Tag Archives: carding

Eucalyptus dyed gradient yarns

Some time ago I blogged about dyeing with windfall eucalyptus leaves. I had been dyeing over white corriedale and had quite a range of colours in the range of ochre and caramel through flame orange and… opinions differ about whether that really is red. Here it is, wet from dyeing and ready to be rinsed:


I divided my fleece up into colour groupings, carded it and pulled a roving straight from the carder drum with a diz.  What a great technique.  You can find it on YouTube, but it was watching a friend from the Guild demonstrate it that really convinced me to try it out.  This Youtube video has an explanation of the same simple homemade diz my friend has made, so maybe she was inspired by that video.  Here are my rovings.  Creating these made me feel like I have learned a few things about fleece preparation.


Then I created bumps of roving with segments of each colour, lined up to create a gradient from ochre through to reddish. Then, there was spinning and plying and skeining and washing–spinning being a craft of many stages–and now…


I am so happy with this yarn! I can’t wait to share it with the friends whose sheep this wool came from.  Coincidentally, the week I finished this yarn, they invited me to their place for shearing time.



Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

So much for nettle fibre processing!

Finally, I returned to the harvested and then  twice retted nettle stems. I began by rolling a pipe over them to make the stems easier to split.


I have been putting this task off because these stems looked so little promising.


The stems mostly shattered without fibre becoming evident in any significant way.


I gathered just a little fibre for a lot of effort.


After carding, I was left with this. So I cleaned my handcards on the garden, added the stems to the mulch in the garden, and now… I wait for next year!

A image

A belated postscript: there is a wonderful community flax growing project reaching the spinning stage on the other side of the planet.  So for stories of bast fibre success, please go to visit Sharon Kallis here.


Filed under Fibre preparation

Textured spinning and trash batts

I went on a weekend away with members of my Guild recently and had a fabulous time chatting, spinning and eating way more than made any sense.  I took some little packs I made up beforehand, each designed to create a skein of yarn. This first one began as Finn cross locks I bought pre-dyed and perhaps a little felted, with curly tips.  Perfect for this technique, I thought.


Here they are as a lockspun yarn, with the teased-out, butt ends of the locks corespun around a crossbred grey wool core that can no longer be seen, and the curly tips on display.


This batt of unloved green fleece that I was given includes some orange silk noil and some pre-dyed mohair locks.


Here it is corespun over that same grey crossbred core.  I learned these two techniques from the fine writing and DVDs of Jacey Boggs.


The trash batt experiments continue!  This is eucalyptus dyed carder waste (and nepps pulled out as I was spinning) carded with white and tan Polwarth locks.


I used it for my first attempt at a  new textured spinning technique–a friend gave me a copy of The Wheel that contained this technique and you can also see it here.  It originates with Steph Gorin, who demonstrates here.  (The video also includes advertising for Ashford.)


Here is the outcome of a batt made with the flick carding waste from the blue lockspun yarn above, and a eucalyptus dyed carder waste and polwarth batt.


Finally, a gratuitous picture of what appears to me to be valerian in flower in my garden.  Which is gorgeous apart from the fact that I bought it because it was soapwort.  It doesn’t look like any soapwort I have ever seen now it is in flower, which makes me glad it wasn’t big enough to harvest until now!



Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Eucalyptus dyes over grey corriedale: The spinning finale

I have a bit of a tendency to go a long way toward the completion of a big project and then pause near the end.  Sometimes for a little while, sometimes for a long while.  So here, finally, is the very last of the grey corriedale I dyed months ago and planned to spin during the Tour de Fleece. I loved the two ply yarn I created during the Tour a good bit less than my initial chain plied skein, even though it is what I need if I ever knit that cardigan I dream of.

I found the label for this fleece on the weekend and I started out with 3.5 kg of fleece.  I made a true three ply yarn (three singles plied together) from most of the last part…


And chain plied the rest (one single plied on itself in a chain).  I think the long pause on this was caused by the way my heart sank when I stopped chain plying it in the first place.  I love the distinct colours in the last little leftover skein!   IMAG2562

I also spun up a little batt of alpaca dyed in eucalyptus.



Three ply wins again!


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Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Further experiments in converting textile waste

I have been wondering about trying some more spinning experiments with waste from the overlocker and the carding process.  There is nothing like yarn bombing to make me consider any kind of yarn useable!  Yarn bombing is even more forgiving than teapots when it comes to the texture and qualities of the fibre concerned… and there is an argument for only using fibres that can’t be made into clothing or blankets for yarn bombing, I think.  So in a  burst of carding enthusiasm, I’ve been preparing batts.

