Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Art of the Batt

What is this batt thing all about? It's just a poofy sheet of fiber! How do I spin it, WHY do I want to spin from it when top is so nicely layed out for me all ready?
But then again, those poofy layers are super pretty, and gosh all those wonderful fibers in one place?

Sound familar? Don't you worry, you're not alone. One of the questions I'm asked the most, easily, is about batts. I'm not an expert in this field, but I thought I'd help demystify the whole concept for you.

This is a batt that I *just* finished carding. It's about a kabillion different colours and fiber types. Corriedale, merino, BFL, mohair, romney, cormo, shetland, rambouillet...

 It's just a layer, pillow like, of fiber carded together on a drum carder. Mine is a fine carder because I tend to enjoy finer yarns. But you can get them with teeth meant to make chunkier lumps of fiber for funkier art yarns.

Now what to do with it? Well, you can tear lengthwise strips off of it and spin just like that! Most of the time when I'm spinning from a batt that is what I do. You can also tear it in a manner that makes one long strip of roving that you probably recognise. Here is a great video (that I did not make)

That's all there is to it! Spin away.

Now WHY do you want to spin from a batt? 
Many reasons. It's an amazing colour and fiber blending experience that you can't get from dyeing commercial top. Sure you can get top blends of fiber, then dye them- but you're restricted to that blend. With a drum carder you can put absolutely anything together! Go back to the batt above, it's truly one of a kind. I could never make that again. I could put all those fibers and colours together, but never with that exact outcome. That's the fun of a batt. You can also get batts that are more organised and less chaotic, and will create a really pretty heathered yarn that you couldn't get just spinning from dyed top.
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This is The Walking Dead a more organised blend that will make a much smoother yarn. (Not to mention it's merino, shetland, faux cashmere and black alpaca deliciousness.)

Here is another example. Meet Cloud 9
 There is absolutely zero colour added to this batt, but it is the ULTIMATE in soft. Faux cashmere, kid merino, mohair, romney, sparkly firestar for depth and extra bling, and soft lovely BFL. This is softness that only a carder could create. Can't you just imagine this as a bridal shawl, or a super luxurious capelet over a pretty dress? Gosh even a hat and gloves to swoon over.

Another reason is a batt makes wonderful woolen (typically long draw) yarn. Commercial top (braids)  is prepared so that all of the fibers are parallel to each other which creates a great smooth worsted yarn. Drum carding (batts)/hand carding (which creates rolags) doesn't align the fibers all nice and pleasant. Instead you get more of an airy lofty yarn that is more fuzzy and textured than you do with a worsted.Both have their uses, both have their advantages and disadvantages. The nice thing about spinning is there are tons of ways to go about things, and as long as you're happy with the outcome, no wrong way. Spin a batt worsted and top woolen. Go for it! Explore and have fun.

So... there you go. Don't be intimidated by batts! Embrace the batt and further your spinning by experimenting with all the different and fun ways to prepare fiber. There are a lot of chunky art batt sellers out there right now (Jazzturtle is my personal favorite.) and spinning from those funky art batts is an experience in itself!

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