Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Guide to Spinning Batts

To the spinner unfamiliar with hand-carded batts, they can seem a little unruly. But a batt is really nothing more than a short, extra wide piece of roving/top. Start tearing it down, drafting out the strips and you'll find they're easily tamed and nothing to be afraid of.

Giggle Jelly batts are carded to create bold stripes of colour across the width of the batt. The are many methods of spinning - the methods I've illustrated are the methods best for maintaining the stripes of GJ batts.

'Knotted' GJ batts.

As soon as GJ batts come off the drum carder they're folded in half lengthwise and turned into a little knotted bun. This helps to protect the fibers in transit and makes it easier to package and ship the batts.

Begin prepping your GJ batt for spinning by unknotting it.

To prepare a GJ batt for spinning, begin by unknotting the batt. Look for the seam running along the length of the batt and gently unfold it.

Find the seam along the edge of the batt and unfold it.

If you're spinning a fine yarn, or you want shorter colour repeats, tear the batt in half width-wise before unfolding it. Hold the batt at either end and gently pull until you have two halves of a batt. The pictures in this tutorial show half of one batt being used.

I tend to spin a lot of lace-weight and fingering yarns so I almost always halve batts before I spin them, making the very fine pre-drafted strips a more manageable length.

Tear the batt in half width-wise by holding at either end and gently pulling.

Spinning Strips

I find this to be the simplest method of preparing batts for spinning.

Begin the tear in the middle of the strip.

Lay the batt on a flat surface, (or half of the batt if you've divided it), and tear a 1/2" to 1" strip from one edge. Start the tear in the middle of the length and then gently follow the tear through to either end.

Follow the tear through to either end of the strip.

Pre-draft the strip and you're reading to spin!

Continue to work your way across the batt, tearing strips, pre-drafting and spinning.

Pre-draft the strip and you're ready to spin!

While the preparation for this method is the simplest, it does mean regular joining in of new strips as you spin. If you prefer to spin with fewer joins and want a longer length of fiber to spin from, read on...

Creating a Longer Strip

Here are a few of methods for creating a longer strip of fiber to spin from; the zig-zag tear,
double V join and spinning from a rolag.

Double V Join

This is my preferred method of joining strips. I find it creates a neater join than the Zig-Zag tear and the set-up is easier.

Create a 'V' in each of the ends you wish to join and align with open ends of the 'V's' facing.

Simply tear strips from the batt as before, then create a 'V' shape in the ends you wish to join. Align the strips with the open ends of the 'V' facing, one 'V' inside the other.

Smooth the V's together to create a neat join.

Gently smooth the V's together and pre-draft into one continuous length.

Pre-draft into one continuous length.

Zig-Zag Tear

Instead of tearing complete strips from the batt, begin at one edge and tear a strip, leaving it joined to the batt at one end. Then, working across the batt, tear another strip leaving it joined to the opposite end of the batt as the last tear, creating a zig-zag pattern.

Create tears in a zig-zag pattern across the width of the batt.

Continue in this manner across the entire width of the batt, then pre-draft into one continuous piece.

Gently pre-draft the zig-zag strip into one continuous length.

Pay special attention to the joins, (the fibers tend to curl and bend into each other as the join is straightened), by gently re-aligning the fibers as you pre-draft.

Spinning from a Rolag

The configuration of a rolag can make some fibers more manageable and easier to spin. It also creates a 'cushier' yarn by trapping more air between the fibers as they're drafted and spun.

Create a rolag by rolling the whole batt, or a section of it, starting at one torn edge
and rolling in the direction the fiber runs.

To create a rolag, simply lay the whole batt, half the batt or just a piece of the batt on a flat surface and roll it up like a Swiss sponge; starting at one torn edge and finishing at the other, so that direction of the fiber is at right angles to the length of the rolag.

The fibers should run at right angles to the length of the rolag.

Pre-draft the rolag into a continuous length by gently pulling from one end or spin smaller rolags by drafting straight from one end.

Draft the roving by pulling from one end.

Other Methods

There are many ways of preparing batts for spinning. The methods I've illustrated are the best for maintaining the bold stripes of GJ batts, but here are a few other methods for spinning batts that will cause some blending of the colours -

Spinning From the Fold - tear the batt into small pieces, each the length of the fiber's staple. Take one of these staple-length pieces of batt and fold it over the index finger of your fiber-holding hand. Draft the folded fibers from the edge of the fold on your finger.

