Drum Carding with Abby and Spinning for Socks with Janel

Today was the final day of retreat sessions at SOAR and I had the privilege of being in Abby Franquemont’s morning session to learn about blending with a drum carder. Abby is a powerhouse of knowledge about all things related to spindles, fibre prep and spinning in general. She just seems to know everything about everything. Luckily for us, she is a prolific writer and you can read her articles on a huge range of fibre-related matters on her website. She also makes fabulous blended batts… and so we came to her to learn the magic behind making such batts.

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Blending merino with bamboo and firestar on my drum carder

We blended up colours that we disliked, colours that were garish, colours that definitely looked ugly together… and got some really very beautiful blends out of them. The beauty of the drum carded batts were that we broke up all those colours and desaturated them, making surprisingly harmonious combinations of colours and textures. We used a wide range of fibres including Corriedale, Merino, alpaca tussah silk, bamboo rayon, tencel/lyocell, camel, and firestar.

The magic or secret behind making these beautiful batts was really simply patience and building the layers of fibre slowly. Working too quickly or trying to put too much fibre on the drum carder simply resulted in clumpy, bumpy and streaky batts. We worked slowly (in fact, we were late for lunch), and put the blend through about three times. Another thing Abby confirmed was that (depending on the fibre), you can’t card something too much. She related it to brushing your hair… it’s not really possible to brush your hair too much and damage it. Same with fibre, generally.

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Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s drum carders

Most of the drum carders in the session were Strauch Finests or Petites and a few Pat Green Deb’s Deluxes. I brought my own Pat Green Fancicard after a bit of encouragement and in the end, I was so glad I did. I got to learn all the blending on my own equipment without having to change from carder to carder. Some of the students got to use Judith’s personal monster motorized drum carders… crazy huge and super fast carders. It would have been so cool to have a go at one of those.

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Janel, handing out merino/tencel…

My afternoon class was with Janel Laidman and was on “Spinning for Socks”. I had been so looking forward to this session because… well, I came to SOAR to spin, and soon realized that all my sessions were about colour or dyeing and didn’t require a spinning wheel. So I was looking forward to finally doing some spinning. And spin we did. For three hours. Straight. Power spinning. Spinning for sock yarn requires high twist in the singles as well as high twist in the plying to help prevent abrasion damage.

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Spinners in the class
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Three-ply sock yarn made with a ply of mixed BFL, dyed BFL and dyed superwash BFL

Our first sock yarn sample was a three-ply sock yarn made with a ply of mixed BFL, dyed BFL and dyed superwash BFL. Spinning tight singles and then three-plying quite tightly as well. The second sock yarn was a cabled yarn of a ply of superwash merino, merino/tencel, Ashland Bay merino/tussah 70/30 blend, and dyed BFL. These singles needed to be spun super fine in order to make up a fingering weight after basically four-plying it all together.

Although Janel suggested that we use a tight twist for the singles to make harder-wearing socks, she did mention that we could spin softer singles and then ply tighter as that is how most “pearl”-looking commercial sock yarns are constructed.

Both classes today were pretty exhausting (in fact, I face-planted into my hotel bed shortly after Janel’s class for a 20-minute power nap before dinner), but the wealth of knowledge in these women is such an amazing resource for us. I am quite grateful that they are so generous and willing to share their knowledge, some of which is used to do the things that pay for their mortgages. These are just hard-working, truly passionate people who seem to love what they do. I just want to be in the room to soak up even a drop of their wisdom. I think that makes coming to SOAR worth it.

  • http://abbysyarns.com Abby Franquemont

    I thought that was you, but then I wasn’t sure and didn’t wanna look a fool. ;-) Thank you so very much for generously sharing your carder — I hope you got the little bundle of camel I left for you in thanks. ;-)

  • http://abbysyarns.com Abby Franquemont

    I thought that was you, but then I wasn’t sure and didn’t wanna look a fool. ;-) Thank you so very much for generously sharing your carder — I hope you got the little bundle of camel I left for you in thanks. ;-)

  • http://midnightskyfibers.com Jenn

    How are you liking the electric versus a regular drum carder? I was talked out of an electric by a couple people because it doesn’t hold as much fiber- but in retrospect, that doesn’t matter much for me since I prefer the smoother fiber blends that aren’t super bumpy.

    What type of drum carders are Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s?

    • http://sweetgeorgiayarns.com sweetgeorgia

      I do enjoy my electric carder… for sure. I think the electric
      functionality means that my hands are free to do the fussy stuff like tease fibre or lay it on the infeed tray, etc. In terms of how much fibre it holds, it really depends on the length of your carding teeth. You obviously don’t want the fibre to go past the teeth. I’m using a Pat Green Fancicard with the fine cloth and I usually make maybe 30 g (1 oz) batts at a time.

