How to Blend Fibers for Spinning

by Ragtimelil

There are several reasons to blend fibers. You might want to mix different types of wool or you might want to blend colors. There are several ways to go about it.

Many fibers benefit from blending with another type of fiber. Angora rabbit and dog hair are two very fine, slippery fibers that can be hard to spin and not very stable when they are spun alone. They don’t have memory or elasticity so they tend to stretch when knitted. Adding a percentage of sheep’s wool can make a big difference in the way the finished yarn handles and yet retain the softness and fuzzy properties of the original fiber.

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Blending fibers

It’s easy to blend fibers with hand cards. If the wool is clean and ready to card I load it right on with the fine fibers. If I wanted to card a 50-50 blend, I load half of the paddle with sheep's wool and half with the fine fiber. As I turn the hand cards, the sides will change, mixing the fibers together. My sample here is 50% dark sheep’s wool and 50% Angora rabbit.  I used dark wool so that you could see clearly how it blended. You can use the same color if you wanted to.

When blending on a drum carder, I usually card each fiber by itself first to make it easier to handle. I tear off a strip of each to make the proportions I want and card them together. I pull off the batt and recard it several times to mix it thoroughly.

Loading the cards
Loading the cards
Blending
Blending
Blending more
Blending more
Finished rolag
Finished rolag

Blending Colors

card blended

If I’m blending colors on hand cards, I might card separately each of the fibers thoroughly and then blend as much or as little as I like. The sample I did has a heathered look.

 

  

Blending colors on the drum carder is easy too, Sometimes I put down different colors in layers. Sometimes I’ll take the first batt and pull it into stripes. Then I lay the strips on their sides as I run them through again for a more striped effect. It is really fun to experiment and see what comes out.

Layers
Layers
Blended
Blended

Blending on Combs and Hackles

Blending fibers on wool combs is a lot like blending on cards. However, there is a way to get the striped effect by using a diz. I recommended reading How to Use Viking Wool Combs for an explanation of combing and using a diz. You really need some sort of jig to hold your comb since you need both hands to pull the wool through the hole in the diz.

I experimented with making a jig that would hold both my combs so that it would work like a short hackle. I lined up the two combs side by side right at the edge of a sheet of scrap plywood. I put one nail through the hole n the end of the handles and one nail on either side of each handle. It worked pretty well though I did have to hold the handles down once in a while. There are several things I could do to improve on this design, but I think I'm going to make a set of hackles with a double row of teeth.

I lashed, or loaded, the combs with sections of different colors.  I started the diz at one end and by fluffing the fibers and pulling gently to one side, I worked the diz along the front of the combs. I ended up with a sliver that had different sections and strips of color. The video below shows how this works. It takes a little practice to get a smooth roving off the hackle.

 

Quick homemade jig
Quick homemade jig
Loading combs
Loading combs
Pulling through a diz
Pulling through a diz
Sliver
Sliver
Hackle Blended
Hackle Blended
A funny little video showing combing and blending with hackles.

Homemade Hackles

I will try to make my own hackle sometime soon. I’ve seen some made with combs or hair picks screwed to the front of  a strip of wood. I’m not too crazy about the plastic teeth, but it is a cheap and easy way to make a hackle.

I will make mine with finishing nails set into the strip of wood. I don’t want a long one since I don’t have the room for it, but I’d like a sturdy one. 

Meanwhile I can blend on my drum carder, hand cards and combs.

Updated: 10/18/2012, Ragtimelil
 
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