Fiberlog

Batt Man

Posted in planning, spinning, WIP by tchemgrrl on November 6, 2009

I’ve been a spinning fool the past few weeks. I’ve knit about 5 inches of a hat, which is nothing. But for spinning, I’ve:

-plied 1400 yards of 2-ply laceweight and spun a few more hundred yards of singles,
-spun and swatched a little sample for a sweater for J,
-spun and plied 100-odd yards of worsted weight 3-ply,
-plied up 70-80 yards 3-ply sportweight alpaca I had sitting around,
– started spinning on some 3-ply sock yarn–I’m about 2 ounces into 8 ounces for kneesocks,
– started some 3-ply DK weight for a sweater for me.

I’ll talk about all of these eventually, but right now the one I’m most excited about is the very last one, yarn for a sweater for me.

A few weekends ago I was planning to go to the New York Sheep and Wool festival but wasn’t able to due to some health-related messiness. I’d been thinking of buying batts at the festival to spin up, so I took the money I’d planned to spend and went wandering over to Etsy instead. I’d seen some recommendations for Corgi Hill Farm from folks on one of the Ravelry spinning forums, and ended up with four wool/silk batts (about 7.5 ounces total) in a colorway of browns and blues.

Corgi Hill batt

I am in love, man.

The sweater that has caught my eye is Tink’s Racing Stripes Pullover (Ravelry link, pattern link), a raglan-sleeved sweater with variegated striping along the sleeves and sides. I may borrow the idea without using this specific sweater, as it’s a little heavier than what I’m spinning, and it’s not clear from the pattern notes of other users whether the shaping would need a lot of mods or not. Also, I think I can handle a striped raglan.

I was starting to spin this batt up at a recent knitting group, and someone mentioned that they had batts in their stash but didn’t feel very sure about how to process them. Honestly, *I* don’t feel very sure of how to process them; this is only the third batt I’ve spun up. But I thought I’d document my methodology in case anyone was curious.

If you lay out this little jelly roll, you find that it’s a single large sheet of mostly-aligned fibers.

Batt

When you look at it like this, it’s also pretty clear that there are multiple layers of fibers, sandwiched together. If I’m reasonably gentle I can separate some of them from the others:

Batt layer

So the first question is, do I actually *want* to separate those different color layers? This would make a nice tweedy yarn with occasional flecks of brown, blue, and white. But the sweater I have in mind originally used Noro, to give you an idea of the color separation. I wanted to have at least several-yard lengths of different colors, while still having a reasonably manageable fiber format to work with. So I separated a piece of the topmost layer of batt and removed a strip of that layer.

Batt strip

You can pretty clearly see where I removed the top layer; it’s the area with the blue peeking through. In looking at the strip I did remove, you can also see that I didn’t do a perfect job of getting a single color; there’s a bunch of lighter and darker bits in there. That, I don’t mind at all. While I’m encouraging the batt to work in a particular way, the batt is at its heart a fairly random fiber prep, and I’m trying to let it do that to as much of an extent as my desire for control can allow. I do want it to show a bit of its history as a mixed-up fiber, that’s a big part of what will give this yarn a character that is distinct from a dyed top. Really, it’s the whole point of buying a batt, along with being so open and airy that it spins beautifully.

Time to strip out the next layer.

Batt Strips

Again, this isn’t too perfect, again I don’t care, again you can see a new layer of fluff under the previous one. Note that instead of removing the next layer from that strip, I could just remove one whole layer at a time. Personally I find that a bit hard to work with, unless I’m going to strip this whole batt down and spin it all in one go. Usually I remove a bunch of layers from one strip, spin that up, then move to the next piece. The whole chunk of batt is much more stable and transportable than these little wispy things, so I only do this processing with an amount I know I can use at a sitting.

I keep removing layers from that same strip until I get all the way to the bottom, and twirl them around a bit so I can carry them down the hall without them falling to bits:

Battnests

Different amounts of fiber, and different mixtures of color. I don’t care too much about exact lengths of color here–I couldn’t begin to match this with other plies, I’m going to chain-ply to preserve what color order I can.

Spinning it up, you can see that there’s definitely color variation, and on a reasonably long scale. This means that the individual stripes should be a few rows a piece if I have my act together.

yarn

I started working on this project last week, and finished spinning up one batt. I started to chain-ply on the wheel but that was a thorough failure–looked like garbage, totally uneven, really frustrating, incredibly slow. A few yards in I threw the whole thing into a corner and sulked. The remainder of the skein went much more smoothly on a spindle, but I thought I’d use the ugly bit on the wheel just to see how the colors and general thickness worked as a knitted fabric–didn’t even wash the yarn, just knit it off of the bobbin. It’s a pretty wide swatch, about half the width of the sleeve at the top of the arm, and so for success the stripes would need to be at least 4-5 rows long, hopefully with some intermediate coloring in between.

swatch

Success! The yarn goes from brown to blue to light gray to dark gray at a decent rate. The errant flecks of other colors make it interesting, but don’t dominate. It’s a bit hard to tell with the crummy plying job but I think the remainder of the yarn will be a fair DK weight, this is 5.5-6 stitches per in on US 6’s, slightly mushy, may move down to 5’s. Batt #2 is half done now, so I expect that another week or two should finish this guy, as long as I can keep the wool-loving cat away from the lovely sheet of wool that she eyes every time I lay it out to tear into strips.

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One Response

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  1. Melanie said, on November 12, 2009 at 10:45 am

    awesome! i am a new spinner, real new and never knew what to do until now… i think it’s time to turn off the computer and try!


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