      And for the smoother blends that you want, just card them multiple times for extra blending.

      Judith’s carders are electric and made my her husband, so they are super custom. The licker-in runs SUPER fast which is odd because it’s the exact opposite of what Pat Green and Paula Simmons say about drum
      carding… BUT I think it totally depends on what you are carding. The slow licker-in speed and high ratio is needed for carding fine wools and I believe you can have faster licker-in speeds and lower ratios for longer, coarser wools. I don’t really know what Judith’s carders were designed for, but I’m sure they are specific to what she wants to make.

  • http://midnightskyfibers.com Jenn

    How are you liking the electric versus a regular drum carder? I was talked out of an electric by a couple people because it doesn’t hold as much fiber- but in retrospect, that doesn’t matter much for me since I prefer the smoother fiber blends that aren’t super bumpy.

    What type of drum carders are Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s?

    • http://sweetgeorgiayarns.com sweetgeorgia

      I do enjoy my electric carder… for sure. I think the electric
      functionality means that my hands are free to do the fussy stuff like tease fibre or lay it on the infeed tray, etc. In terms of how much fibre it holds, it really depends on the length of your carding teeth. You obviously don’t want the fibre to go past the teeth. I’m using a Pat Green Fancicard with the fine cloth and I usually make maybe 30 g (1 oz) batts at a time.

      And for the smoother blends that you want, just card them multiple times for extra blending.

      Judith’s carders are electric and made my her husband, so they are super custom. The licker-in runs SUPER fast which is odd because it’s the exact opposite of what Pat Green and Paula Simmons say about drum
      carding… BUT I think it totally depends on what you are carding. The slow licker-in speed and high ratio is needed for carding fine wools and I believe you can have faster licker-in speeds and lower ratios for longer, coarser wools. I don’t really know what Judith’s carders were designed for, but I’m sure they are specific to what she wants to make.

  • http://anniesue.wordpress.com Ann

    It sounds like you had a well-deserved rest/creative break at SOAR. Gaaaaah, still kicking myself for not going…

  • http://anniesue.wordpress.com Ann

    It sounds like you had a well-deserved rest/creative break at SOAR. Gaaaaah, still kicking myself for not going…

  • http://mavenknits.com MavenKnits

    Wow… Your description almost makes me (the girl who is a wool comb purist) try drum carding…

    It was super nice to finally meet you at SOAR, and I am very much looking forward to visiting your studio when the post-SOAR crazies die down around here.

    Was taking your own drum carder useful?

    • http://sweetgeorgiayarns.com sweetgeorgia

      Indeed, MavenKnits! Come visit me! And yes, absolutely, despite the hassle of dragging the heavy drum carder around the Lodge… it was SO helpful that I had a dedicated drum carder to use!

  • http://mavenknits.com MavenKnits

    Wow… Your description almost makes me (the girl who is a wool comb purist) try drum carding…

    It was super nice to finally meet you at SOAR, and I am very much looking forward to visiting your studio when the post-SOAR crazies die down around here.

    Was taking your own drum carder useful?

    • http://sweetgeorgiayarns.com sweetgeorgia

      Indeed, MavenKnits! Come visit me! And yes, absolutely, despite the hassle of dragging the heavy drum carder around the Lodge… it was SO helpful that I had a dedicated drum carder to use!

  • http://pygorablog.rainbowyarnsnw.com Terry M

    It was nice chatting with you, as well, Sunday morning over breakfast. I was just coming down with the crud and sincerely hope you didn’t catch it from me(!) I very much enjoyed reading your SOAR posts, it’s sounds like your retreat sessions were very much fun!

  • http://pygorablog.rainbowyarnsnw.com Terry M

    It was nice chatting with you, as well, Sunday morning over breakfast. I was just coming down with the crud and sincerely hope you didn’t catch it from me(!) I very much enjoyed reading your SOAR posts, it’s sounds like your retreat sessions were very much fun!

  • http://www.swatchless.com Rachel

    Looks like SUCH a wonderful learning experience. I wish I lived closer….

    I’ll have to be content to sit here and admire the colours through the screen.

    Inspiration for me to go home and start spinning again.

  • http://www.swatchless.com Rachel

    Looks like SUCH a wonderful learning experience. I wish I lived closer….

    I’ll have to be content to sit here and admire the colours through the screen.

    Inspiration for me to go home and start spinning again.

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