I bought myself a blending board for Mother’s Day, which seems like ages ago. A blending board is another tool for preparing fiber for spinning. The main thing it does is make “rolags”, which are rolled up spirals of fiber for spinning. You can also make batts with the blending board. Ironically, one thing it does not do well is “blend” different fibers together. A drum carder works more efficiently for making larger batts and for thoroughly blending fibers together.
When I was ready to try out the blending board, I went to my fiber stash closet and picked out some different fibers and colors that looked pretty together. You can see below a bag of blue superwash wool (that I purchased in 2009 according to the label), a bag with some turquoise dyed angora rabbit, some darker turquoise alpaca fiber, and some orange, green and purple dyed bamboo.
I decided to just go for it without measuring or having a plan. I had watched a couple of you tube videos to learn how to use the blending board, so I knew the basics. I started applying some of the blue wool first, and them some of the alpaca and angora rabbit. You just swipe some on, dragging down so it spreads out, rather than being lumpy. A special brush is used to compact the fiber down so you have room to add more, or you can use a paintbrush. It took some practice to figure how much fiber to add on each layer, and to feel comfortable with the technique so that it came out evenly. It does not have to be even, it can be any way you like it. But I find it easier to spin if the fiber is somewhat evenly distributed, rather than having thick blobs here and there.
I applied a layer of fiber, brushed it down, then applied another layer. I continued to add more layers and brush it down until the blending board was pretty full. I could have fit more fiber on, but decided to stop and remove the fiber into a rolag. The following series of photos shows the blending board after each layer of fiber was applied.
My hands got scratched up in the process of “pasting” the fiber on to the board. I did not see any references to this on the videos I watched. To get the fiber off the blending board and into a rolag, you wrap the fiber around two dowels starting at the bottom. Rather than lifting it all off in one big roll, you are supposed to lift it and pull part of it off on to the dowel, then start again to get more. I got too much fiber on the first rolag, and then it all started to come off the board before I got it rolled on the dowel. I had to start over brushing some of the fiber back onto the blending board, so the last rolag is thinner and blended differently.
I was able to make five rolags of varying thickness.
The total weight of the five rolags is 48 grams. Maybe I should have measured the fiber out at the beginning to an even 50 grams, which is a typical weight for a small ball of yarn. The first rolag has much more fiber in it, the last one is the smallest. The rolags look nice in the photo, but I think I can do a better job of making them more even on my next try.
To spin a rolag, you start at one end and draw the fiber out in a spiral.
I got busy with other things for awhile (mainly knitting and ripping out and re-knitting sections of the Sea & Sky Shrug), so I did not spin for several weeks. Meanwhile I heard about a 21 day spinning event called the “Tour de Fleece” taking place from June 26 to July 18 and coinciding with the Tour de France bike race. I decided to make an effort to participate virtually.
From the Tour de Fleece facebook page: “The idea is to set yourself a challenge. It doesn’t matter what the challenge is — it could be spinning fine for the first time, or producing an artsy fartsy yarn as an exercise, it could be spinning enough for a specific project. If you’ve always wanted to spin a little every day (say, a spinning meditation practice), but never seem to find time for it, perhaps that could be the challenge — spinning every morning of the tour. What matters is you set out the challenge, and meet it during the specified time”.
My challenge was to practice making rolags with the blending board, and to actually spin every day during this period. It was a nice idea, but I am afraid I failed miserably, as other priorities came up. We had company coming and going, there were summer outside chores, the shrug was more important, etc. Oh well some other time I can set myself a new spinning goal. In the next photos you can see the five rolags spun on to two bobbins, and then plied together into a skein of yarn.
The final result was a small skein of yarn. It is not really big enough to make anything, but it looks very pretty sitting in a ceramic bowl.