March 13th, 2009

How to spin from batts

I often speak to people who love the look of batts, but are a little indimidated by the idea of turning a rectangular chunk of fibre into yarn, having only previously spun from tops or roving.

A lot of the time, I find spinning from batts as easy, if not easier than using tops…the fibres are a lot fluffier and airer, and minimal effort is required when drafting. For very fine laceweight yarns, tops can be slightly easier, but for all other spinning I love the fluffiness of batts, the fact that you can get an unlimited range of fibre blends, and the fact that they often have pretty sparkle in!

The batts I am working with in this tutorial were carded especially for me by Kristina, who named them ‘Vamp it up’, and they are available in her shop. All other batts pictured were carded by me, and can be found in my shop, or ordered via a custom request if I am out of stock.

batts

There are a few ways to turn these chunks of fibre into yarn:

1) Tearing into strips

Take the batt, and lay it out flat. Most batts made on standard carders will be longer than they are wide, and you will clearly be able to see the ‘grain’ of the fibre running along the length. You will be tearing them into strips along this grain…make the strips as wide or narrow as you want to suit your spinning style.

(I apologise for giving you the finger in the second pic…taking pics of yourself doing fibre stuff in a tiny room while trying to hold the camera remote in your hand is very difficult).

tearingstrips

Here’s half the batt torn into strips, and the other half still intact. This pic is very very messy, normally the strips are a lot smoother and the edges much more even, but doing it with a camera remote in your hand is harder than I thought!

strips

And here’s the start of the spun yarn:

stripsspun

This method is a good one to use for layered batts such as these, where you want to retain all the colours in each layer in the full length of the final yarn.

burning embers contrast batts

It is also useful if you have two similar but non-identical batts, as you can tear them into strips and spin the strips at random to ensure the finished yarn has even colour distribution.

If you wish to create a self-striping yarn, choose a batt like the one below, and spin the strips in colour order so the yarn gently fades through the shades.

choc cherry batt

2) Pulling the batt into a roving

Another way to prepare the batt for spinning is to pull it into a roving. Place your hands on the batt just over a staple length apart, and pull gently until you can feel the fibres give. At the start, the batt is very thick, so you will need to grip it fairly hard, but try not to pull apart too hard or you’ll break it. Work your way up and down the batt a few times, always with your hands the same distance apart, pulling a few centimetres each time to thin the batt out. Here’s a couple of pics…the first was at the start, and as you can see I’m holding on fairly tight. The second is after I’ve worked my way up and down a couple of times, so the fibre has thinned out and needs a more gentle touch.

pulling

And here’s the final roving, after working up and down the length four or five times.

roving

Finally, the spun yarn.

rovingspun

With the batts I’m using here, there is little difference in the finished yarn with the two above methods, as the colours are evenly distributed throughout the yarn just as they were in the original batts. However, if you have a batt with uneven colour distribution like the one below, this is a good way to get all the shades present into all the yarn.

forest fire batts

If I’d have wanted a stripey yarn, i could have torn these batts into strips as above, but I wanted a more even blend with just the odd highlight of the bright colours, so I pulled them into roving before spinning, to make this yarn.

forest fire yarn
If you prefer a more even thickness roving than you can make this way, then you can use a diz. Thin the fibre out as above until it’s around twice the desired thickness, then gently pull it through a diz into a strip of roving.


3) Tearing horizontally

It is possible, but more difficult, to tear a batt across the grain, if you would like to spin a more woolen yarn. The easiest way to do this is to lay the batt on a hard, flat surface (so, the bottom of a light tent on a bed is NOT a good idea), and put a hard flat object across it (a ruler is good, but of course I couldn’t find one). While pushing down on the ruler, gently pull on the end of the batt, working your way across, to free the fibres. You’ll need to ensure the ruler is placed at least a staple length from the end of the batt, or the fibres won’t be going anywhere!

horiz

Here is the piece completely removed, and then rolled up so it can be spun like a handcarded rolag.

horiz2

You can use this method on any sort of batt you want, though it suits longdraw spinning the best.

4) Removing layers

It is possible, if you’re careful, to gently separate the layers of a batt and spin them individually. For example, if you wanted to spin a batt like this into a striped yarn:

rainbow batts

You gently pinch the fibres on the top layer of the batt, and slowly lift them away. I don’t have pictures of this as I didn’t think they would show up very well given that I was using blended rather than layered batts, and also because I don’t like doing it very much, as you get little bits of flyaway fibre everywhere.

I tend to only use this method if I have a colour or a fibre in a batt that I wish to remove before spinning the batt. It’s possible to deconstruct a batt this way to make a stripey yarn, but really it’s a lot easier to buy batts that have the stripes running across the width rather than in layers.

5) Other methods

All the other methods I can think of are combinations of the above. For example, you can tear the batt into strips, and then tear these strips horizontally into chunks, if you really want to mix up the colours in a bright and cheerful batt. Or you could pull a layer off and roll it up into a rolag shape if you’d like to spin longdraw. Don’t be afraid to experiment, the first two techniques alone are very versatile and simple, and will hopefully give you some pointers and ideas about how to spin your batts.

March 6th, 2009

Shop update

I’ve been soooo busy lately (well, and ill, so lots of my business has in fact been sleep), and I decided to spring clean my house in time for Gren to move back in, so my photo room had to be dismantled and re set up in the smaller room after I moved all the rubbish out, and then I had to wait 2 weeks for a fibre order,  so I’ve not been able to update the shop for a while, but I’ve finally got everything sorted, and I’m ready to go again…the pics aren’t as good as normal cos I am still sorting, and only had space for one light, but hopefully the batts are yummy enough to speak for themselves, there’s lots of luxury fibres and silk blends this time.

Click the pic to go to the shop!

battsmarch.jpg

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