Monday, September 4, 2023

Playing with fiber and fibre. Renting equipment. A Story.

Welcome Back to the Blog 

Hello, hello, if you've made it here. Welcome! This blog hasn't seen action for a while, let's fix that, shall we? Let's catch up on what I've been up to this summer. I'm calling it the Great Summer of Blending.

The Project

In the words of Stephen King's Gunslinger, the World has moved on, and my interests with it. I still work with wire and recycled materials. Now I'm making for fun, because I have a full-time job.

 Lately, I've been spinning fibre of all kinds and doing fun things with it. I've been playing with wool (from sheep), mohair (from Angora goats), silk, and a variety of more exotic materials all summer. I've pulled it out of my stash, a mix of class supplies, Guild swaps, and purchases I made at shows and events. I eyeballed 13 different blends ranging from all-white (texture play) to riots of every colour (color) of the rainbow.

Image: Blend 6, The Flower Garden, sorting by fibre type. Silk, Mohair, wool, a little bit of dyed cotton.   

What Am I Making?

I'm making thick art yarn using a technique called core spinning. I plan to use the yarn to make household items for my loved ones for Christmas. Table runners, placemats, like that. To my loved ones who read this and usually get presents from me, congratulations! You get to pick your colours and your project, if you like -- eee! 

Image: Corespun yarn getting woven into a table runner. This is a past gift to my mother-in-law. 

The Equipment

I rented a blending board from my local Guild, the Ottawa Valley Weavers' and Spinners' Guild (OVWSG). A blending board looks sort of like a HUGE pet comb, mounted on a wood cutting board, and intended to be used at an angle to your work surface (that's a pretty close description). You pull fibre through the steel pins that make up the comb, top to bottom.  

Image: A blending board standing on my sewing machine cabinet, with the fiber being removed from it. 

I also rented a drum carder. (Similar to the blending board, but in the round, a machine. 

Turn a crank (or push a button, electric ones are a thing) and the fibre gets transformed from going every which way to smooth and fluffy, in (mostly) orderly rows. 

Break the circle of fibre in a straight-ish line, and then peel it off the machine into a rough rectangle called a batt. SO SATISFYING. 

Image: The drum carder, empty, in my studio, and my pending blends waiting in the background. 

I have the equipment for two months. And I've made great use of them both!  

The drum carder sees the most action, with my hand carders a close second (think of hand carders as smaller blending boards, with handles. They come in a set and are intended to be used together. That's a whole other post in itself.) 

The blending board I'm using less, only because of the sheer volume of material I'm processing. Crank it through the drum carder!

Image: Blend 4, Day at the Beach. My hand carders are in the bottom right. 

How It's Going

So far, five 200-gram blends have made their way through the carders, a running total of 1000 grams (2.2 pounds) of fibre processed so far. 

Each blend is broken into four 50-gram (1.7-ounce) sub-blend versions. I make adjustments from version to version. It's similar to a series of paintings, I suppose. But squooshy.

I'm calling the last two batts "Goth Barbie". I didn't get the blend itself quite right until the third version. I needed the streaks. The first two blends just looked like "A Nice Pair of Socks".

Image: Blend 5-2 on the Drum Carder. 

See? A Nice Pair of Socks, right?

Hey, Didn't You Say There Was A Story?

Why is this my first post in forever? 

Because my brain has been getting extra creative, and gave me this little snippet of story to accompany my latest blend. It's too long to include on Instagram, so I'm including it here. 

I don't know, we had a couple of days of cooler weather just before the September Labour Day weekend, and my mind went to autumn and Halloween. I'm letting it wander. And writing down the journey.  

Image: "Goth Barbie" fibre mix for spinning: Blend 5-3, the perfect Halloween story blend 

Blend 5-3 and 5-4 Back Story

Scene: Outside the movie theatre (theater), a Buffy/Wednesday/Tiffany Aching cross (P) is meeting her friends for the "Barbie" premiere. She shows up late and disheveled, with big holes in both knees of her jeans. 

She saunters up to the group of teenagers chatting outside the theatre. Waiting for her. The group has dressed for the event; it's like a bubblegum factory exploded during a glitter storm. They turn as one at her casual greeting. 

One of the group (B, a worker bee of this hive mind) gasps at the sight of her, then blurts: 

B:    P! What are you wearing?

P:    (looks down, shrugs) Jeans and a tee. New tank top, check it! Like the pattern?

B gestures in bewilderment, waving her hands from item to problematic item of  P's outfit, top to bottom. Streaky tops, a riot of pink, purple, and red. Jeans, ripped and dirty. Big black boots. B is Speechless for a moment. Only a moment, though. Bees recover quickly. 

B:    What HAPPENED? Your knees, your -- is that BLOOD? 

P looks down at herself and notices the spots she missed. 

P: Pfft, no. (Shows her boots, pulling up one pantleg slightly, working carefully around the tear.)  Vegan leather! They can print anything on that stuff. (Models her boots, blood 'n' all.) The colour is called Midnight. I got a splatter overlay. Notice, not black. I listen.  

B blinks slowly, once, lips pressed together. Then she dismisses the whole unpleasantness, already moving to more important matters. She starts the waving again, this time concentrating on P's tee and tank. 

B: And what a strange pink, so streaky!

P looks down; considers. When she left the house, the tee was white.

P: I was trying a new crafty thing. Let me find a washroom, maybe I can even it out. (Hurries off before any more conversation happens. Calls over her shoulder.) Get me some popcorn!

Whew, okay! That's out of my head now. Back to blending! Fibres and a story, I've been woolgathering times two.

And Then? 

Next time, maybe I'll talk about how this happened. 

Image: Fiber and silk cocoons crowded in a crockpot of dye, and -- wait, it's two colours? In one pot? 

Bye for now. 

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