grab bags

It’s done. I finally went through the part of my hideously massive stash that consists of weird bits and pieces, odds and ends — the left overs. It made sense to work on it this week since I’d already pulled a lot of the stuff out into the living room for batt-making.

#carding #handdyed  #wool

Really, that photo doesn’t even give you an idea of it. All of that stuff is keepers!

And sure, I could slowly churn through these left-overs, incorporating them into batts. But in the meantime they take up a lot of space and guess what? There is a LOT of this stuff. Probably more than I could use and more importantly, I’m sick of looking at it. That’s where you get the pleasure of helping me out of this predicament.

I put together 14 grab bags. Each one contains assorted fibers, usually two to three different things and ranges in weight from 3.5 to 4 ounces. They are $5 each and are currently listed in the shop. Any that do not sell will travel with me to the Autumn Fiber Festival in October where I will have additional destash items (undyed fiber and tools). Do me a huge favor and get this stuff out of my house!

PS. The Grey to Green Festival, scheduled for September 21 in Youngstown, OH has apparently been canceled.


I would like to introduce you to the latest addition to the Gwen Erin Natural Fibers family:
Bristles, my new Strauch Mad Batt’r drumcarder.

mad batt'r

She is the child, or grand-child, or even great-grand-child of Whiskers, my Fricke drumcarder from the 80s. Not sure how generations work in the drumcarder family tree. But I do know that Strauch carders are descended from Frickes, or so I’ve read.

Anyway, after a great deal of consideration, reading, pondering, discussing, more pondering, and a bit of “let’s just do it!”, I finally made the leap. I’ve had Whiskers for many years, and he has done a good job getting me started. However,  I feel that to remain relevant and competitive, I needed a newer machine. Everything I heard about the Strauch machines was positive and I like the other tools I have from them. Since I knew there would be a vendor at Great Lakes who sold them, I went to talk to her. I probably had already made up my mind at that point, but I was glad to talk to a real person. Then I went back to the booth and talked to Rich.  And then we bought it.

I waited until I got home Sunday night to get it out of the box. Immediately I could see a difference in the quality of the batts it produced. Much smoother, more blended, and of course thicker. I’m looking forward to further experiments!

done with batts

When I did my first batch of batts, I couldn’t help comparing them to all those amazing “art batts” that have become so popular in recent years. Mine weren’t as big. Mine weren’t so funky. Mine weren’t the same. And I thought that was a problem. But now, after taking them to a few shows, I realized something. It’s not a bad thing that these aren’t the same as those other ones. They’re just a little bit different and that’s okay. Maybe it’s even a good thing? Sometimes people aren’t looking for a totally wacky looking batt that leads them to the question, “What on earth will I do with this?”. And I guess that’s why I don’t call mine “art batts”. They are more subdued, but still bring a little bit of fantasy to your spinning experience.

I’m glad I gave old Whiskers another chance. I’ve had this drumcarder for several years, but never spent much time using it. Now I’d say I’m getting pretty comfortable with the process. This latest batch increased in size significantly (the individual batts, not the quantity). I was getting 1/2-3/4 ounces each, now I’m up to 1 ounce or more. Even though I spent three days making them, I ended up with about 30. It was tiring, but enjoyable. I made a few of each color, which will be good if someone is looking to make a larger skein. I’m considering increasing the price though. Originally I had them set at $3 each or 4 for $10. Now I think I might do $4 each and 3 for $10.

I tried taking some video throughout the day, but it was pretty useless. So UPDATED pictures to help you understand the mess that lived in our front room for three days.

batts in november

batts in november

election day, making batts, getting organized

For some reason I feel obligated to mention the obvious: today is Election Day. I am so glad that the ads will finally shut up! And whatever happens, we just have to move forward. I live in Ohio, which is a big deal apparently. We live in a smallish town, so I am not expecting outrageous lines, but I may bring a knitting project just in case. In the end it feels somewhat futile, as Husband and I will cancel each other out with our votes.

Once I get that taken care of this morning, I fully intend to spend the day MAKING BATTS. Back in June I spent two days just cranking through my stash of odds and ends. When I brought the batts to Woolfest I didn’t think anyone would be too interested, but over the past few months, they’ve sold! Also, I pulled out a few to do another sample skein (since someone bought the first one right away). Now I just have a handful left, so I want to work on a new batch for IKS.

june batts

This event has also given me clarity on my lack of organization. As I was making my list of things to do for Indie Knit & Spin, each item just ended up in a non-chronological jumble. And every morning I look at my list (or don’t) and still waste a great deal of time trying to decide what to do. I need more structure if I am to get more done. I’ve been working from home since February and it’s been fun, but with the year coming to an end, it’s a good time to reevaluate and restructure.