First up, carding waste (corriedale dyed with eucalypt), overlocker waste (from bag making, mostly–silk, cotton, linen and some polyester blend) and some polwarth locks to hold it all together.  Here it is going into the drum carder:


Carded and ready to spin.


More fabric scraps and overlocker thread in some parts than others…


While I was on the job, I carded some rough lavender wool of unknown origin.  It was discarded by the felting group at the Guild: say no more!   I re-washed it, which improved its texture and cleanliness somewhat…


The felters also passed on this green fibre of unknown origin, which was improved very much by re-washing and carded out beautifully.  I have added dyed mohair locks and silk noil, and we’ll see if it can become a repectable art yarn.


Carding waste from those two batts and some more overlocker waste…


I’ll report back when I’ve tried turning these away from the waste stream and into something of use!


Filed under Fibre preparation

Revelations at the drum carder

Recently I made good on my intention to properly clean and oil the drum carder.  It meant I had to find the instruction sheets.  And that was when I had the revelation that my drum carder has two speeds.


Conceivably, this was a selling point when I decided to buy it–that does sound curiously familiar–and I had managed to completely forget.  I have had it on the setting which would be ideal for blending roving for some years.  That’s been good sometimes, because it really does make a great batt for artyarn spinning, and there has been quite a bit of that at my place.  However, I have struggled to make great batts from fleece, sometimes with a lack of patience, I admit.  But there has been plenty of trying and some of it has been patient.  So, I have been applying my newly oiled and cleaned carder to some Polwarth fleece on the correct setting, and wonder of wonders, it actually is better!


I have also been carding some of the lower quality end of my enormous stash of Polwarth and spinning it fat, soft and three ply with YET MORE Fibertrends Clogs in mind.  The short cuts and brittle ends will never be seen again once they’ve been felted.  And I have to say the spinning is a lot of fun.


Every time I use the drum carder and pick up the doffer–a long pointed metal tool for removing the batt from the carder–I find myself earwormed with a folk song called The Doffing Mistress.  The link is to the singing of Maddy Prior and June Tabor, two of the shining stars of English folk music over some decades.  The quality of sound is no doubt better on iTunes, but this version comes with a description of the job of a doffer in the period after the industrial revolution.  I am very glad not to be a small child pulling bobbins on and off an industrial spinning machine to earn sufficient to eat…  Instead, I have been hand winding big fat balls of this yarn, since it is a bit thick for my ball winder.  Let the knitting begin!



Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting, Spinning


I loved running workshops over summer, but it has also been a treat to return to my spinning wheel.  This skein began as grey corriedale fleece.  I dyed it in the grease with Earth Palette dyes, carded, and pulled a roving directly from the drum carder through a diz.  I have seen this technique demonstrated on YouTube, but I was only prepared to try it after someone from my Guild (who is a fabulous spinner) showed a group of us how she does it.

I like the colour, and enjoyed the process of producing roving.  Being able to dye in the grease is one of the things that has me returning to Earth Palette dyes. It improves my pleasure in scouring, and makes me content with scouring small quantities.   Does my impatience show?


One of the workshops I ran over summer was on ‘fancy yarns’–artyarns to the inhabitants of the internet–and it has been good to come back to spinning the kind of yarns I prefer to knit.  I love the challenge of artyarn spinning, and the results, but I am a plain spinner in my heart, apparently.  This is relaxing spinning for me and I’m enjoying relaxing a little.  The yellow/green/blue corriedale that I dyed at the same time has already become a beanie for a dear friend’s birthday, even though there will be no call for him to wear it for some months yet!

Dyeing over a grey base has pleased me so much that I want to return to trying it with eucalypts.  I guess I’d better get over myself about scouring…


Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting, Spinning

Leaf prints of the week: Eucalyptus Cinerea and pecan leaves

It was another weekend with leaf prints.

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Eucalyptus Cinerea, before..

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and after:

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My test cotton sample, demonstrating that the mordanting I wrote about a little while back should work out just fine for the natural dyeing workshop I’ll be running.

Leaf prints 022

On the weekend I travelled south of the city to celebrate the lives and love of two dear friends.  They had an all-in-one birthday party and anniversary.  I gave them a teapot and teacosy dyed with silky oak leaves (grevillea Robusta) and eucalypt, and they found it suitably funny.

Dyeing 005

As we left, one of them pointed out their now-flourishing, though still relatively small,  pecan tree.  I had seen pecan eco-prints on Lotta Helleberg’s lovely blog.  I asked if I could pluck a few, and then I took them home and wrapped them in a piece of cotton twill that used to be a pair of trousers.  It was ready and waiting, mordanted in soy and ready to go!  Before… (such lovely leaves…)

Leaf prints 002

and, after:

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I had also saved this sample of an unidentified eucalypt a friend was growing in his backyard, but sadly it yielded a few brownish smudges.  It’s much prettier in person than as a leaf print.  I think it is Eucalyptus Kruseana (Bookleaf Mallee).

