A few weeks ago, while organizing and trying to reduce the piles of fiber in the dining room (I call it that out of convention, but really, it's "the open space adjoining the living room where my wheel and current 'want to spin' bags of fiber sit" ... which happens to also share space with the dining room table, the hutch...), I set aside two bumps of fiber that I knew I would never spin, that I wouldn't want to gift, and that would make excellent experiments for the carder. First up, a couple of ounces of 100's merino I had dyed back in April in blues and purples, which was slightly felted and therefore no-fun-to-spin:
100's merino on the right, dyed in the roaster
Second, ~5 oz of red and green cormo I bought at MDSW, which was a hair felted, a good bit neppy, and full of VM (vegetable matter), also no-fun-to-spin:
I've been afraid of the drum carder. Intimidated. Worried about breaking it or screwing up. With fiber I was not going to spin, I had nothing to lose.
I started with the cormo and ran it through, spreading it out as I went, and picking out the larger pieces of VM. I didn't try to do anything special with the sections of red and green, and knew that red + green = mud brown. The colors would not be as rich and vibrant, I knew that. But with no-fun-to-spin fiber, who cares?
The carder kept out the neppy bits and maybe half the VM, and there was a fair amount of waste. The crimp on the cormo made the fiber take up a good bit of space on the drum, so I had to do at least 3 batches, but just once through each time. Each batch came out a little different depending on how much green happened to be in that batch:
I tried to diz off into roving, but it didn't go smoothly, so towards the end I gave up and pulled off wide strips.
What did I learn?
The carder is not to be feared. The Supercarder rocks. It makes a nice batt with one pass. VM in fiber sucks, and while the carder will loosen some of it, that's not what it's made for.
After cleaning the drums, I switched to the blue and purple merino. I predrafted and teased apart before running through, and I think that helped minimize waste. The merino ran through very easily and made a soft, lofty batt. Despite being ~2 oz of fiber, I had to make 2 batts because it fluffed up so much. If I was intent on packing it on, I would have prepared the fiber by spritzing with a weak water/conditioner solution, or "humidifying" it. But for experimenting on short notice, not an issue.
I loved these batts. The purples and blues blended so much that it was difficult to tell there was more than one color in the batt; but they definitely added subtlety and depth to the new blue. Plus, the resultant batt is so soft and inviting. Of course, blues and purples are really hard for my camera to capture so you'll have to take my word for it:
Below you can see some "layers" of colors, light and dark, it's not just the sun:
I left them undisturbed in batt form.
On this run I understood that commercially prepared top will leave MUCH less waste than roving, hands down. And I learned a bit about how much the carder will blend colors. I already have ideas for blending to retain more color definition.
Merino is a fine crimpy fleece, just as cormo is. However, this cormo had a LOT more crimp and bounce than the merino. This merino was commercially processed, and likely lost crimp in the processing. That gave it a very different feel than the cormo, and, surprise surprise, made it easier to card. Most commercially processed merino top is practically flat, crimp-free. Lifeless? Makes me understand a little more the charm of processing fleece.