Monday, March 14, 2011

Blending Fibers with Hand Carders

The following tutorial on blending fibers and colors was taken from my book, "The ART of Machine Needle Felting" published by Tacony, the makers of the Babylock Embellisher.  In the photos I am using Ashford Hand carders that I purchased from a local wool shop.  To see more examples of hand carders, click on the following link,  I also recommend purchasing the book, "The Ashford Book of Carding" by Jo Reeve because complete instructions and pictures are given for carding different fibers for different reasons.  This information is written for spinners to prepare their wool for spinning but it applies to machine needle felters as well.  I would not be able to get the detail in my work I can get without this information and preparation before I begin.  As far as size is concerned, I recommend the large size of these carders as opposed to pet brushes.  Although the pet brushes do work for some carding, you can only card small amounts at a time which makes it difficult to prepare enough fiber in advance for your work. 

This first photo shows a mixture of blue Merino, (a soft, thin, long wool fiber) with Firestar Trilobal Nylon (a shiny, man-made fiber).  I didn't card it much so you can still see the separation of colors.  More or less carding will blend the fibers into new colors or maintain some of the original colors.

Merino and Firestar Trilobal

This next photo shows a mixture of Merino wool fibers with Angelina fibers, also shiny and man-made. 

Merino and Angelina

I think I put a little white silk fiber in as well, because I was making up rolags for my winter scene at the top of the Skies Over Lancaster Quilt that Tacony now owns.  I wanted the sky to look like a cold, icy mist in front of the sun, so I blended these together really well so you couldn't see the differences in fiber texture in the rolags but they can be seen when felted on the picture itself. 

Winter River Sky

Next I used the very coarse and crumbly Peace Fleece to create the autumn foliage in the second scene in the quilt:

Before Carding

After Carding

Skies Over Lancaster Quilt

 I also like to blend two different types of fibers that are the same or very close in color.  That way I get the best of both fibers.  For example, Merino wool is very plentiful, easy to find and inexpensive but it takes all day to felt away the thin and bald spots it leaves because it is so fine.  If I mix it with a short, fluffy, matte finish fiber, the area being felted fills in much quicker and I can even use the Merino as a top layer for it's luster and sheen.  That is what I did to create the Santa Fe medallions for the class sample:


Santa Fe Quilt

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I will tackle the Carding Machine next time.

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