How do I card a self-striping batt?

The battBy Amelia

Among the various batts we card in my workshop Using the Batt Machine: Drum Carding from A to Z (next offering: Oregon Flock and Fiber in September 2009) is a batt with three colors running across the batt.

Developing this technique into a viable batt actually took some experimenting. If you lay the colors side-by-side in the infeed tray, not overlapping at all, then your batt tends to separate into 3 separate skinny batts when you take it off the drum carder. Oops, back to the drawing board.

So, what worked? ...

Interleaving the colors. Yep. Instead of dividing up your infeed tray into thirds, give each color a full 50% of the width. Okay, I hear you -- that adds up to 150%. That's where the interleaving comes in. Put the first color down on the left half of the infeed tray. Put the second color down in the "middle half" (quarters on each side of it), overlapping the first color. Put the third color down on the right half of the tray, overlapping the second color. Card them in. Repeat until drum carder is full, and remove batt.

This is what your batt looks like (if you used teal, dark green, and green that is):
The batt

See the heathering of the colors at the overlapping? That is why this is one, nice, solid batt, no signs of wanting to separate at all. Whew!

Ok, now you have your nice batt, how do you spin it up for stripes?

Let's do this the hard way: two-ply.

First, decide -- my batt was about 2 ounces, so enough for 1 sock, 1 mitten, half a hat, or whatever -- I say this, because I want an idea of how large to make my repeats.

Since I'm doing a 2-ply, first I split my batt in half across its width. To do this, I grasped the batt in both hands with the mid-point centered and my hands about 6 inches apart (a staple-length-and-a-half, this particular fiber, Corriedale, having about a 4 inch staple length -- that's important, but also a typical staple length for many wool breeds).

This left me with this:
Batt split

But, I wanted more than 1 occurrence of each color (remember, this is a 2-ply, so all I've done so far is separate the fiber for each ply). My batt is kind of puny, though typical of most home drum carders, so I'm not sure I can get 3 repeats in, but I know I can get 2 in ... so I split the halves across their midpoints. And this time I remember to take a picture of my hand placement before the split (woo hoo!):
Splitting a batt piece into 2 pieces

Here are all 4 of the batt pieces now:
all 4 batt pieces ready for rolling

But wait, I'm not done. To get the colors to stripe distinctly in the yarn, I roll each of the pieces up into a rolag -- yep, I'll be spinning this from a 99.4% pure woollen prep, carded and then rolled up into a rolag.

Here I've once again cleverly remembered to take a picture of my hand in action, rolling up the rolag:
Making a rolag

What I have to say about the rolling -- you do want it to be fairly tight. When learning to do this, rolling around a knitting needle is a good idea; a size US 15 if you have it, or a US 10 will do in a pinch. No needles? maybe you have some 3/8" or 1/2" diameter dowel on hand ...

So here is one rolag next to one of the batt pieces:
A rolag and a batt piece

And here are all 4 of my rolags:
All 4 rolags

Next comes the spinning. No new tricks here, but I admit this is the hard part. To spin a 2-ply and have the colors match up, you have to aim for consistency of thickness in your yarn. Decide which color in the trio you are going to start with in the rolags and always start from that end.

Since I have 4 rolags, I spun 2 onto one bobbin and 2 onto a second bobbin. Then I plied those two bobbins onto a third bobbin. This is the resulting skein:
The yarn spun from a 3-color striped batt.

Yes, I've been practicing consistency for quite some time -- my county fair judge really likes consistency, and the best kudo I got was this year, when judging my handspun, handwoven scarf she said, "Wait, is this commercial yarn?" he he he nope, I've just finally met her stringent standards. I got a blue for it!

Remember when I said there was an easier way to spin this up and preserve the color changes? Here you go: divide up your batt the same way, but then spin singles or Navajo ply to preserve the color changes. Both of these methods will have as many color repeats in the resulting yarn as the number of pieces you broke your batt into -- so with my batt above, I'd have 4 repeats, rather than the 2 repeats of my 2-ply yarn.

Now I'm off to go and card up another batt to match this one, so I can knit myself a nice cushy striped hat :-)

If you have any questions about this post, feel free to post them in the comments.

Related posts:
Supercard or Duncan Motorized Drum Carder?
How do I card a smooth batt?
What's the difference between batts and roving?
To drumcard, to hand card, or to comb?
I washed the fleece, now what?

© 18 August 2009 by Ask The Bellwether. Posted on


Chriss said...

Great tutorial!and timely too as I have some lovely fibre just waiting to be carded into self-striping batts.

Crafty Nurse Mary said...

This is awesome! I can't wait to try this!

Minerva said...

Thanks, this is really helpful, Lovely colours in your example too.

elizabeth said...

Fantastic, thanks for the tutorial. Your yarn turned out spectacularly!

The Fuzzy Bunny said...

Fantastic, thanks for the tutorial. Your yarn turned out spectacularly!