Part 3: Handspinning Techniques

Section F: Blending Fibers

Discuss the effect of blending various fibers together. Cover homogeneous, partial and layered blends. Cover fibers of different lengths and properties. Include garnetting.

Blending fibers together combines their individual properties as well as color. The relative amounts of the component fibers and the degree of blending determine how much the blend retains each individual characteristic.

A homogeneous blend looks, feels and handles nearly like a single fiber type and more easily spins a consistant yarn because the component fibers are evenly distributed. Fibers with similar length and texture make a more complete blend. Homogeneous blends are often used to add a desired property of a component fiber (wool plus nylon for durability) or to create a uniform color from different fibers (new shades from colored fibers.)

Partial blends do not fully combine the component fibers. Partial blends can create both color and texture effects. If two blends identical except for color are blended, they can be combined to have uniform properties but still maintain color variation. Fibers with very different textures can be thoroughly blended yet still show the component fibers. Creating texture in the fiber ensures texture in the yarn and is more consistent than relying on a hand manipulation technique in the spinning. Combine the fibers early in processing for a more uniform blend or later for less. To retain large blocks of component fibers, prepare each as if for spinning alone and combine with only as much further processing necessary to create a usable form.

A layered blend is a type of partial blend. Two or more fibers or blends of fibers are layered rather than incorporated in a uniform blend. The yarn can either show random blends of the components or large blocks of each, depending on spinning technique. Make carded batts by applying the different fibers to the cards or introducing them to the drum carder one at a time to form layers. Make top on combs by lashing on different fibers in large layers and pulling off a striped top. This can also be done with a wool hackle. The components in a layered blend must each be well prepared, as any extra processing will further blend the fibers. Two prepared fibers spun together is a simple layered blend. Layered blends are often used for color effects.

Garnetting is the process of reclaiming recycled yarn or fabric into fiber to spin new yarn. Industrially, it is used to make new fabrics from old ones — the recycled material is shredded and processed into a uniform blend with enough new fiber to create a usable product. The fabrics produced are known as "shoddy." Handspinners do not generally have the necessary equipment for uniform blends of recycled fibers and instead use them for decorative effects. Short lengths of yarn are carded with other fibers for both color and texture effects. Very fine yarns can be cut and spun alone like fiber. Random color yarns of silk weaving waste are currently popular and this material is occasionally available to handspinners.

Fibers can be blended before spinning by combing, carding and laying out sections of fiber by hand or blended during spinning by holding different prepared fibers together. Carding is the most effective method of combining very different fibers and unless all are relatively short a drum carder is required. Combing is best used for fibers of similar length because the combing process divides long and short fibers. A carded mix of smooth and rough fibers may be nearly uniform in the blend but still tend to separate with short draw spinning techniques because the smooth fibers draft more easily.


Maximum 36 points

Examiner 1: 36
Examiner 2: 36