June292012

Ravellenic Games is born from the ashes of the Ravellympics

Ravellenic Games is born from the ashes of the Ravellympics

In one of my earlier posts, I discussed the USOC sending a cease and desist letter to Ravelry over the term Ravelympics.  The mods of the group that went by THE TERM THAT SHALL NO LONGER BE USED IN PUBLIC have chosen to change the name to the Ravellenic Games.  Apparently the Greek Muses seem to agree as suddenly there was candy in my hand!  Hmmm diet, shmiet.  If you are handed candy magically, you cannot say “I’m on a diet.” So eat it I did. New teams have been formed and the Ravellenic Game Village has been updated.  Some of the more amusing names that were bandied about in the group:  The-we-REALIZE-we-didn’t-practice-running-swimming-diving-gymnastics-for-our-entire-life Games, Unified Stitchers Observance Celebration aka USOC, and my personal fave, Raveldacted. There is one thing I don’t get though, okay more than one but they all combine to make one thing.  Correct me if I am wrong, but the Olympics are an international thing, right?  So how in the heck did the UNITED STATES OLYMPIC COMMITTEE manage to trademark the word Ol****C?  Sorry I am afraid to type the word for fear of an unlicensed law clerk sending me a cease and desist letter.  Not to mention they did not trademark the word until 1978.  The Games That Shall Not Be Named were in place long before that. In conclusion, the decision was made by those who have more power than me, to change the name of the Ravelympics 2012 to the Ravellenic Games 2012.  Not sure if anyone else felt this need, but I did save some of those patterns to my computer.  I have an insane urge to start making them even if I don’t know how to knit.  I might have learned for the Ravelympics 2012.  However, with the USOC completely discounting crafts I enjoy, I’m not sure I will ever learn with the exception of those patterns.

(Source: fromsheeptoshawl.com)

June222012

Wool to Yarn: An Introduction to Carding Wool

Wool to Yarn: An Introduction to Carding Wool

Girl carding wool

Flemish girl carding wool. Painted in 1883 by Maria Wilk

In my first post called What is Carding I briefly went over the process of carding wool. In that post I went briefly over the tools I used while I demonstrated how to card wool at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival (LARF.)  where I assumed the character of a journeyman weaver.  I also was recently asked to re-assume that role again for the 2012 season for the Louisiana Renaissance Festival where I will be portraying a journeyman weaver creating his masterpiece before a master weaver, Lady Freida Leyland. As a result I have decided to expand on that post

Introduction to Carding Wool

What is carding wool exactly? Well carding wool actually does two different things. One, it is a process in which a person takes one or more locks of fiber and uses either a flick carder or hand carder to loosen the individual strands of fiber from the lock. Or at least that is what an encyclopedia might say. I think taking a closer look at the actual process will help you understand the question better.

First off we will need to take a look at the equipment that is being used. Then once we know what the tools of the trade in carding wool, we can look at how to actually card wool and the different ways I have came across to do this in the next few post.

Types of Carding Brushes

Flick Carder

Side view of a Flick Carder showing how the metal teeth are angled

Flick Carder

Flick carders are the smallest of the wool carding tools. Flick carders can have a rectangular head, square head, and honestly you can probably take any sort of shape you want and make a flick carder our of it, though it might not work as well.  A flick carder is generally used by itself to open up a one or two locks of fiber at a time. This is accomplished by means of placing something over your leg like leather (to protect your leg) and then starting from the bottom of the lock, using a tapping or brushing motion and moving your way up as you go. The flick carder will remove vegetable matter (VM).

Hand Carder

Hand carders are the next size up from a flick carder. In fact the hand carders look like an over sized flick carder, but there are some differences. When you use hand carders you will be using two carding paddles. Once hand carder will generally be held stationary while the other hand carder is moved over it. The purpose of the hand carder is to take several locks of wool and align them to create a rolag. The rolag when made properly will be light and fluffy and easy to spin

Bishop holding a Wool Comb. From the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Lavenham, England

Wool Combs

Now wool combs look a lot different than carding tools, in fact wool combs were used before hand carders. The wool combs almost look like something out of a horror movie.. Wool comb have metal tines sticking out that are used to hold the wool while another wool comb is used to rake through the wool locks and open the locks up. It has been theorized that wool combs were modeled after a human hand. When you think about using your fingers to break apart locks you can somewhat see this.  Wool combs also serve another great purpose, the combs help separate the long fiber from the short fibers.  The longer fibers can then be used to make worsted yarn, and the short fibers can then be carded to create woolen yarn.

Doffer Brush

Doffer brushes are generally used to clean the other carding tools. They do look a lot like the flick carder but doffer brushes generally have less teeth per inch. This helps the tines  of the doffer brush get down closer to the carding cloth and remove the fiber that is remaining on the carding tools.

Drum Carder

1970’s Styled Drum Carder

Drum Carder

Drum carders are the newest type of carding tool on the market. The first iteration of the drum carder was invented in 1748, by Lewis Paul of Birmingham, England. The drum carder operates by using two rotating drums which has a carding cloth attached. The first drum, which is the smaller of the two, is called the licker drum. The second drum (sometimes called a swift) takes the fiber off the licker drum.

