Friday, May 15, 2015

Tone and Texture - Blending board inspiration

We have been building blending boards from scratch for a couple of years now and my first prototype was fun and exciting. It was a blend of English Walnut on the edges and handle while Cherry was the primary centerpiece. It's a nice look and I like the design which is different and varies from the typical blending board made up of one homogeneous wood with a hole for a handle. We designed a handle that is an extension of the wood and uses a complimentary tone to draw attention to it. Can you tell I love wood... almost as much as I enjoy fiber and spinning.

The other day I was in the shop and I started to realize I had acquired a wonderful collection of wood types. Each having a purpose. Some for accenting hackles and others for combs and accessories. Then I started to work on a recent Blending Board order and I looked around for the old standby's and I got inspired to try combining some new types of wood together to create a more subtly beautiful tone and texture. I have Cherry, English Walnut, Mahogany and Western Maple. 

So, what did I come up with? I created two boards.

 The first one is patterned from left side to center with English Walnut = EW-Western Maple-EW-PurpleHeartwood-Cherry. 

The second board from left side to center with EW-Cherry-Mahogany-EW-Mahogany

They are both unique and beautiful. The First with the Eastern Maple has lots of rich wood pattern, while the second with Mahogany it darker with deep tonal values. 

Which one do you prefer?

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day Blend

This is a quick tutorial on how to blend a colorful roving from a variety of fiber types. Today I brought out the Xtra-fine combs along with the mini holder. I brought out the following fibers to blend together.

  • Fine merino top
  • Mohair locks
  • Silk
  • Angelina

I started with the merino top and loaded it on the comb. When loading commercially prepared top it's usually best to drag it across the top tines and down and out towards yourself. as it pulls free naturally at the edge of it's staple length. It becomes important as you bring all the fibers together. For best results the staple lengths of all the blended fibers should be of similar length.

Next I loaded some gorgeous mohair locks. When loading locks take notice of the cut side and load them along the tines and leave the tips facing out to be combed. This makes it a lot easier to work with this type of fiber. I really like adding mohair as well as teeswater and other fibers with a beautiful lock structure. I does make it more chunky but it's amazing how the texture adds depth and character to the blend.

Next I add the silk. This is one of my favorite fiber types to add to a blend. It brings softness and beauty with a sheen that compliments the other fibers.

Now comes the bling. This is the fun part. I add Angelina strands. I don't add a lot because it can be a bit stringy and can interfere with a smooth blend, but just a little bit can really add a delightful look and feel to the roving.

Lastly, I like to add a bit more of the merino top. it will cover the Angelina and balance the blend together. When it's complete, from the back draw the fibers up a bit to fluff them out and make it easier to blend with a comb or diz off.

Now it's time to make a couple of choices. If you want a smooth blend of fibers that is a bit more uniform with fewer chunks I recommend using a second comb to straighten and transfer the fiber to it. This process can be done 1 or 2 times in order to get and partially blended roving or a more fully homogeneous roving which will also have less color definition as a result. And you could also stop here and simply diz it off and you would have a wonderfully chunky art roving for a nice core-spun yarn. I choose to do one transfer to the comb then exchange combs on the holder and diz it off.

Now that I am happy with blend I can use my cherry diz to pull the roving. This technique takes some practice to diz off a roving efficiently. the first few times it may end up thinning out in places but after a few tries it's becomes easier to guage how much pressure to use to get the best result.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Processing Icelandic fiber

I've been curious about Icelandic sheep and the dual coated fleece they sport. I have heard many comments concerning how it is processed as well as some confusion concerning how to prep it using combs as opposed to doing it by hand. I recently received some lovely Icelandic fiber from Judy L. Brown and thought I would use combs to prep the fiber and discover how to process Icelandic fleece from start to finish.

The Icelandic fleece is dual coated, meaning that it has a long outer coat called tog and a fine inner coat called thel. The tog, while coarser and longer certainly can be used for a variety of purposes. It can be processed into a thread, rug yarn or even used as fly-tying material.

The thel is much finer and quite lofty and open. It is similar to fine Merino fiber. the staple length is much shorter than the tog. It's around 2-3 inches, while the Tog is 4-6 inches. I spent a little time in the beginning separating it into locks and aligning them with the cut end up so I could easily load it on the comb with the cut end in and the tog out.

You can see how the thel end holds the loft and density while the tog is long and spindly at the end.  Tog grows from the primary hair follicles and the thel from the secondary follicles.
I loaded the comb carefully without overloading it.

The tog. It's long and stringy. I tried pulling it and it easily separates from the body of the thel.

I started using the other comb to pull the tog from the thel. It's somewhat delicate so I started at the tips and pulled it away until there were no more visible strands of tog. The tog is a true wool although it bears some similarity to guard hair in a llama or alpaca.

This is the Tog after I processed it off of the comb. I could also load this on the comb and process it and diz it off as well after I finish with the thel.

The thel. It's very lofty and soft. It is an extremely versatile fiber. It's good for blending with other fibers as well as spinning alone and since it felts easily it as great for felting projects.
After removing the tog I began using the other comb to align and straighten the thel. I did about 3 runs passing it from one comb to the other until it looked clean, aligned and ready to diz off.

