Last week I received an invitation to join Open Spin at Abundant Yarn & Dyeworks (8524 SE 17th Ave., 258-9276, any Wednesday night (from 5 pm till close), to get help with the spinning portion of this project, which is to actually make yarn. Before spinning my wool, I needed to separate and straighten the fibers. I was informed that this is done with a carder.

A hand carder is the dog brush looking thing (a pair of wooden paddles with wire teeth) I used trying to earn my wings as a Bluebird (see previous column). I figured I would need to buy one of these, but when I showed up to Open Spin, my new best friend Stevanie Waldorf, the store manager, hooked me up with the shop's mechanized drum carder.

A drum carder is basically a hand carder on steroids. It goes fast and requires less manual effort, as the machine does the work for you. Abundant Yarn's carder was made locally by Dick Duncan, proprietor of Duncan Fiber Enterprises (21740 SE Edward Dr., 658-4066). Besides looking cool, it whooped my fiber's ass in no time. Seriously, the thing has teeth.

I broke my coils of wool into six sections. The fiber was strong and didn't want to give it up. Merino wool has a long "staple" (the fiber, considered with reference to length and fineness). According to Stevanie, another fiber may have been easier to tear apart, but fiber with a long staple is sometimes easier to spin (and I think I'll definitely need more help when it comes to spinning). We fed the fiber to the machine in a left to right motion, while pushing it under the first drum. A little broom curtain brought the fiber up and over, spreading it evenly across a second drum, mushing it down between the teeth.

After feeding two sections of fiber through the machine, Stevanie turned off the carder and broke the fibers apart with a wooden dowel. I rolled the batt (sheet of matted fiber) off the drum, lay it on the floor, and pulled off stray fibers from previous cardings. I fed the remaining sections to the machine, stripped them of stray fibers, and rolled them up. Thanks to Stevanie and the ingenuity of Dick Duncan, after about 20 minutes I had four batts of lofty yellow fiber ready to spin.

Next Week: Spinning

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