While at Target yesterday I picked up a few things to help me get things in order. I got a few of those wall mount file boxes for “things to deal with” and “things to file” or something. I have file boxes, but I apparently I need an interim spot for those items since I do not file them right away. The most exciting thing was this dry-erase calendar. Now I can get more exact with planning each task and keeping on track for an upcoming event. I’ll have to move a few things around to make a place to hang this up, but it’s going to be awesome! Because I say so.

something a little different

Generally speaking, I don’t spin novelty yarns. And when I try, they aren’t very novel. So when I do something that is a little different from my normal 2-ply bulky, I get a little excited. I’m sure the resulting yarn isn’t exciting to anyone else, but at least it was an interesting process.

It started when I realized I had far too much pink top floating around and I was getting tired of it. Then I remembered I had this curious little drumcarder that I hadn’t really used for anything yet, so I decided to combine these thoughts into one project.

drumcarderI pulled out some handdyed Falkland top that was, as I mentioned, PINK. Also, I grabbed a handful of white Lincoln roving. The batts did not come out artsy. My intention was to blend the colors in the top rather than having splotches of one thing or another. And the Lincoln added a bit of hairiness (don’t you want that in your yarn?).

pretty in pinkI spun the singles mostly bulky, but with a few thin spots and plied it with sparkling thread. The entire jumbo bobbin had been filled with yarn initially, so plying it was a slow process. Also, I realized too late that I may not have put in quite enough twist for plying. It ended up to be a very large skein and it gave me a break from the normal routine, so as far as I am concerned, it was a success. Now I hope someone buys this because I am still sick of pink.

pretty in pink

Back to those batts…

I spent two days last week working with my drumcarder, experimenting with color, texture, fiber. It was much more interesting than any other time I’d spent with Whiskers. The sandwich technique helped me to incorporate several different colors/fibers without overblending. I used to put one color through, than another, and card it again and again. It blended them quite effectively, but perhaps too much. Plus I wasn’t using high contrast colors. So they were nice, but not striking.


I realized that, having an older machine with short teeth, I will never have those huge, lofty batts I’ve seen other places. It is what it is. Rich suggested layering a couple batts to get a heftier weight, since individually they are rather small. Also, I’ve been working on a few different tagging options. Along with the ribbon, I have a small, brief tag or a longer tag with more info. At this point I am not sure how I want to display these or label them. Suggestions?

Longer, more informative tag.
Smaller tag with logo only.


batts  batts

friday’s question

Several years ago, when I was in college, I was given an older Fricke drumcarder. It was being discarded by the university art department since they no longer had a fiber program. Someone rescued it for me and ever since it has haunted me. They usually cost$500-700 new, so to get one for free is amazing. However, I was intimated by it for a long time. I used it a bit at first, just making batts of a single color. Then I tried a bit of blending, but nothing too exciting. Seeing how popular art batts are right now, I wanted to try to make them, but I had no idea how to get there. Until I came across a video on YouTube posted by Ashley Martineau of Neauveau Fiber Arts. It talked about making a “sandwich” with the fibers and then sending it through the carder. Of course, mine aren’t nearly as thrilling as the ones she makes, but generally I’m excited to be making these and more importantly, using my drumcarder!

a day of carding

Question: Is there anything you have been intimated to try? How did you overcome your “fear” of it? Have you worked on anything new this week? What encourages you to try new things?

remember me?

I’m hoping this once-a-month post thing isn’t going to become habit, but I guess this spring has been a busy one!  Let’s start with two weekends ago when we went to War Practice at Cooper’s Lake.  While Rich and I were meandering through the merchants, we came across a good find.  First I saw the drumcarder.


Started scoping it out, asking the guy questions, turning the crank, thinking… It’s got a nice little handle for carrying to spinning group and it’s a bit lighter than Whiskers. Then I turned my focus to the charka.


I don’t know much about these or spinning cotton for that matter.  But I figured it was there and I’d never had an opportunity like this before, so why not?  That’s when we started thinking about a price for both.  We made an offer and the merchant accepted.  We walked back to camp and set to putting the charka together.  Rich basically got it working without instructions.  But that’s because he’s an engineer.  I haven’t had a chance to really turn my attention to either of these yet, but that’s what summertime is for!

The following weekend we found ourselves in Wooster, Ohio for the Great Lakes Fiber Show.  I had originally been signed up for an outside space, but at the last minute an inside space opened up so I took it!  I decided to try a different set up than usual with the tables on either side and we sat at the back.  It was a really nice weekend, though a bit too warm on Sunday.  I was able to pick up some new fiber including BFL roving from an Ohio farm, a pound of Rambouillet/Mohair blend and a Shetland fleece.

Great Lakes Fiber Show

Great Lakes Fiber Show

And I also entered a few items in the Skein Competition.  The light grey is Romney from my new fleece, spun from the lock.  It won 2nd place in the fine plied category.  The dark brown-black is an Alpaca/Romney blend I bought at Knitter’s Fantasy.  That was spun on a drop spindle.  I brought it on a whim and it won best in show for Group A (bulky plied category).  I was pleasantly surprised.

ribbons of 2011