Saturday, July 23, 2022

A Simple Method of Using a Blending Board to Spin a Repeatable Sweater Quantity - Blending Recycled Sari Silk with Commercially Blended Wool Tops

I've had a blending board for many years, but I never really used it with intention until a few months ago.  For a long time, I assumed that blending boards were better suited to sampling for smaller quantities, or prepping for art yarns - until I decided to play and experiment with different ways of spinning a multi-coloured commercially blended top.

In my blog post on how to avoid spinning mud, I prepared a commercially blended top in 9 different ways in an attempt to avoid mixing the colours together.

This one turned out to be one of my favourite yarns as it was one of the easiest to prepare, whilst maintaining a lot of the individual colours in the blended top.

The yarn above was made by simply opening up the fibre so that the individual colours sat next to each other on the blending board, brushing them down, and then pulling off several thin rolags to spin from.

I found that the thin rolags were both easier to spin from, and far less likely to result in optical blending.  As you spin from the end of a rolag (or effectively the side of the top), you get significantly less colour blending than if you pre-draft the top and spin it from the end.

Sari Silk Fibres from Adelaide Walker

Welsh Blackberry from Adelaide Walker

In this yarn, I’m going to be using sari silk fibres and “Welsh Blackberry”.  I purchased both of these from Adelaide Walker at Wonderwool Wales, intending to blend them to spin as part of a sweater spin. 

As all of the colours in the Welsh Blackberry top would blend together into a pleasing burgundy, I’m not worried about the colours mixing together this time, but I would like less colour blending than I would get if I just drafted out the wool top and spun it from the end.  My new favourite method of spinning a multicoloured blend results in a single that resembles yarn spun from a subtly hand-painted top - but at a fraction of the price.

Method for easily blending a repeatable sweater quantity on a blending board

Here's a fibre-to-yarn video that accompanies this blog post.  Some of my techniques can be seen in more detail here - 

Firstly, I broke down my fibre into lengths that were just a little longer than my blending board.   I broke off 4 strips of blended top and 3 strips of sari silk fibres.

The Welsh Blackberry top is quite thick compared to other tops that I've spun, so I opened up the fibres so that I could spread just two sections across the width of the blending board.

Starting at the bottom and holding the fibres just above the brush, I gradually worked my way across the first layer of wool fibres, brushing the fibres firmly down with the blending board brush.

I brushed the first layer down firmly, angling the top of the blending brush into the blending board to work the fibres deeply into the board.

Next, I added a layer of recycled sari silk fibres.  I wanted this layer to be extremely thin so that the sari silk fibres would just add pops of colour to the finished yarn.

I teased and pulled open the fibres so that the sari silk top made up about a third of the width of the blending board.

I laid the sari silk fibres down the centre of the board and then repeated to tease and spread the other two sections of sari silk fibres on either side.  Finally, I brushed the sari silk fibres down firmly.  As the sari silk fibres are much shorter than the wool fibres, they take far less effort to attach them to the blending board.

Finally, I added the last two sections of wool tops in the same way as the first layer, sandwiching the sari silk fibres in between.  At this point, the layers of fibres on the blending board were quite thick, so they needed to be brushed down quite firmly.

To remove the fibres from the blending board, I ended up using a slightly unorthodox method - that is to say, I've never seen anyone use this method before...

I wanted to make quite thinly drafted rolags, but as I'd laid the fibres on quite thickly I needed to predraft them before I used my dowels to draft the fibres off.  I gently pulled on the very ends of the fibres and this gave me a nice length of fibre to sandwich between my two dowels.

If ever you are struggling to get your dowels to gain a purchase on your fibre, I would highly recommend trying to draft a little by hand first.

I was then able to secure enough thinly drafted fibre around my dowels to allow me to draft off a narrow rolag - my preferred kind of rolag to spin from.

Here's a close-up of the rolag-punis in the sunlight.  I love the fact that you don't really start to see the little bits of sari silk until you start to spin it.  It's also much more engaging to spin a colour-changing rolag than a pre-drafted multicoloured blend.

I spun all of the singles on my Electric Eel Wheel Nano...

... and when I had 3 relatively full bobbins I combined them for a traditional 3-ply yarn.

Here's my plied yarn on my Hansen bobbin.  I love the little pops of colour that add interest to a very subtle colour-changing yarn.

This yarn cost me less than £5 per 100g of fibre, which pleases me greatly!

I lost track of the number of passes I made over my blending board, but I feel that my method is simple and consistent enough to allow me to say that it is repeatable.

My resulting yarn has a very subtle marled effect and should result in some very delicate colour shifts when it's knitted up.  If I'd chain-plied it, I would achieve much more definite stripes in the knitted garment, but that wasn't the effect I was going for this time.

I love this simple technique!  Previously I would never have had the patience to use my blending board to prepare a sweater quantity of yarn, but I can definitely see myself experimenting a lot more with commercially blended wool tops in the future.

If you've found this post useful, please pin it to Pinterest - it makes a big difference to me and really helps other spinners find it too!

At this point, I normally suggest similar related blog posts, however, my list of spinning-related content is becoming a little unmanageable...  If you'd like to read more blog posts about spinning and fibre preparation, please take a look at this page here where you will find links to all of my spinning and fibre articles.  

Thank you for reading, and happy spinning! 

Spinning a Complex Fractal 3 Ply Yarn


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Anonymous said...

How much of each fiber did you start with? I still struggle with estimating how much fiber it takes to spin for a sweater.

Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

For myself, I tend to work on 600g of fibre for a sport weight sweater. The sari silk fibre went a long way and it only made up 10% of the final yarn.