This method offers greater control when drafting than spinning from a strip does, making it useful for slippery fibers and fine spinning.

Worsted Rolags - roll the rolag so that the direction of the fiber is paralell to the length of the rolag, torn edges at either end. Draft from either end.

This creates a less airy yarn than the regular 'woollen' rolag described above.

Dizzing - create a long length of roving from one whole batt by pulling it, from one torn edge to the other, through a 'diz'. A diz is a tool with a hole for pulling fiber through. You can adapt objects with holes you have at hand or buy a purpose-made diz.

Fresh Fiber

There are two new 100% merino colourways in GJ's store today, following a blue theme.

First is Aegean, a vibrant mix of intense Mediterranean blues, turquoise green, deep jade, ultramarine and navy fine, super soft merino wool.

Second is Zeus, a more subdued, stormy blend of navy, shades of Prussian blue and grey fine, super soft merino wool.

Friday, August 13, 2010

FO - Dusky Pink Handspun Shetland Triangle

Dusky Pink Handspun Shetland Triangle Shawl

Pattern: Shetland Triangle Shawl by Evelyn A. Clark
Yarn: Handspun Handcarded Batts - 80/20 Merino Wool/Mulberry Silk - Light Fingering

My sister, who's always finding fantastic patterns for me to knit, recommended this one to me and I love it - it’s so much simpler to knit than you would think by the beautiful lace it creates. After I’d knitted a dozen or so rows I no longer needed to refer to the chart and could knit through all manner of distractions without errors, yet there was enough going on that it never became a bore.
Would definitely recommend it to anyone just starting lace knitting or in need of a lace pattern that’s mentally bomb proof. :)

I worked 14 repeats of the body chart and ended up with a shawl that blocked to about 64 inches wide and 32 inches long, which for me is a very wearable size.

For the yarn I carded together several shades of 21 micron merino wool and white mulberry silk in an 80/20 blend, passing it through the carder several times to create an almost homogeneous blend with only subtle striping, and spun it into a two-ply, light-fingering-bordering-on-laceweight yarn.

I love the colour of this. It’s a really soft, dusky pink and the subtle striping gives it that lovely handspun feel. And adding 20% silk to a blend just lends a beautiful drape to the merino that works so well with shawls.

Echinacea Love Treasury

This beautiful Echinacea Love for Lorraine etsy treasury is the creation of Nancy, of localcolorist, (filled with whimsical origami peace cranes), and she was kind enough to include GJ's Violet Hill Seacell/Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts.

Fresh Fiber

With autumn just around the corner here in the northern half of the globe, I couldn't resist putting together this berry autumnal blend - Bramble Tussah Silk/Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts. They're a mix of plum, raspberry red and olive green merino wool blended with lustrous white tussah silk. Super soft and perfect for spinning or felting.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Honey Bee Treasury

Another stunning honey inspired treasury on Etsy, this one by Cheri of Artgurl who kindly included GJ's Honeycomb Tussah Silk/Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts. Best of all, Cheri is a spinner and her shop has a selection of super sweet handspun yarns fresh from her wheel. :)

Handspun Bluebells by Deneise

Spun by the lovely Deneise; a beautiful skein of sport weight, single handspun...

...spun from a custom version of these merino Bluebell batts.

This gorgeous handspun is almost as lovely as the delightful Deneise who spun it. It's a sport weight, single ply, so lovingly spun on a Cascade Little Si drop spindle that I just want to reach out and hug it! The batts from which it's spun are a custom version of GJ's Bluebell Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts pictured, customised by replacing the light green with extra white. And this is the sweet scarft she's knitting it into...

Deneise's Bluebell's taking shape as Yarn Harlot's One Row Handspun Scarf.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Handspun Apollo by Renee

Renee's gorgeous skein of handspun yarn...

...spun from these GJ batts.

Renee, of Kitch06, just listed this beautiful skein of light fingering weight handspun yarn, spun from GJ's Apollo Tussah Silk/Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts, in her Etsy store. I just love seeing fiber all spun up!
Renee also has a stunning selection of her own hand-dyed roving/tops - stop by and check them out!


