Just over a year ago I started spinning. I did the usual: first worked exclusively with spindles, but then tried a wheel after 6 months and added that to the mix. Along the way I bought as well as made the accessories that are in part needed and in part add to the fun. What I love is that you can make most of your gear to start with and then add to that as you want. I love making stuff, so much of what I have made I intend to continue using. I want to explain how I made some of my equipment, but as someone wanted to know how I made my blending board, I'll start there.
I am attracted to quilting because I love patterns and color. I love color in knitting and find that color plays a major role in creating yarns. There are many ways to get color: from the natural colors in sheep to dying yarns to buying colored fleece to dying fleece yourself.
I dye fleece by “painting” it with acid dyes and then heating it in the microwave (4 cycles of 3 minutes on, 3 minutes rest). I can spin it as is, but I don’t care for how flat the yarn looks. I prefer fleece that has color variations in it, much like your hair does. That’s where blending comes in. You add other colors, including undyed fibers to create something that will have depth to it. You can create color gradations, heathers, whatever. You can also add other fibers to improve the characteristics of the yarn as well as to add some bling.
The drum carder is the most efficient way to blend a large consistent batch of fleece.
|5 blended batts that started as 3 dyed pieces.|
However, if you want to create stripes and add in bits and pieces of glitz or spots of color in a controlled fashion, then a blending board is most efficient. They are very expensive to buy retail (120 – 200$) but while still not cheap, they are cost effective and easy to make. Most of the retail ones have a keel so you can blend while sitting. I know I would not want to do that so mine is designed to sit on a table. I find being able to stand back a bit helps in designing the batt.
What you need:
1) 12 inch piece of 12 inch wide blending cloth. NOT carding cloth – those tines are shorter and bent differently. Blending cloth is specifically made to use on blending boards. Cost range seems to be 60 – 80$.
2) A board that is at least 13 by 16 inches. I used ½ inch plywood that I already had. I don’t have a table saw, but I was able to get someone at a local school wood shop to cut it for me. Some people buy kitchen cutting boards. The board needs to be at least 4 inches longer than your cloth and an inch wider. The piece I used was 13.5 by 17 inches.
3) Piece of molding as long as the shorter board dimension. 1”by 2” or smaller. This is so the board will rest on the table at an angle. I had some leftover from a bathroom remodel.
4) Glue: I used Gorilla Glue. This is to glue on the molding and the cloth.
5) A bunch of small flat head screws to screw the blending cloth down after you’ve glued it as well as the molding piece.
6) Silicon pads to keep the board from slipping during use.
7) 1 dowel rod 3/8 inch in diameter. They come in 3 foot lengths. Cut this into two 15 to 16” lengths. Sand and varnish them. The smoother they are, the better you'll be able to slide them out of the rolag.
1) About 5 inches from the end of the board lengthwise, glue and then screw down the molding. This is the back of the board and the edge closest to the molding is the top of the board.
|Back with molding and silicon feet attached|
2) Remove 2 or 3 rows of tines from the top and bottom of the cloth, so you have space for your screws. The sides are already indented enough. I was able to just use my fingers, but tweezers or needle nosed pliers work well.
3) Position the cloth onto the front of the board. You want 2 inches extra length each end of the cloth and the sides of the cloth evenly centered. I opted for more room at the top than the bottom. Mark this.
4) Apply glue to the board, especially along the edges and criss-crossed in the middle. Carefully place the cloth onto the board according to your markings. Make sure that the tines point towards the top! Place a large board on the tines and then place a bit of weight on it – enough to ensure good glue contact without damaging the tines.
5) After the glue has dried, drill and then screw the cloth along all four edges. Screws should be about 2 to 2.5 inches apart.
|Cloth glued and screwed....|
6) Apply the silicon pads along the bottom edge back of the board and along the molding strip.
At this point the board is completed. However, I decided to make an integrated cover to protect the board (and me). I happened to have a large piece of upholstery leather that I screwed to the top edge of the board. I sewed a piece of elastic to the bottom that keeps it in place. When I am using the board, I just roll/fold this back. Canvas instead of leather would do a good job, too.
|Cover showing how I attached the elastic band to the wrong side bottom.|
Along with the board you also need at least:
1) The above mentioned sanded and varnished dowel rods
2) A heavy duty utility brush is the best thing I have found to brush the fiber into the cloth as well as to clean the board.
3) A flicker – I like the dog slicker I bought better than a regular carding flicker. The tines are softer. This helps further straighten fibers and aids in removing the blended fiber during rolag construction.
|I got mine at Pet Smart. They are called Slickers. About 10$|
How to use: (There are several very good videos showing blending board use on YouTube)
1) Mount fleece by stroking it onto the cloth from top to bottom. Thin layers are better. If mounting stripes of color, make sure there is overlap so there are no holes in the batt. (The fleece I am using here is residue I pulled off of combs from another project.)
2) Brush this into the cloth using the floor brush and/or flicker. Add more layers, embellishments, etc. You can layer fibers side to side or on a diagonal. If you are making several batts and you want consistency, then sketch out what you are doing and make notes – how much fiber, how wide of a stripe, etc.
3) When the board is fully loaded (up to an ounce seems to work fine), then brush up a beard of fiber along the bottom of the board. Lay one dowel across this, pull out a little and then roll a half turn. Lay the second dowel on top and continue pulling and attenuating the batt and then rolling. Try, however, not to roll too tightly. If the fiber isn’t coming up, nudge it with the flicker. You can detach the rolag at any time or roll up the whole board. If you make multiple rolags, then your striping will occur more frequently during spinning. Otherwise, you’ll have a very long repeat. You also can remove the fiber by rolling across the board diagonally! (I haven’t tried that yet, just saw it demoed)
4) You can predraft the rolag, if desired.
Here’s a ball of yarn I made from 2 board’s worth of fiber. I pulled 3 rolags off each time. It weighs 35 grams, 85 meters at 14 wpi. It’s chained plied.