I make a lot of ordinary stuff. I make a lot of crap, too, which doesn’t see the light of day. But every once in a while I surprise myself, and make something extraordinary.
My silk and yak blend was tops on my list, until it was recently stolen. Now I have a new contender. She may not be as elegant as silk and yak, but man does she have attitude.
The “plan” was to use the garneting technique I learned in Judith Mackenzie’s class at Madrona to create an interesting yarn using repurposed fibers. I ransacked my fiber stash, including small leftovers and samples of fibers, bits of leftover yarn and thread, fabric scraps, and strong, fresh fiber.
After some experimentation and testing*, I came up with a blend I thought would work. The proportions are off, but this is what I started out with: yak/silk in hand-dyed green and bronze, bronze tencel, orange merino/tencel, white merino/tencel, white corriedale, vibrant blue merino/silk, bronze, brick, and dusky green hand-dyed silk fabric scraps, and bits and pieces of yarn and threads in various colors. And maybe something else. I forgot.
Garneting is a repurposing technique, and in essence means deconstructing old fibers and combining them with fresh, strong fibers to create something new and different.
Old yarns are deconstructed by cutting them into short pieces and carding them. I learned after the fact that this works best if you strip the plies down to singles first:
You can see in the pictures above how the plies really hold together. It was a lot of work to separate them on the hand cards, and the fibers ended up shorter than they otherwise would have been, had I stripped the yarns down to singles first.
I did the same with remnant silk fabrics:
I then assembled all my fibers together by my drum carder, Matilda…
…and started loading them on.
Below left is a bottom layer of bronze tencel topped with unraveled silk threads. On the right, silk threads and tiny bits of pieces of fibers are sandwiched between layers of longer fibers so they don’t get stuck on the small drum, but instead are held secure within the layers until they can be distributed on the large drum.
Here’s what the large drum looks like when the fibers begin to be distributed on it:
At this point I was thinking, “Holey cats, this is beginning to look good.” Then I peeled the first batt off the drum and basically drooled all over myself trying to get to my spinning wheel.
If you’re wondering: yes. This took forever.** I’d estimate at least seven hours for stash ransack and review, experimentation, and prepping and spinning the samples. Carding, garneting, and unraveling the repurposables, weighing out all my fibers, and separating them into three equal piles for carding took at least another seven hours. Creating the final three batts, at 2+ ounces each of highly layered multiple fibers, took another three hours.
Coming soon: batts into yarn!
* I carefully weighed a small amount of each fiber and created a very, very small proportional batt, spun it up, and made some decisions like “more of this and less of that”. Then I went hog wild and made three pretty gigantic batts, kind of by enthusiastic accident.
** Yes, I am kind of slow. Methodical. Anal. Thorough. Yep.