Leaf prints 003      Leaf prints 009

And I spent some time creating textured batts ready for textured yarn spinning… wool with mohair locks, while I tried a new method for washing wool.

Leaf prints 014

Good times!

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Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Leaf prints

Turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse. I mean, a slipper.

This week’s question is whether I can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse slipper.

I have been the lucky recipient of a lot of free fleece since I took up spinning.  It all started with some filthy Gotland fleece straight from the sheep’s back that my Dad gave me.  He had provided the antique engine that was running the shearing plant in a demonstration of hand shearing at a local show.  Because he knew I wanted to learn to spin, he brought home a few handfuls.   He is a great enabler!  It was rough and filthy, but I spun it on my first spindle and was grateful.  Admittedly, Dad said there was a handspinner at the show and he had spoken to her about it: she advised doing me a favour and not bringing that fleece home to me, but naturally, he didn’t listen!  And I was glad.  I didn’t know anywhere I could get fleece then.

Next, I was given several bags of Dorper fleece by friends who were keeping Dorpers as meat sheep.  I didn’t understand the meaning of ‘meat sheep’ in the context of fleece at that stage.   Dorpers shed their fleece rather than needing to be shorn when they are pure bred, which might have been a clue to (lack of) spinnability for a more knowledgeable person, too!  I dyed it, I spun it, I carded it… oh my goodness. It was the beginning of my fleece preparation journey and it was a very challenging start.  Months later the woman who had lent me her carder said when she saw what I was working with, she was just overcome to think I would even try to spin that fleece!  She didn’t offer me her opinion at the time, though, and it was a long time before I decided that I could, perhaps, compost the rest as my struggles were not only about my lack of skill but also about the state of the fleece.

Needless to say I have also received fleece that has spent lengthy periods in a shed and bred an overwhelming moth population.  Happily, I had said fleece in a plastic tub with a lid.

So… I have had some personal experience of the possibility that people who give the gift of fleece don’t have the judgment necessary to decide whether what they have handed over is worth spinning.   I have to be the one to decide whether the fact that I could turn that into yarn given enough time and effort, is a sufficient reason to do it.  I think I have proved to myself that I can spin almost anything–if I could spin those fleeces as a beginner!

I went to a couple of workshops on fibre preparation (washing, combing and using hackles) at the recent Majacraft Magic camp at Lake Dewar outside Melbourne, and came home ready to tackle some of my current fibre preparation challenges.  I had reached some new conclusions about why I find getting fleece clean difficult sometimes.  1. our hot water tap doesn’t give very hot water, and can’t be adjusted.  Boiling the kettle repeatedly is boring, as well as slow, after a while! 2. I can be more slapdash than is ideal for the task. 3. Most of the fleece I currently have is Polwarth, more gifts from a couple of pet sheep in the hills.  This is a fine and greasy fleece, among the more challenging to clean.  4. I always hope to be able to wash a bigger batch of fleece than is desirable for optimal results.

Anyway… having tried washing some more gifted alpaca fleece and some more gifted Polwarth, and using careful observation of how it behaves with flicking, combing and carding, I have decided the following.  1. The specific Polwarth fleece I am currently working on has tips that are weather damaged.  When I flick card them, they pull right off.  Is it any wonder that these paler tips appear as nepps in the batt when I card the same fleece? The other fleeces I have had from the same sheep don’t have these difficulties. The poor sheep must have had a tough year…

2. That same fleece has a break in it, so the longer locks are giving way under the tension involved in carding, again leading to less than optimal batts.  3. The alpaca is super short (happily, I have now worked with high quality alpaca and no longer assume this s just the way alpaca comes).  It has not really been skirted.  Most of it pulls onto the licker-in (the small drum on the drum carder) when carded. Yes, from the very start, and not only when the large drum is full.

4.That alpaca has big clumps of guard hair and has been shorn without consideration to the future spinner.  Hopefully the shearer was thinking of the animal’s welfare in taking so many passes!

In short, these are not the highest quality fleeces possible and they would present challenges to anyone preparing them for spinning.  No matter how much time I spend I may not be able to turn these sow’s ears into the proverbial silk purses.  I have decided, instead, to attempt to turn them into felted slippers.  I am carding them together as a blend, spinning them up without too much fuss and very fat (good practice) and my ultimate plan is to knit slippers which will be felted and perhaps dyed.  Shazam!  Their less than ideal qualities will no longer be of importance.  I hope!

Here are my first few balls, and a slipper with some polwarth content and some eucalyptus dyed wool content to give me hope…


Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting, Spinning, Uncategorized