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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!

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Call Him Ishmael

minerva
Minerva says hey.

At the start of the New Year, I made a decision about my 2013 knitting. I wanted to knit as many sweaters as possible. I wanted to broaden my sweater construction technique. It only takes a quick look at my pattern page to notice that I am a top-down raglan sort of girl. Now, I love a top-down raglan. The math is relatively easy for this English major, the shoulders fit without too much trouble, and I don’t spend too days cursing at my darning needle trying to seam the damn thing. (I have nothing against seaming. I think it is amazing when done well–I just don’t do it enough to do it well, so I take it very seriously when I do it.) In my quest to learn different knitting techniques for sweaters, I decided that knitting a sweater per month sounded reasonable. I queued up a bunch of sweaters I thought I would like to knit this year, evaluated them all, and decided I could certainly knit one each in 30 days or so. (I may or may not have been crazy. You’ll notice, it’s well into March and this is the first time you, dear reader, are hearing anything of it.)

In January, I knit Abigal, which I still don’t have good pictures of. It’s a great, quick knit, for a fingering weight sweater. The weight is perfect, but it has this nasty habit of slipping off my slopy, round shoulders. I am wondering if blocking the collar out more would perhaps make it a bit more sturdy? (My other solution has to pin it in place at work with a brooch on one side and my name tag on the other.) You’ll notice the Abigail is a top-down raglan. But it was a quick knit and I got a deal on the yarn. Happy birthday me. I finished it early, so I decided to start on a new sweater for Brock since he’s wearing holes through the elbows of his Cobblestone every other week. Speaking of, if anyone has some brown, not to reddish suede I could use for elbow patches, I am in the market, as it were.

Having finished the Abigail cardigan early, I cast on for Ishmael Sweater in January and worked on it during the entire month of February. It took me until last night to finish it. Five days late isn’t anything, especially for such a large sweater.

brocks_ishmael_sweater

I don’t know how many of you have met Brock, but he’s not exactly small. 6’3″ and lanky as all get out.

my_ishmael_front
I added four inches to length all around.

my_ishmael_sleeve_detail
I also knit it a slightly tighter gauge than the pattern called for since he is firmly between sizes.

my_ishmael_back_detail
The back detail floors me. It’s such a lovely touch (even with my mis-crossed cable that yes, I noticed, but decided to hell with it, and moved on.)

I’ll tell you a secret about the yarn. I dyed it myself, of course, in a color to Brock’s specifications, but the yarn isn’t something I have ever worked with before. It’s plain old Lionbrand Fisherman’s Wool. Talk about a bargain. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how much I trusted this yarn, but I have to say I really enjoyed knitting with it–and doesn’t it dye superbly? Brock wears his sweaters hard, so I will keep you updated with how well it wears.

I just cast on for Tule which I fell in love with the second I laid my hands on the new Knitpicks catalog. (You’ll notice that while Tule is top-down, it is a round yoke pullover, and not a raglan like the last two, so I really am doing something new, I promise.) Something snapped and I ordered the Aloft yarn immediately. I am secretly hoping I have enough yarn left to knit a cute little cowl.

I have been harboring the desire to design a sock weight summer tee with puffed sleeves, which may or may not have anything to do with me having just reread Anne of Green Gables, but am too chicken to start it just yet.

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Building a Hackle

For about a month now, I have been determined to make my own hackle. A hackle is a tool for blending spinning fiber and/or for pulling your own roving out of fleece. Unfortunately, all the lovely professionally made ones have giant metal tines which made me uncomfortable. Four inch tall sharp metal spikes and five year old fingers just do not mix in my mind. Of course, the all powerful internet had the answer, in the form of a Homemade Hackle Tutorial. All told, I spent about $15. You could spend less if you already have clamps. (I find that folks don’t tend to give women tools as gifts like they do men. I think this is a small mistake. But now I can add clamps to small collection of hammer, screw driver, and needle nose pliers.)

My supplies: six hair picks, about a dozen screws (you can see size and type in the picture. My dad, whose hand will be featured in this post, said those would be best, I don’t know why), two medium size spring clamps, a washer to use as a diz once the hackle is complete, and a piece of scrap wood. You want to use a good hard wood. My dad just happened to have a perfect size piece of poplar laying around because he does a bit of carpentry here and there. We also discussed buying a piece of oak from the big box hardware store–about $5-$7–which we would have to cut to size. If you live in a place with actual lumber yards, or know a carpentry enthusiast, you might be able to find something extra cheap or free.


Measuring to center the picks on the wood.


We used a power drill to pre-drill holes in both wood and picks. When it came time to add the screws, the torque on the drill was too powerful and kept throwing the pick on the floor, so we ended up using a socket wrench. It didn’t really take any longer than a drill would have.


It would have been better if you could find all large picks so you could have two screws per pick. The ones with only one screw tend to be a bit less stable, though they still work just fine.


Clamped to the kitchen table. Loading the hackle for the first time with some local mystery fleece. My first ball of roving was a little rough, but I improved as the day went on. (For instance, I think it’s better to load the hackle in layers rather than clumps.)


My first little bump of handpulled roving. I made my hackle big enough to do about an ounce at a time, and I made three ounces of this blend yesterday. It’s the local mystery wool, some white alpaca, the merino/silk top I was bored with (much more fun to me in this form, for the record), my purple mohair locks and some purple firestar.

I am hoping for a arty-tweedy sort of yarn, which I was dreaming about weaving with last night, even though I don’t have a loom. I’ll post an update as soon as it’s spun!

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Teasing: What I did in July

So, I posted my spinning from the first day of the Tour de Fleece, and since then there has been blog silence. I realize it’s been a month, but I have been working hard. What follows is just a peak of what I’ve been up to.

Here is the rest of my TdF spinning:

Hummingbird Handspun from Cosymakes Farm Wool Club
Humming Bird Corriedale from Cosy Makes

Brown Shetland Handspun
Natural Brown Shetland

Brown Shetland and Fawn Alpaca Handspun

A Little Bit of Brown Shetland plied with a sample of Fawn Alpaca

009

My First 3-Ply! BFL in Stina from Blue Dog Fibers

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Some Targhee/Mohair from Cosy Makes again. Not a great picture, but really great yarn, and fun to spin. I. Love. Mohair.

I dyed some Merino/Cashmere/Nylon, which is so soft I want to sit and snuggle with it more than anything else. I have been working on some autumn colors and am completely in love with this amber/gold.

023

Despite the extreme heat we’ve been experiencing in Kansas, I am still managing to get some work done.
Knitting has been flying off my needles in the form of test knits for the shop. Expect photos of those to come!