Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Playing with my Blending Board

I've nearly owned my blending board for a year now, and I think I finally understand how to use it. And how to make yarn from the rolags it produces (which is very important!). I'll talk a little more about my blending board in other posts in the future, especially when I talk about my most recent attempt at making a true woolen yarn. As you can see in the following pictures, the rolags are a bit smaller than my first attempts at making rolags:

There is always a learning curve to a craft or sport or whatever, and though I am familiar with drum carders, and blending boards seem similar, these tools require different approaches to applying fiber and removing it. The reason these rolags are smaller is two-fold: 1) I used less fiber per board. I put on enough fiber to cover about 1/2-2/3 of the length of the tines, as opposed to covering them 100% as I did for my first rolags; 2) Instead of getting one giant rolag per board, I got 3-4 rolags per board. Making smaller, fluffier roalgs is a necessary step in making rolags which draft easily for making woolen yarns. 

In my first attempts, I was simply trying to figure out how to use the blending board. As a result, I made a few not very good rolags. :) I overpacked fiber into the blending board, partially because I was brand new to the tool, but also because I wanted to know what it could handle. Judging from the rolag I made, the board was able to handle a lot of fiber, but it was a very dense rolag. It was spin-able, and produced some excellent art yarns:

To make those rolags, I applied the fiber, filled it with yummy goodies--angelina, locks, silk, etc.--then rolled the whole bit of fiber into a giant jelly roll rolag. By constructing the rolag this way, all of the goodies were in the center of the rolag. Each rolag I made this way weighed about 40-50g, and after I attenuated the fibers (pre-drafted), it was a very textured bit of roving. The results were gorgeous...but it wasn't the easiest thing to spin. It wasn't so bad when I was spinning an art yarn, since keeping lots of texture was my goal, but I knew it would have given my hands cramps if I wanted to spin a smooth yarn.

To learn more about blending boards, I observed how other people made their rolags. There still aren't too many tutorials on the Internet which showcase the variety of ways to use blending boards, just the basics. Still, it's useful to know what's out there, and you never know when you'll learn something enlightening. I got some useful ideas, but I didn't want to read every tutorial out there and do what everyone else was doing--sometimes I like to discover things on my own. Personally, this helps me figure out how to fix my blending board related problems and explore my own creativity.

Since blending boards and drum carders can be used in similar ways, I used some of my own techniques on the blending board. As a result, I now have a method of making rolags so they're smaller and easier to spin smoothly, without sacrificing too much of the goodies. As you can probably identify in the following pictures, these rolags have angelina, bamboo, mulberry silk, and firestar blended in with the merino fiber:

I haven't quite decided what I'll make with these rolags. I have about 20-30 of them, for a total of about 6 oz of fiber. I was considering plying these with another color/fiber and making a bulky yarn for a hooded capelet. I love the idea of having a cape going over my coat--makes me feel all snuggly. I still have some of the blue fiber I used for the base color, so I might use that to make more rolags. Maybe I'll dye up some cashmere and throw that into the mix too! Who knows what I'll do when I have warm thoughts on the brain. :)

I'm nearly to the point of making beginner tutorials with my blending board. I still have some things to figure out beforehand, and what to do if something goes wrong, but they'll be coming soon. Particularly, I'm trying to figure out the best way to make textured rolags for making art yarn which will spin easily. The biggest lesson I learned was that you can't overload a blending board. Less is more, and you'll have a happier spinning experience if you make many fluffy rolags rather than few compact rolags. What fibery things have you been doing? Share with us on Facebook--we love seeing all of the yummy things you all make.