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Learning to Drum Card, Day One

Like I promised last Thursday, I spent some quality time with my drum carder this week, and I’m actually pretty happy with my results. I managed to make two batts that look fluffy and spinnable, and way substantially more than 1 oz.

To recap, this is what I started with
one of my first batts top
A flimsy 1 oz. batt out of mixed materials. This one is a bit of corriedale, a bit of alpaca, silk, and firestar. I was convince I had my drum carder full, only to learn after unloading it, that I had a puny, not very fluffy batt that wouldn’t be very pleasant to spin from.

Getting ready to card
To get started, I got set up with supplies, water, coffee, music, and adjusted my drum carder. It wasn’t too far off after months and months of neglect, but I’m glad I took the time to do it. In the picture you can see two unrolled puny batts. The yellow one, and another blue one that looked very much like the yellow. It’s mostly alpaca with some silk and wool thrown in for good measure, and weighed just a stitch more than yellow batt. My goal was to card them together.

After reading many blogs and watching an untold amount of youtube videos, I experimented a little bit with how I fed the the fiber.

The blue was mostly pulled apart and fed in straight on, like so.

yellow batt
The yellow, I pulled out into locks and fed in sideways. (This picture is not representative of how I fed the locks onto the carder. I thinned them out a lot more.)

It took about an hour to do this first batt. I was purposefully going very slow, watching how my carder fed in, watching how the drum took up fiber from the licker-in, and so on.

Here’s the finished product
This one came out at 78.5 grams, or just under 3 oz. My carder was pretty full by the end of it. And I’m pretty happy with the results. It’s fluffy, but still layered. It’s thick and textured, and will probably spin into a really fun tweedy singles.

On my desk, I had two small balls of merino top, one dyed, one undyed, that I have been wanting to blend together forever.

Each little ball was about 50 grams, so I figured if I used as much of each as I could, I would get a batt near 100g.

I carded these fibers very simply, just thinning out the top and feeding them straight on to the carder in layers. It went much faster, but I still ended up with about a 78g batt.

I’m fairly satisfied with my morning’s work.

two good batts

I’ve learned to weigh out my fibers before hand, and to go slow. I’ve watched how my carder works as a machine a little bit better, and that I can make a spinnable blended batt. I think I still need some practice, and I am certainly not going to be going into production anytime soon, but it has been fun to spend a morning at it.

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Introducing Mr. Drum Carder

Last spring, about five minutes before it became apparent that we were going to be moving at the same time we were planning a wedding, which also turned out to be the same time we found out we were having a baby, I bought a drum carder!

I’m sure you probably noticed it when I showed you pictures of my new studio a few weeks back, but here’s a recap.
new studio
There he is!

Hello Mr. Drum Carder
Mr Drum Carder

When I bought this machine almost a year ago now, I had great aspirations to become the best batt maker in the world! I was going to sell millions of them to needy spinners and felters everywhere! If you’ve visited my shop lately, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t have any batts listed for sale. That’s because it turns out I kind of suck at drum carding. I’ve made a few batts here and there over the past few months, but I’m not satisfied. I’m obviously doing something wrong.

Here’s one from the side:
one of my first batts side
I like the way the blending turned out, but if I saw a listing for this guy, my first thought would be, “Eh, looks a little thin.” That’s because it’s not even 2 oz. Kind of a dinky batt. But when I was making it, I could have sworn that I had my drum as full as it could go. And I know I should be able to make a batt that’s at least 3.5 oz on this carder.

Here’s the top view:
one of my first batts top
From this view, my problem seems to be that I’m loading up the sides, but neglecting the middle, though I couldn’t have told you that while it was on the drum. Hour glass figures are not flattering on a batt, especially not one for sale.

I’ve been busy enough the past few months to get away with avoiding Mr. Drum Carder. It was in a box in the basement half the time I owned it, so it was easy to forget that I just wasn’t all that great at drum carding. But as I’ve been unpacking, I’ve been rediscovering all of my raw fiber. Take this mohair for instance,
bags o mohair
it really wants to be blending with some silk and fine wool. It’s begging to be, in fact.

So I’ve been doing a little bit of research, and watching some youtube videos, trying to figure out if I’m doing something wrong, or if I just need a little bit more practice, and all signs pointed to just needing to get to know my machine more. Then I came across Sideways, and it was like the Yarn Harlot was telling my story.

Next time, maybe I’ll actually card something!