Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Photo Tutorial: Adventures in Drum Carding

This is an old tutorial post that I created to help others learn how to use a drum carder. This information was tough to find all in one place, since I have a love/hate relationship with the forums on ravelry. What you're seeing here is the fruitful labor of combining the information from several sources into one, while also adding personal insight from a beginner. Since writing this particular tutorial back in March of 2011, I've become a drum carding connoisseur and made several drum carder tutorials on youtube. To keep the content of this post reasonable and focused, I'm going to just repost the photo tutorial here (with a bit of fine tuning).

Original Post from March 15, 2011:

I am currently renting a drum carder from my local guild. Prior to using one, I watched a bunch of videos on youtube, but there are few "drum carding tutorials." The drum carder I rented is a Pat Green, but since it's kind of old, no one remembers which model it is. I've found several similar models on their website.

There are some basic things to know about drum carders before you get started.
  1. Never try to add too much fiber all at once. It will bend the metal tines and break the fibers, resulting in a major expense to replace the carding cloth and batts which have many weak, broken fibers.
  2. Never try to add more fiber than the drum carder can hold. You might receive specs from the company regarding your specific drum carder, or if you're borrowing one, be sure to slowly add on more fiber until it looks full.
  3. If yours has a handcrank, be sure to turn it slowly. If you try to card the fibers quickly, it may result in broken fibers and a batt full of nepps.
  4. Unless your drum carder specs say otherwise, I suggest that the longest staple length that should be carded is 6 inches. Longer fibers will wrap around the drum, making it difficult to successfully lift the batt from the drum.
Now, on to the pictures! I've been carding for a couple of months, but I am by no means an expert, nor do I know everything there is to know about the various ways you can apply fiber and color to a drum carder. First, I'll show you a few tools that I use to make a hand-pulled roving from a drum carder.

This is a diz that I cut out of cardboard. It doesn't have to be round, so I made it more complicated than it needed to be. The point is, you don't have to spend $15 on a diz unless you want to (or maybe someone bought you a nice diz as a gift?). Also, my husband giggles whenever I tell him about spinning/knitting/weaving terminology--"diz" is no exception!

This is a doffer pin. This usually comes with a carder, but you could easily use a long knitting needle if you're in a pinch. (Voice of experience here: don't use a metal knitting needle every time. It'll bend and warp over time, and the tip will become sharper than a nail.)

Most importantly, you need fiber! I'm using hand dyed (by me ^^): Suffolk top, dyed firestar, and dyed tussah silk. Roughly, there are 20 grams of the Suffolk, 1.5 grams of tussah silk, and 0.5 grams firestar.

Apply the fiber to the carder in any fashion you choose. In a future post, I'll hopefully be able to talk about the different ways to apply fiber for different results.

Here is a nice, close-up shot of the fibers on the main drum:

Depending on how blended you want the fibers to be will dictate how many passes you make with the carder. If you start with a dyed, combed top, for example, you may just want to layer the colors on the drum and produce a batt which exhibits color chunks. The spinner can choose to spin the batt however s/he chooses, and s/he might produce a yarn that looks something like this.

In my case, I wanted to make an evenly blended batt, so the color streaks were less defined. I achieved this by sending the carded batt I made through the carder a total of 3 times. In the next 3 photos, I'll show you how I remove a carded batt from a drum carder.

There is a groove where the carding cloth has been stapled to the main drum, which will allow you to remove the fiber from the carder as a batt (a giant rectangle of carded fibers). Insert the doffer pin into this groove, making sure to slide it underneath the fibers.

Once the pin is through, gently lift it at a 45 degree angle from the drum. Continue sliding the doffer pin across this groove and gently lifting the fibers at a 45 degree angle. The fibers over the groove will draft apart, making a clean break from each other. If they don't make a clean break, just work in sections. (If you're confused by this, let me know!)

There are many ways to remove the batt without leaving fibers on the drum carder. To remove the fiber as a batt, I just pinch the fiber between my first and second fingers, and gently pull away from the carder. After I've pulled about 2-3 inches, I scoot my fingers back down to the tines and do it again. Rinse and repeat.

After the batt has been released from the drum, split the batt into 4 or 6 pieces, and recard the batt you just made (if you want it to be more blended, that is). Since my batt was less than 1 ounce, I split it into 4, roughly equal pieces. When you're carding, be sure that you can see through your fiber. Here's what I mean:

When you're ready to remove the batt from the carder for the last time, you can follow the above directions and remove it as a batt, or you can remove it into a roving. I'll show you how I pull the batt into a roving in the following pictures.

Insert the doffer pin into a section of the groove equal to about 1 inch. Lift up, and you'll have a small opening to get started with.

Twist these fibers and push through the opening of your diz. You can also use a small crochet hook to pull the fibers through.

Using a "pull-push" motion, push the diz towards the drum while pulling back on the fiber that has been threaded through the hole in the diz. Do this process while also rotating the drum between the "pull-push" motion, until all of the fiber has been turned into a roving.

After the fiber has been removed, it should look light and airy, and should draft smoothly. If you start with a washed fleece, you can get a very nice preparation for a longdraw method of spinning. If your chosen method of spinning is semi-worsted (like me, at least until I'm better at the long draw), you can still get a loftier worsted spun yarn than if you began with a combed top.

You can wind the roving into a pretty little nest until you're ready to use it.

Carding is time intensive, and can also require more labor if you begin with a washed fleece. Don't expect to produce multiple carded batts per hour, because if you're doing it correctly, you'll probably only manage to get 1 or 2 made in an hour. So, whenever you buy carded batts on Etsy, be sure to thank the seller and offer great feedback. They are a labor of love, much like most products in the fiber world. :)