Carding Cloth

In all the types of carders, there is one thing in common between them. They all require carding cloth. Carding Cloth is the pad with the little metal pins sticking out. The carding cloth can be attached to the hand carder, flick carder, drum carder, or doffer tool with staples. When looking at carding cloths and deciding which one is correct for the fiber you will be using, there are a few things you should know. TPI stand for teeth per square inch on the carding cloth. The TPI will let you know what types of wool the hand carder is best suited for. A general rule of thumb is the finer the fiber you are using the greater the teeth per square you will want. It should be noted that a TPI between 72 and 112 will give you the greatest range of carding wool, but it can not be guarnteed on to work on all wools. If you are planning to card fine fibers you will need to be using an extra fine carding cloth on your hand carders.

  • Coarse: 48 teeth per square inch. This carding cloth is typically used for the more open fibers.
  • Regular: 72 teeth per square inch. This carding cloth can be used for coarse and mid-range fibers.
  • Fine: 96 teeth per square inch. Will work with most fibers, except for fine fibers.
  • Extra Fine: 190 and up teeth per square inch. Can be used for Cotton, Merino, Llama, Alpaca, Cashmere, and other exotics.

Conclusion

Woman Carding Wool. From the William A. Barnhill Collection

Well now you should be familiar with the tools used for carding wool. In my next article called “Wool to Yarn: How to Card Wool” I will show you how to use some of the different tools shown here.
Lastly, I have included a few resources from some of our affiliates if you would like to learn more about using hand carders. I would have liked to include a link to where to buy some raw fleece, but it is hard to pin down exactly when the fleece would be available. I have found some from people on Ebay, Ravelry, and Homesteading Forums. You can also try contacting you local extension agent to see if they would know of any places to get some fleece.

Hand Carders and Flick Carders

The Ashford Book of Carding: A Handspinners Guide at Amazon
Wool hand carders and flick carders at Paradise Fiber

Drum Carder

Drum Carders at Paradise Fiber

Wool Combs

Wool Combs at Paradise Fiber
Hand Woolcombing and Spinning: A Guide to Worsteds from the Spinning-Wheel at Paradise Fiber

May232012

Drop Spindle: A Brief Introduction

Drop Spindles. What are they and how do they work?

William-Adolphe Bouguereau - The Spinner (1873)

The Spinner by William-Adolphe Bouguereau painted on 1873. Oil on Canvas

History

It is assumed that the drop spindle was developed from an even older device called a hand spindle. The first instances of spinning was probably from a person rolling the fiber together on their leg. Later the fiber would be attached to a stick so you could roll a section of fiber. Then wind the thread up on the stick and start a new section of fiber. Another possibility is the fiber was attached to a rock and then let hang and someone spun the rock.

It is not known when or where the drop spindle was created.  There is some evidence showing drop spindles being used to spin fiber dating all the way back to 5000 BCE. The earliest form was probably a rock tied to a thread which was then spun to produce a single thread from some sort of fiber. The rock would provide some weight to help remove some of the kinks out of the fiber.

Through history there is recorded use of some sort of spindle whether it be from art, stories, or from archaeological finds. The Egyptians used a drop spindle to make the linen wraps the mummies wore from flax. The ropes the early explorers used on their ships were woven from hemp on some sort of spindle. You can even say the drop spindle has put its twist on history.

What is a Drop Spindle

When you look at spindles you can see they are broken down into two distinct types:

  • The first type is a supported spindle where the end of the spindle is supported on some sort of object, like the ground or a specially made cup.
  • The second type is a gravity supported spindle which is also known as a drop spindle. On a drop spindle the drop spindle is supported by the thread it is spinning

Fruit vendor using a supported spindle

When you break a drop spindle down into it’s core components a drop spindle is pretty simply. There is basically two parts. One is the center shaft which is basically what the drop spindle revolves around. The shaft is also used to wrap the thread after a twist has been applied to the thread. The second part is the whorl. The whorl acts as a weight to prevent the thread from kinking up. The placement of the whorl also can change the characteristics of the drop spindle. When the whorl sits up high the drop spindle spins fast and can become unbalanced a lot quicker. Now modern drop spindle have a hook or notch to the shaft to hold the thread while the drop spindle is spinning thread. When you look back at some historical documents, the hook on top was sometimes replaced with a simple knot to hold the drop spindle in place.

Types of Drop Spindle

When you look at a drop spindle you will see the center mass, which is known as the whorl located in different areas. The adjustment of the whorl can help break down the drop spindle into three different classes:

  • Top Whorl
  • Center Whorl
  • Bottom Whorl
Top Whorl Drop Spindle

Top Whorl Drop Spindle

Top Whorl Drop Spindle

A top whorl spindle spins the fastest of the three but requires the most concentration. This is due to the center of gravity (the whorl) being raised up toward the top of the spindle. When getting one of these drop spindles it is well recommended to have one as balanced as you can find. This will help when you go to spin since the drop spindle will not be wobbling as much. Top whorl drop spindles are also the lightest of the three types of spindles. This allows the spinner to create a finer thread, but the trade off is the spinner will not be able to have as much thread on the spindle as the other three. The top whorl drop spindle was believed to have been developed in the middle east.

