April 2022 Members’ Day
The focus for the day was spinning. We had demonstrations of combing, blending board and picker. As usual there was also a lot of chat and a bit of show and tell! Sheila had brought her double weave samples to give people a clearer idea of what the May workshop is about. Aileen was wearing a jumper knitted from thick handspun singles – it looked great, was lovely and warm, and, even better, quick to make! Susan’s show and tell included all three of our core crafts: fibre she had rainbow dyed as a demonstration for the dye group had been spun and plied with black to make the colours pop, then knitted into a tube on Ann’s circular knitting machine; she also had a throw woven from yarn dyed in autumn colours and a long sampler of different patterns woven on the same warp. Denise had a hat knitted from handspun samples.
Ann demonstrated combing with full size wool combs. These are fearsome looking objects with four rows of long sharp tines, and are used to prepare long stapled fleece for worsted spinning. To start with, one comb is fixed in the stand with the tines facing upwards, and loaded with fleece to about a third of the way up. The fleece is loaded one staple at a time, with the butt ends on the tines and the tips facing forwards. It is best to remove the staple from the fleece with a sharp tug so that it comes out cleanly without pulling the fleece out of order. Once the comb is loaded it is rotated a quarter turn to the right and fixed in this position. The other comb is held with the tines facing downwards and swung down so that the tines engage initially with the tips of the fleece, then gradually moved in as the fleece opens up. Once most of the fleece has transferred to the second comb this is swept sideways across the first comb from right to left, still with the tines facing downwards, until most of the fleece has been transferred back. The process is repeated until the fleece if fully opened up. The fleece is then drawn off the comb through a diz to make a sliver. A diz is a concave piece of shell / bone / wood / plastic with a small hole in the middle – the hole should be the same diameter as the yarn you want to create. To get started you twist the ends of the fibres on the comb just enough to thread them through the hole in the diz, holding it with the concave side towards the comb, then gently pull through, alternating your hands to get an even pull. Keep going till only the short fibres are left on the comb. The sliver is then gently rolled up to store till you are ready to spin – no need to draft, just add twist!
Liz showed us how to use a blending board to make rolags and batts. A blending board is a piece of wood with card cloth fixed to it. Liz loaded it by anchoring fibre at the top of the board and then pulling it out into a thin film, repeating this across the board, leaving gaps to load another colour – she used two shades of blue. After building up several layers she smoothed them down with a brush rather like a flick carder, and then used two pieces of dowel to make rolags. You trap the fringe at the top end of the board between the dowels, then lift them, attenuating the fibre, and roll. Liz gets three or four rolags from a board. It is important to hold the dowels with a bit of space between them, otherwise it’s hard to pull them out of the rolag! Liz then loaded the blending board again, this time with more fibre, and rolled it off as a batt. She uses these for felting, but you could also spin from them.
Susan demonstrated the use of the swing picker, another fearsome looking piece of equipment, used to open up fleece prior to carding. The swing part has a curved base with nails projecting downwards. This moves across a base with nails pointing upwards. Fleece is fed in at the back (ideally not with the hands!) and the swing is lifted backwards by its handle and pushed forwards, pushing the fleece over the nails. The opened out fleece is projected forwards. It is important to ensure that no-one is standing close to the front of the picker as they could get caught by the nails as they swing upwards. The picker very quickly opened up a quantity of fleece.