Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why predraft?

No, this has nothing to do with pre-gaming or tail-gating or anything alcoholic, really.

It's about drafting before one spins. I mean, why do it? I'm firmly of the belief that a well-prepared fiber does not need drafting to spin it. A well-prepared, non-compacted fiber should not need to be pre-drafted before spinning. We all know how well the mail carriers treat packages, right? Every parcel is sacred and uncrushed, lovingly carried along for the journey, and hand-delivered to the doorstep of one's home.

Yeah, I hear your derisive laughter now.

Parcel abuse is just one of the reasons why I would choose to pre-draft. Compaction while dyeing happens. Fibers might have drastically different lengths (which might be something I discuss later). There's a number of good reasons why a person would need to pre-draft, or fluff up, or tear into their fiber before the act of spinning it. That said, the following picture tutorial isn't about tearing up all the roving into itty-bitty strips that are ready to feed into the wheel, ready to go. It's about how I managed the fibers to get the yarn I wanted, and that required a little extra step called pre-drafting.

Please examine Exibit A:

It's a lovely, lovely batt I got from my swap partner. It's a blend of merino and angora, percentages unknown. Before this batt, the only other batts batt I'd ever spun was an AbbyBatt. (Side note: Abby Batts are prepared by none other than Abby Franquemont herself, and are painstakingly prepared, and glorious to spin. That is, to say, they don't need predrafting. If that first link doesn't work, Carolina Homespun and The Spinning Loft carry Abby Batts, usually at different time and of different types. If you've never spun from a batt before, I highly recommend an Abby batt, because they are so well-prepared and well-blended. But enough digressing!)

As you can see from Exhibit A, the batt is quite unlike commercial top, commonly called roving. The fibers do not all lie parallel and the fibers themselves aren't well mixed. You can see the lighter stripes of angora contrasting with the merino and the thicker stripes of merino pop out as a darker pink. I started out by tearing a strip from one side of the batt, because I didn't want a giant pink blanket of fiber sitting in my lap while I spun. Then, I began to pre-draft one end of the strip.

Exhibit B:

If you look closely at the end of the strip farthest away from the hinges, you'll notice that it's thinner than the rest of the strip. You can see the color of the wooden table top peeking through the fibers. That's because I pre-drafted it, or attenuated the fibers so they aren't so closely clumped together. I pulled it apart from side to side - pulling a little bit in the spindle direction, tugging a bit in the ruler's direction. Then, I grabbed a hold of the end and began gently yanking away a small tuft from the hinges. (Hey, items in pictures make good directional references. Wasn't that easier to see than if I said left, right, up and down?) That said, I never pulled the fiber hard enough so that it separated into clumps. That's not what I wanted, I just wanted the fibers loose and fluffy so they'd draft a little more easily. Once I'd drafted 3 to 6 inches of one end of the strip, it was ready to join.

With the thin end of the strip next to the loose end of my single, I was ready to spin the two together. Holding the tip of the strip to the single, I pulled out an even thinner tuft of fiber from the strip to spin with the single and started my wheel. You can see in the next picture how much thinner I pulled out the tip and how much it overlaps with the unspun end of the single. The blue arrow points out the loose end of the single.

Holding the two ends together, I continued to treadle slowly on my wheel and build up some twist in the space between the wheel and my fingers. Once that was done, I pulled my pinched fingers back so that the twist traveled into the section that held fibers from both the tufted end of the strip and the unspun end of the single. It makes for a nice, smooth join as you can see in the next photo.

While I'm spinning, I'm drafting the fiber out as well but never so much that the fibers pull apart. You can check out this photo and the following photo to see how (not) far apart my hands usually go when I'm spinning. That said, I used a combination of supported long draw and short foward draw. Every once in a while, I'd need to stop to do some predrafting.

Yes, that's a bit of a jumbled mess, isn't it? I'm very used to spinning from top, which has parallel fibers, so I've been using drafting as a method to pull the fibers into an alignment that's easier for me to spin. Once again, I'm pulling from the tip out towards the wheel. I pinched the fibers right around where the blue arrow is pointing and pulled the fiber towards the wheel, like so -

From there, I continued to smooth down the tips as they got spun into the single, pulling backwards with my fiber hand to draft as I spun. Sometimes my fiber-holding hand gets uppity and does the drafting job that my fiber-management hand is supposed to do. As you can see, my fiber-management hand was busy smoothing out the crumpled fiber into the single.

That said, the rest of the spinning was a rinse and repeat of these steps. Once I reached the end of the strip I was spinning, I'd tear out another one and start over. I hope the pictures helped other people figure out how to spin batts. Who knew that violin playing made for great practice at holding cameras at odd angles?


JJ said...

Pretty. I love the color of your Kiwi. I didn't know you stained it darker.

knitwit said...

Thanks! I think the darker color had a lot more to do with how I dimmed the camera flash.

Welcome to Crazytown, where my friends have proclaimed me queen. Why did they do that you ask? For some reason, there's very little that I fear about knitting. Hmm, a dress in laceweight done in lace knitting written by vogue? Sounds great! I have very few inhibitions when it comes to knitting, and that sometimes ends disasteriously. Apparently, other people think this signifies a level of crazy that only the royalty can attain. Follow along with my escapades as I dive head first into all sorts of insane techniques and projects without much more than an "Oh! That looks pretty, I can make it!"

Those will probably be my famous last words.