Center Whorl Drop Spindle

The center whorl drop spindles are the rarest types of drop spindle and are usually region specific spindles. For instance the Akha Spindle which is used in Tibet. There is also the Turkish drop spindle as well as the Navajo drop spindle. Those types of drop spindles will be covered in a later article

Bottom Whorl Drop Spindle

Lady using a drop spindle in Switzerland

Bottom Whorl Drop Spindle

Finally we come to the bottom whorl drop spindle, these are the workhorses of the drop spindle. In this style the whorl is located towards the bottom. This helps by giving you the lowest center of gravity, which leads to a very stable spindle. This type of drop spindle is also used to produce a thicker thread, which in turn lets the spinning spin a lot more thread before having to remove the thread. This type of drop spindle was thought to have originated in the middle ages. The bottom whorl drop spindle will spin slower than the top whorl drop spindle, this is due to where the spinning usually grasp the drop spindle to spin it. On a top whorl drop spindle the spinner will usually grab the drop spindle where the shaft is very narrow. Whereas on a bottom whorl drop spindle, the spinner will usually start the spindle spinning from the whorl. The reason the difference in speeds is because when you grab the smaller shaft to spin it will make a few revolutions before you release it. Whereas the bottom whorl might only be rotated one or two times.

If you would like to learn to use a drop spindle here is a starter set to look at

Learn to Spin Drop Spindle Kit

A good book to read that has been recommended to me by several people is

Respect the Spindle

One last book that I came across recently that has a lot of good information is

Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning

May72012

What is Carding

sat in front of the weavers shed at the Louisiana Renaissance Festival (LARF.) I could be seen taking handfuls of raw wool and turning them into what looked like a big fluffy ball. When I was asked what I was doing I would reply “I am carding the wool.” Which would almost always, lead to the next question I would get asked. “What is carding”?  Well the short form of the answer is you take a lock of wool, run it across some form of sorting device which then removes the tangles and get the fiber going in the same direction.  In practice it is a little harder than that.

Raw Wool 150x150 What is Carding

Few locks of wool from a Gulf Coast Sheep

I guess the first step to answering the question “What is Carding?” is to look at some of the materials you will be using. The first thing we need to look at is the wool. Recently we did a historic re-enactment of how spinning was done in the 16th century at the Louisiana Science Fiction and Costume Convention. We demonstrated how to spin wool on a spinning wheel, how to use a loom, and how to card wool. The wool we used came from a specific breed of sheep called a Gulf Coast. The wool came from a friend who is on cast at the LARF. She has quite a few sheep and we were able to procure the fleece from one of them. In this form the wool does not really look as if much thread can come from the lock. Sort of looks like a matt of hair you might find on a dog, but out of this can come quite a bit of thread once the spinning process is done

So now that we got the raw material to process the next thing you will need is something called a carding paddle. Actually you will need two, one for each hand. If you are wondering what they look like I have added a picture below of the carding paddles I used. They are a set from John Day Woodworking. As you can see in the picture the hand carders look a lot like the brushes you use for pets. Well they are very close. If you look at the metal teeth you will see they are angled where the typical pet brush has metal teeth that are straight as you can somewhat see in this picture of a flick carder.

Next question you might be asking is what is the difference between a hand carder and a flick carder. Well for hand carders you usually use two paddles and for a flick carder you normally use it by itself. On a flick carder you put the lock of wool in the carder and then flick the carder up to where you open the lock of wool up a little. Can you use a hand carder as a flick carder? Yes you can, but the flick carder is smaller and easier to work with

Hand Carder 150x150 What is Carding

Carding paddles which are used to Hand Card

Flick Carder Side 150x150 What is Carding

Side view of a Flick Carder showing how the metal teeth are angled

As you can see the teeth are all angled a certain way. This is to help straighten the wool out when it is carded, the teeth will hook into the wool and help pull the strands apart from each other. So how do you card wool? Well you need to place a little washed wool in between the two carding paddle and you pull them apart. It will take multiple passes to get the wool in a good enough state where most of the fibers inside the wool are pulled apart enough to create a rolag, which can then be used to spin a thread of wool on either a drop spindle or a spinning wheel.

Rolag 150x150 What is Carding

Rolag created from Gulf Coast Wool that was used in the Louisiana Renaissance Festival

So now you know the answer to the question “What is Carding.” If you have any further questions feel free to contact us for help. If you do plan on carding your own wool you might want to make sure you have a pretty decent amount carded before you begin spinning. Depending on how fast you spin, it is possible to card for a few hours and only have an hour or so of spinning. Personally, I have more fun carding for some reason. I guess it was because I could directly interact with the children when we do the demonstration. I really enjoy watching their faces when they get to touch the locks and even let some of them help card the wool.

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