Next, I used a diz and dizzed the fiber off the comb.

I ended up with a beautiful top ready for spinning or felting or blending with other fibers. Admittedly it is a more time consuming process than single coated breeds, however the results is some very clean, lofty fiber that retains warms and resists weather.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

A time to blend.

It's not very often that I find myself with extra time, but since my day job is moving to a new building all the servers are offline... including my remote computer. So, it's a nice day and I am inspired to go out on the deck and do some blending.
I decided to use some shetland roving as the base. I've got some angora goat that i've had stashed away for a while. It's quite vibrant and juicy, a beauty brandy wine color. It should create a definitive color streak. I am considering using this for an art yarn, perhaps a core-spun yarn.

It's always such a creative process deciding what fibers to add to the mix.

I add lime green silk to add a glistening, soft flavor.

And some icicle to create a shimmering burst and compliment the silk.
Between the silk and icicle I add a thin layer of shetland and Carbonated bamboo. Thin layers in between add a nice layered look.

Now it's time to diz off the fibers.

A nice little raspberry swirl. This is probably less than an ounce so I will do about 3 more like this and call it good. The birds are eating at the feeder nearby and I can listen to the creek as I unwind and blend. Turned out to be a beautiful day.

In this exercise I used a fine 2-pitch hackle with 5 inch tines and diz which is available at our shop. Visit us at:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cleaning and blending fiber on a blending hackle with 2-pitch wool comb

I recently did a video using one of my blending hackles and 2-pitch comb sets. It's a little fast or maybe I had a little too much coffee that morning, but it covers how to clean fiber with the comb and them blend fibers on the same hackle prior to dizzing it off into a beautiful, textural roving. 

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ice dying. Fun in the sun!

My mind is constantly flowing with ideas and thoughts on what I want to try in my Fiber studio. This week I was called to try a new dye technique aptly named "ice dying". I ran across a few blogs about this technique a while back and it stuck. So, last Saturday my five year old son and I went about transforming four white, silk scarves into something beautiful. 

What  you will need:
1. 1 bag of ice (cubes preferable) I also noted you can do this with snow too!
2. Various dyes. I used Jacquard and greener shades for our experiment.
3. silk scarves (you can use anything that will take dye. (It might be neat to use with technique with braids of top?)
4. Catch tubs or buckets to catch the dripping dye.
5. Trays with openings with enough to allow the dye to flow through.

Lay out your catch tub in an undisturbed area. No crazy dogs or wild alpacas allowed! It's been reported to take 24 hours but I was able to get great results in 1 hour. I used our old child gate to cover the tub anything that that prevents the scarves and ice from falling through will work fine. Next, I pre-soaked the scarves for 20 minutes in water a dash of salt and vinegar. Drain the liquid and lay the scarves out in a random pile. Carefully cover them with ice. I did one at a time because the heat of the noon-day sun quickly melted the ice, so you have to act fast! After laying out the ice the fun begins. 

Get your dyes and get creative. My son grouped a few colorways together for me to use. So I followed his lead an began adding dye from an eyedropper. I also tried sprinkling the dry dye as well. I tried to add different levels of dye density, but ultimately the melting ice dictates the flow of the dye, and that's probably why the results are so dramatic. 

After we did 4 scarves we were done and about 20 minutes later the wind came up and took one of the scarves. I grabbed it and it was totally, dry so I rinsed it in the sink and added a little soap to get out the vinegar scent then hung it out to dry. 

Later, I made a couple of nuno scarves. They really have a wonderful flavor from the ice dying. I had a lot of fun and so did my 5 year old!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Step into my woodshop!

I've never been much of a woodworker or craftsman, but until I was reluctantly drawn to create wood products to fulfill a specific need. I didn't have a clue how rewarding it could be. But... Lets back up a bit in my story. First off, I am a dye-hard fiber addict. Hello my name is Doug and I'm a fiber addict! Last year I was bitten by the spinning bug and I have had to take extraordinary measures to keep my need to spin assuaged. I learned how to design and build hackles and combs in order to process my own fiber from my own alpacas and out of that I have discovered a deep down, hidden desire to craft things... with wood.  So, while I spin I am thinking about things I can do in my wood shop, which was donated to me graciously by my father-in-Law. Thank you! Thank you!

Recently, I was trying to design a tool to measure the WPI (Wraps per inch) so my lovely wife can figure out what needle gauge to use in order to knit the yarn I spin into something useful like yoga socks, fingerless gloves or a shawl perhaps. So, I created a standard one inch wooden square... Booooooring! My mind, while spinning, came up with a more intriguing idea. Could I created a fun fiber animal to use as a WPI tool without taxing my abilities? Well, I sketched it out and then went out to the scroll saw and gave it a whorl. And, it turned out quite nice. I think maybe my art background might have help a bit too. 

 It was really popular so I tried a couple other shapes as well. A sheep and later a goat. I'm also thinking about a Yak next. I still love spinning, but I have to say, it's a lot of fun to start with a blank piece of wood and shape it into something wonderful. You can find my animals on my etsy shop. ~