21 June, 2011

Supplement that Quarter Pound of Fibre

I wrote the other day about handspun integrity, how handspinners as a whole do not limit themselves to working only with handspun but use commerical yarn as well, either on its own or in combination.  I myself keep pretty strictly to handspun.  I didn't mention the fact in that post.  I don't like drawing attention to areas where I fall in a lonely place on the Venn diagram of handspinners and I didn't want anyone to get the idea I judge anyone who uses commercial yarn because I don't.  I can't relate but I know one man's fish is another man's poisson.  They always seem happy so I am happy for them.

These multi-coloured braids I have, I don't want to stretch the fibre by combining it with commercial yarn.  This is mainly because getting to spin is the whole attraction for me.  Buying yarn means missing an opportunity to spin yarn.  The other consideration is my desire for the whole project to look coherent and undiluted.  I think, given my inexperience and middling skill in creating wearable fabric, my chances of achieving clarity go up if I use only one type and one colourway of fibre.

Let's have a photo of the braids in question.

Gale's Art BFL in Velvet Elvis (4 braids) and a turquoise semi-solid
There they are and there's a plain semi-solid as well.  They're all from the same dye artist, Gale's Art.  The multi-coloured braids are named Velvet Elvis and the semi-solid is called turquoise.  I bought the Velvet Elvis first.  Later I bought a semi-solids colour card from Gale and I realized that some of the colours that go into the Velvet Elvis are available as semi-solids.  Oh, I felt clever and pleased with myself.  That's why I was prepared at Maryland Sheep and Wool to buy turquoise at Gale's booth.  I bypassed another semi-solid called ashes that would have matched Velvet Elvis as well.  The turquoise is much more me.  Not only do the semi-solids partner well, they're priced lower.

Having these related braids makes me feel like I have some versatility.  I can make a separate items and wear them together looking impressively coordinated.  Or, I can make them all into one item.  You've probably seen a sweater with a different colour at the ribbed collar and cuffs.  There's the possibilities of stripes in the body or Fair Isle patterns.  Intarsia might look dated.  Woven chequer fabric is possible too, though difficult to match at seams in a garment.  

From prior experiments, like the chair pad I made, I expect that spinning singles from these multi-coloured and semi-solid braids and combining the colours in the plying stage would fleck the fabric erratically.  Not the best look.  Holding the braids together to spin a single would take more concentration and skill in blending than I'm willing to dedicate.  Besides, what is the point of that last option?  Velvet Elvis already contains turquoise and blending in a little bit more won't give much return for the effort.

There is another way you could stretch the braids: run them through a drum carder with more fibre, the fifteen ounces of humbug BFL I have for example.  (Velvet Elvis is dyed over a 75/25 mix of light and naturally dark fibre, sometimes called swirl or humbug.  I bought my humbug for $24/pound; it has gone up since then but is still about half the price of an equivalent weight of dyed braids.)  I saw on Ravelry pictures of someone's before and after shots where she took a few multi-coloured braids in related colourways and made batts.  The result was pleasant.  The fibre lost the distinct colours and gained a soft heathered look.  Brilliant solution if you've shopped impulsively and wound up with an assortment of braids that would produce one-skein wonders otherwise.

I don't plan to make heathered batts.  The guild's drum carder is out for refurbishment.  I have little experience using a carder and while I'm sure a drum carder favours the brave I think it also favours those that have the touch.  I feel inauthentic when I wear heathered colours in commercial fabric.  Clarity and intensity are what I like.  A batt gives a fuzzier yarn and I like a smoother yarn that shows the gloss of Blue Face wool better.  I like to know what I'm getting into and who knows what would come out of the drum carder: snarled neppy bits, irregularly blended colour, chaos.

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