Drum carding to blend and mix

Drum carding to blend and mix

The spring destash was going to provide me with a lot of winter combings from spinning projects.  I comb long locks and keep the residuals for this purpose.  I also have left over bits of prepped wool that wouldn’t fit on the bobbin, plus samples and other miscellaneous interesting fibers. These are set aside and kept in the black hole loving referred to as ‘the safe place’ only to be discovered once a year during cleaning.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous and it was time to take full advantage of what spring can be to drum card outside after what was a disastrous weekend for so many people in this area.

I pick through the different colours and group them in ways that work together.  I liked the way the green, purple and blue shimmered in the sun, so started working with that blend first. 

Once through the drum leaves clear definition of colour and texture of some of the locks.

There is extreme inconsistency between the two batts and they need to be divided and put through the drum carder again to even out the blend.  I weighed them and was pleased to find they weighed 36.5 gm and 37 gm, so splitting them would work perfectly.  I split them and reweighed the bundles and found they now weighed 38 gm each.  Think I might need a new scale, but close enough for right now.


Twice through the drum and the blending is a bit more consistent, but not so much that the locks are getting taken apart.  I can still see one or two bits in the blend, so that’s good for these batts.  They are an overall single colour, but you can still see the individual bits that go to make the whole picture.

I tried to use two different terms here, mix and blend.  For me a mix is a thorough incorporation of the different fibers into one homogeneous mass. A blend is a more gentle suggestion that the fibers and colours work together, but remain individual.

The next batt was a mix of red, blue and purple.  This had bits of different breeds of wool; some merino, some suffolk, some unknown, as well as some silk in red and purple which will give a slight shimmer.  I really wanted to thoroughly mix the colours the way I would mix a dye to get a homogenous result.  Sounds easy enough, but it’s not.

This is the first pass through the drum to show how the colours stand out from each other.  The purple is gone, but the blue and red are clearly defined, some of the silk is blended, but some was very difficult to mix in.

After five passes through the drum carder I had to take a break and modify my standards; this is not the result I wanted, but it will have to do.  I enjoy seeing the colours that compose the overall result, but I wanted a thorough mix just to be able to say I did it.  The wisp of fiber in the center is for contrast to show the before and after of mixing.

There were also several bits of noils and knots some roving that was left.  It was piled into the drum and run through just to see if anything interesting would pop up.  This is really bottom of the sink sort of colours.  I was really pleased with the result!

Reminded me of the Prairies in the spring with crisp blue skies, dry grass, pink clouds.  I might need to take a class from Ann on how to do landscapes in felt.




12 thoughts on “Drum carding to blend and mix

  1. The drum carder is magical and fascinating – lovely blends!

    Agree that the last one is reminiscent of a prairie and in that photo, if you tilt your head sideways, it’s almost a landscape without doing anything more to it!

  2. I really like the blended batts. The way fibres sort of meander round each other, only mixing slightly appeals to me more than the complete mix you’ve achieved with the red/blue/purple colours. In fact the first pass of those fibres looks great to me. But then it depends what you’re going to do with the batts. I assume that you will be spinning rather than felting? In that case I would probably go for the mixed rather than blended colours. I always feel that a beautiful blend of fibres looses some of its appeal when it’s spun up, and also that a lovely yarn looses a lot too when it’s woven or knitted. Felting is the only way for me, but then I tend not to follow the flock!

    1. I totally agree with you, that everyone has a preference for the way a batt is made. It needs to suit their purpose and not mine. In some of our classes we’re told over and over to design for the final product. How can I possibly know what that will be? I design for use by the client and hope I hit the target. Felters need feltable fibers, so I try to keep the blends loose, textured and interesting for their purposes. Spinners are all over the map; some love heavy texture and some need thorough processing. Keeps things interesting.

  3. You got some beautiful mixes and blends Bernadette. I really like the last one and I agree with Lyn, You can just put the batt down horizontally and felt it. You’ve got a landscape! I like playing with my drum carder this way as well. I haven’t done that for a while, I will have to get it back out.

  4. Lovely results Bernadette. The last photo reminds me of a Hubble Telescope picture!

    1. Love that, see different eyes see things completely differently! You’re right though, it does look like one of the images from Hubble.

  5. This is a very timely post for me to read as I borrowed a friends drum carder last week and spent two days carding all my left over oddments……I appear to have far more fibre now than I did at the start!
    I particularly like your “bottom of the sink” mix….the colours and the terminology!
    I’m not sure I would get enough use out of a carder to justify the expense but, for now anyway, I’m finding that I’m hooked on creating different colour mix/blends.

    1. Yes, I noticed that the volume seemed to increase. That was a little disappointing since I wanted to make room! There is a possibility that we will be able to have a fiber festival this year and I need stock, so that is where these batts are destined.
      The expense of a drum carder is often hard to justify but as long as you can borrow one, there is no need to buy. I have to agree with you that it is fun to play with fiber blending and mixing colours.

  6. Thank you sharing your carding method, Bernadette. I like your differentiation of mix vs. blend; it’s simple, easy to remember, and describes the end product. If there’s an official description, I haven’t heard it yet? I am working on producing blends with my carder. I wish it had a speed controller. For now, I need to remind myself to stop when the blend looks just about right. One more time through the carder, may disrupt my preferred outcome.

    1. I confess the definition is of my own creation. I thought of when my mother was teaching me how to cook; she said blended dough or whatever had lumps of stuff, mixed dough was all smooth and even. I use that as my guide when doing batts. If I can still see the bits that went into making the batt, it’s a blend and probably time to stop running it through the drum carder. You can always do a quick test on the batt and card more, but you can’t card less.

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