Wednesday, September 30, 2015

More Yarn:

Here's a little coil spun:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Taming the Beast

or how I came to love my Schacht-Reeves. The Schacht -Reeves is my dream wheel (well, one of them, anyway). So, I saved my pennies and bought one last year. I just couldn't love the wheel!  No matter what I did, I just couldn't get it to spin like I thought it should. Specifically, I like spinning long draw and I just couldn't seem to get the takeup strong enough to provide resistance for long draw. I like a grabby wheel for long draw and the SR was just too gentle. I tried both DD and ST. No luck and I had intended the SR to be a production wheel!

So, the drive band search began . I usually spin DD on my other wheels so I started by stringing different double drive bands.  I tried both thick and thin butchers' twine, crochet thread, hemp, cotton, candle wick, etc., no luck. So, I decided to work with the wheel in ST and tried a single loop of the candle wick for the drive band. Viola! Worked like a champ. 

There's a moral to this story. If your wheel isn't performing the way that you need it too, change the drive band. If that doesn't work, change the brake band and don't give up. 


Generally, a thicker band is for a thicker yarn and a thicker band will be grabbier. (more surface area). Also, drive/ brake bands wear out. Yep, even the fishing line types and stretchy types. Pollutants and sunlight wear these down even though they don't stretch out in the way that a cotton band will.

Don't be afraid to have several drive bands at the ready. I've read of folks who keep three or four at the ready.

What about the brake band? I've decided to ditch the spring that came with the wheel and try a rubber band and some festive looking butchers' twine in the hopes that the rubber band will allow for more fine tuning. I'll give it a go when I finish what I spinning. I'm also going to keep looking for a material that will work for DD.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Are there spinning rules?

Are there? By rules, I mean things that must be done (or should never, ever be done). I have thought about this a lot. One example? Well, I don't  believe in weighting yarn intended for knitting while they dry. Setting the twist doesn't require weights and that fiber, once wet is likely to bias and might ruin someone's garment. So, for me, it's a rule; I never put a weight on my yarns while they dry....if they have too much twist, I either run the yarn back through on my e-spinner or I set it aside for weaving.

I'd love some thoughts from others. Does anything go? Are there rules?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Carding wool: Is there a magic bullet?

I process a lot of raw wool for spinning and I really enjoy it. After the wool is scoured and dried, it can carded (by hand or machine) or combed. Clearly, there isn't a way to speed up combing wool by hand except for loads of practice. Are drum carders a different story?

After I'd been spinning for a while, I invested in a drum carder in the hopes it would speed things up. I was doing a lot of art yarn spinning at the time so I bought an Ashford Wild Carder. It worked well. With its super long teeth, it easily held 30 gms of fiber. I was surprised at how long it took me to get a batt (or six) finished so it seemed time to upgrade to an electric carder.

Between research and budget I chose an electric Fancy Kitty. What a treat, no more turning the handle! But, it still took me the better part of a morning to get six batts done. In the meantime, I'd been hanging out at my friend Lisa's house a bit. Lisa has the best of everything; she's been spinning forever and has acquired  a whole lot of tools along her journey. She has about 5  carders including an electric Louet and a Pat Green Supercard and she can't get fiber carded any more quickly than I.

I'd known about Pat Green's carders forever and I really wanted one. I could have afforded a manual one but thought I'd be happier with an electric. When a Deb's Delicate Deluxe came up for sale for a great price so I grabbed it even though it was manual. Guess what? I can card up six batts on the Pat Green as fast as I can on my electric carder!

I might mention that I also have a pair of hand cards. Spinning rolags is the best and I love long draw spinning. I need way more practice with them but it is really nice to be able to sit on the sofa with hand cards and a basket of clean wool to card. Folks skilled at making rolags can probably beat a drum carder at getting wool ready to spin.

In summary: in my experience, carding is a slow process and the carder itself probably plays only a small role in how quickly wool can be turned into batts. The type of fiber and the quality of the fiber matter more than does the specific carder. That's not to say that some carders aren't better than others but you do have to go through the same motions with every carder. So, I don't think that there really isn't a magic bullet  (carder).

What make a carder better? I think a higher ratio between drum and licker in helps. Gearing on manual carders that makes the handle easy to turn is a help. The tpi (teeth per inch) matters too. 120 tpi is going to a pain to use with coarse wool and merino will need extra passes with 42 tpi.  Personally, I think that having two drum carders is a good setup; one coarse and one fine.

I never put more that about an ounce of fiber on either carder; I find that adding more results in a compacted batt that doesn't draft as easily as a thinner batt. The two minutes needed to remove the batt is worth the improvement in spinning experience.  Also, GIGO (garbage in-garbage out) applies to carding. Try to card fiber with a lot of second cuts, you'll get a batt full of nepps and noils. Same for chaff; a carder won't clean fiber. Yes, the licker in will grab some of the second cuts and chaff but not all. When shopping for a carder, I recommend getting a lower tpi than you think you need because you can always run the fiber through twice and you'll have more versatility in carding coarser fiber.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Been spinning

Here are a couple of hanks that I finished this week:

I'm so excited about these! This is one full pound of Corriedale.....enough for a sweater (a smallish sweater anyway):

And we finally made it to the beach:

Friday, September 11, 2015

Here's a cool knitting calculator:

And it's free:

What a handy thing. Ever needed to increase across a bunch of stitches? Check out the Knitulator!