Bombyx Mori Emerged

How cute are those antennae?

Our wee Bombyx Mori moth finally emerged from her cocoon just over a week ago and has been busily laying dozens of eggs since, confirming that she really is a she.

Just out of her cocoon and looking a little scruffy.

Her wingspan is too small to allow her to fly, (the product of thousands of years of domestication), her legs too weak to carry her more than a few inches from her cocoon and as a moth she will neither eat nor drink - this is the end of her life cycle.

A relatively tiny wingspan to body mass means she is unable to fly.

I've always had an irrational phobia of moths, a horrible fear of them flapping about in my face, but watching this beautiful little creature everyday has left me with a whole new appreciation for moths and butterflies and for the process of silk production.

Not the most active of creatures, she hasn't moved more than half an inch from this spot in over a week.

The cocoon from which she emerged.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fresh Fiber

There are two new colourways in GJ's store today. Firstly, Violet Hill Seacell/Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts are a rich blend of merino wool in purple, lilac, cognac and chocolate browns sandwiching layers of luxury Louet seacell. This fiber has amazing properties, is wonderfully silky and soft yet super strong. Beautiful to spin or felt.

Our second new colourway of the day is Pigeon, a feathery mix of lilac, pale jade, purple, jade and shades of grey merino wool blended with tussah silk.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

(Honey)comb Treasury

Isn't this divine? It's funretro's stunning (Honey)comb Etsy treasury in which GJ's Honeycomb Tussah Silk/Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts have kindly been included. So sweet!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fresh Fiber

The last few weeks have been so hot here in N. California but a change to cooler temperatures had me thinking of spring glades filled with bluebells. And so now there's a new colourway in GJ's store; Bluebell Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts. Beautifully soft merino in shades of lavender, ultramarine blue, violet, fresh foliage and pale apple greens and white. Perfect for spinning or felting.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bombyx Mori

Our little Bombyx Mori a few days before spinning.

Ever wondered where all the silk in GJ batts comes from? It's the hardened saliva of a caterpillar just like this one.

Several weeks ago H came home from work with a tiny box filled with what appeared to the naked eye to be some vegetation and not much else, but closer inspection revealed a tiny caterpillar, about the size of a grain of rice, busily turning a leaf into lace. A colleague's kids were raising a group of them as pets and H, knowing my fascination with all forms of natural fibre, thought I should have a little monster of my own.
exterminate, Exterminate, EXTERMINATE!

Over the weeks the very hungry caterpillar munched its way through seemingly endless mulberry leaves, pausing only intermittently to shed its skin. Then, a few days ago, the long anticipated moment came when the eating stopped and a now rather large caterpillar began wandering drunkenly in circles around its box, leaving behind silvery threads of silk. Over an evening the threads began to take form into a beautiful, golden cocoon and now we wait while our little bombyx transforms itself into a moth.

Bombyx snug in its cocoon.

I never realised the cocoon would be such a beautiful, pearlescent gold.

Ooooh, look at that silk. :)

Fresh Fiber

A sparkling new colourway is in store - Koi Pond Tussah Silk/Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts. A mix of blues and turquoise greens with flashes of cherry red, gold and koi orange swimming through it. Super soft for next-to-the-skin handspun. Also perfect for felting.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fresh Fiber

A belated happy July 4th to our US followers! I hope everyone had a wonderful long weekend.

I've been in the studio concocting a new fiber blend for summer; Louet's superfine bamboo top layered with supersoft merino wool. I chose Louet bamboo for its sheen and generous staple length, which makes it easy to spin and gives luster to the merino wool. The bamboo also gives the mix a 'coolness' for wear in warmer weather.

And so we have Orion Bamboo/Merino Wool Hand-carded Fiber Batts in store!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fresh Fiber

Fresh espresso, dark chocolate and creamy steamed milk whipped together into GJ's new mocha Tussah Silk/Merino Wool fiber batts.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fresh Fiber

Buzz! GJ has a new flavour of Merino Wool/Tussah Silk fiber batts in store - honeycomb! A super sweet mix of amber, yellows and cognac brown. Super soft and perfect for spinning or felting.