Thursday 7 July 2011

Questions, questions, questions!

 I'll start with my successes!  I have finished spinning that gold coloured wool for the guild competition, even if I have changed my mind over the pattern I am going to use, as I don't think there will be enough yarn there.  Which leads me to my first question regarding this.  How do you work out if you have enough wool to cover a project?  How do you determine whether it is DK or Aran weight?  How do you determine yardage?  And finally, how the heck do you get it into those nice neat balls I see around?  I asked at the Guild about equipment, and whether ball-winders were a good buy, and the answer I got was basically they use a broom handle!  Fine, but how do you use a broom handle? 

Next project... Alpaca wool.  I have started to card the alpace fleece I have, and it is very rewarding, to create these bundles of barely discernable softness, but my goodness, it is time consuming!  I have some hand carders, and I am thinking it may take me all year just to card it all, let alone spin it and make something!
 Just look at all this I have to get through...
 ...and this!
So is there a technique to speed up this process, or do I just need to invest in a drum carder?  Answers on a postcard please! ;)


  1. Hi Claire - I often don't really have a project in mind when I spin, so am not much help on that one. For thickness though I have a little tool that tells me how many wraps there are per inch (WPI) - basically how many times it is wound around the piece of wood for an inch (you could just use ruler though) - then you can work out the thickness using a chart like this one -
    Yardage - I count how many lengths go around the niddy noddy and can work it out from there as I know the length of the niddy noddy.
    Lovely neat balls - personally I like the ball winder - quick and easy and neat, although expensive new so look out for one 2nd hand maybe. No idea on the broom method! Quicker with a ball winder in my opinion.

    How much alpaca do you have? (have you weighed it) It looks like a lot and looks good carded. I found it took longer to card alpaca than it does wool, perhaps because it is so fine and soft. A drum carder would make life easier but they are a big investment unless you get lucky. Just do a little and often to help you get through it all.

    Hope some of this helps. Lovely to see all that spun wool and your progress with the alpaca.
    Dawn xxx

  2. Lol! A neighbour came in the other day to give me a spinning tutorial. She says she never bothers with carding - she just teases it out with her fingers in the direction it wants to go. Yet at the woodcraft group the ladies there spend ages at the drum carder. Not experienced enough to know..
    Can you weigh your wool and see how many ounces/grams there is and work it out that way? Are you having fun though? xx

  3. Definitely having fun Jacqui! Going to keep some of the alpaca as fleece, to do those mittens that were in that magazine you sent, they just look so warm!

    Thanks Dawn, i'd never even thought to count the times around the niddy noddy (aka coat hanger!). I had seen some of those wooden inch things and wondered what they were for, so two questions answered in one!! I have no idea how much fleece there is apart from it being a whole alpaca's worth! And I've been offered next years fleece already!!

  4. ... whoosh down the slippery slope with next years fleece ;-)

    I've never tried spinning alpaca without carding it, doubt it's as easy as wool - at least with wool you have a lock to work from, less so with alpaca. Worth giving it a try though to save you some time.

  5. Oh wow, I'm so jealous, your growing spun and fleece stash looks great. I have a lot of catching up to do. Right stop ogling yours and get on with learning to co-ordinate both my hands to draft and supply! No wonder I failed my driving test, no co-ordination whatsoever!!
    Although I can understand the principles and the merits of niddy noddys, yarn gauges, carders, and so on - just need to get to grips with the actual spinning!!

  6. HI Claire
    Your golden handspun looks wonderful. I look forward to seeing what you make with it.
    Gorgeous alpaca! Lucky you and such a rich colour too! I have quite a bit of alpaca and never card it. Like that lady you mention I just use my fingers when I need to. Same with sheep's wool. I do very little carding and mostly use my fingers to sort it as I spin. There are so many different ways to do things and it's interesting to read what techniques other spinners find works for them. The master spinner I speak to on occasion often reminds me there is no right or wrong way to process and spin. Most of the spinners I have met in my area tend to spin in the grease. I have asked some of them if they use hand carders or drum carders and most say rarely do they card. Some use flick carders when they need to. I'm always on the lookout for a drum carder though I wonder how much I would really use it considering their price. If you find out more about the broom handle ball winding please do let us know how its done. I would love to know. For now, I just wind my yarn into balls but I too love the look of those neat balls.

  7. Hi Claire, the pictures of your fleece made me giggle! Looks like a lot of wool.
    From personal experience I'd say keep doing it little by little, by yourself. To save myself some time I sent of a kilo of the most beautiful alpaca last year to a carding place that assured me they'd do a good job, and two weeks later it came back a ruined mess - full of broken bits and noils etc from where the machine had torn it all up as the teeth weren't fine enough for the alpaca. Very sad, and expensive.
    Keep going! You'll do a great job!


Pull up a chair, have a cuppa and some cake, and if you feel like it, leave a comment.