. Don’t wear black while carding or spinning, for realz.
I also found a few helpful and fascinating drum carder tutorials. Here are some great tips on drum carding a fleece from Osborn Fiber Studio (such cute little batts!). There’s also a wonderful three-part tutorial on drum carder basics on the Vampy blog that ends with a demonstration of how to create blended and gradient batts. And there are a couple of truly inspiring examples on the SpinStar’s blog of the batts she created by following the Vampy tutorial and the pretty yarns she spun from them.
What’s been inspiring you lately? Leave a link in the comments to share with us!

6 thoughts on “IS #62: Drum Carder Explorations

  1. Wow, I can feel the softness of the alpaca and silk through the computer screen! That looks like so much fun to play around with. Since I still haven’t gotten my wheel spinning, though, I’ll leave all of my dealings with vegetable matter to the kitchen ; )


  2. I’ve officially decided that I’m going to continue watching your carding adventures before venturing on my own. I love the links you’ve found, especially on the gradients.


  3. Woah, what lovely alpaca. Alicia, you are just so ingenious and crafty and amazing. Inspiration lately? Well there hasn’t been much. I was sketching last night and got some inspiration from a few Disney scenes I was looking at, but that’s it….


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