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Scrap Batts: Heathered Yarns

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My collection of spinning fibres consists mostly of mill ends and oddments so I usually end up combining lots of different colours when I want to make large batches of yarn.

This tutorial is about making heathered yarns and is just one of the many different styles of yarn that you can create with fibre scraps and a drum carder.

For more tutorials on using up oddments of fibre to make large batches of yarn, see my list of spinning, carding and dyeing tutorials.

1: The first thing you need to do is choose your fibre.

I like to keep most of my fibre in the same colour family so that the finished yarn doesn’t become greyed or muddy. For this yarn I have chosen to use mostly greens with a tiny amount of blue and white. I have also chosen a small amount of pink, burgundy and red which are on the opposite side of the colour wheel from many of the shades of green.

The fibres I have chosen are mostly scraps of 22 and 26 micron merino with small amounts of silk (red), bleached soysilk (white) and kid mohair (blue).

You can literally use any fibres of your choice for this style of yarn.

2: If your fibres are not already carded or combed you will need to do that first. I carded each of my fibres three times to make sure they were properly prepared and free of neps and felted fibre.

If you want a bumpy textured yarn you won’t need to remove the neps. Use this stage of the preparation to make these sorts of design decisions.

As you can see in the photograph, my silk and soysilk were already processed so I didn’t need to card those.

3: Count roughly how many full batts you have and break each batt into that number of pieces. I had roughly 10 full batts of fibre so I broke each batt into 10 equal pieces. Do the same for any preprepared fibres that you are using.

Make separate piles of fibre for each new heathered batt. Each pile will contain one piece of each colour from the batts you have just torn apart, plus one piece of any preprepared fibre you are using.

My carder is an Ashford fine cloth carder and is quite small compared to many carders on the market that are designed for small cottage industry. My carder comfortably holds 20-28gms (3/4-1oz) of fine fibre so I made each batt from roughly that amount.

4: After all that hard work, now comes the fun part 🙂

Take your first colour and open it up so that it is the same width as your carder and card it. Don’t take it off the carder yet though!

Do the same with all of your fibres, carding one colour after another.

If you are using silk and other very fine fibres, make sure not to card them last. You will want to finish with a heavier, grippy fibre like wool to help hold everything together.

When you look at the batt on the carder it will look a bit muddy and not very heathery.

5: When you take the batt off the carder you will see a hint of the heathered effect down the side of the batt.

This is why you carded all of your colours separately before beginning. If you were to put this multicoloured batt through your carder again at this stage you would lose a lot of the bold heathered effect. Of course, you might want to do exactly that! Precarding all of your colours separately gives you the choice to make exactly the yarn you want.

6: Break the batt in four strips lengthwise (in the same direction as the fibres are lying).

When you break the batt into pieces you will see the full effect of the different layers of colours. Your fibre will look very much like commercially prepared heathered rovings.

Predraft the pieces and wind them into a ball for spinning.

7: Spin your yarn using whichever method you like.

The thicker you spin, the bolder the colours will be in your finished yarn.

I spun a 2 ply yarn of dk weight.

A closeup of my finished yarn. You can see the subtle changes of colour throughout.
A garter stitch swatch of the finished yarn.

As you can see, keeping most of the fibres in the green family has created an unmistakably green yarn, while the hints of white, blue and reds create visual interest and texture.

Copyright Sarah Bradberry August 22nd 2008. All rights reserved.

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