This is a bat.
This is a bat.
And this is a batt.
A Hanks in the Hood batt, to be exact. The beauty above is half merino and half bamboo. The shiny light blue fibers are the bamboo; the greenish fibers are the merino.
Batts are made by putting fibers through a drum carder. The process is similar to hand carding but is less time-consuming because of the large surface area of the drum. Carders can blend fibers or colors together or allow them to be layered.
Batts can be intimidating. When unfolded, a batt is a big (seriously big!) rectangle of combed fibers, completely unlike the wrist-thick snakes of roving or top that are so common. There are lots of different ways to spin batts- for example, you can pick a corner and start spinning, or strip it into roving and spin it that way.
Usually I buy strips of top and spin them worsted. I really value stitch definition in my yarns, so I didn’t think I would ever want to spin woolen which is softer but lacks definition. But I started to get interested after I bought a Russian spindle. It’s physically impossible to use a worsted short draw on a supported spindle like that! (Ask me how I know.) Having searched all over Russia (story coming later) and finally getting a spindle, I really wanted to use it. And to do that, I needed a carded fiber, ideally one in the form of rolags. I would have liked to make my own (I have plenty of “experimenting merino”) but I don’t have any hand cards and those things are expensive!
Wait, what was I talking about? Oh right, batts. I took the plunge and bought a batt when I realized that I could make a batt into rolags and spin them with a woolen long draw. Ironically, I didn’t use the batt on my Russian spindle. I decided to use the batt to spin and knit Lowell’s grandmother a birthday hat. (Not a party hat, just a hat given to her on her birthday.) This sounds like a lovely idea, right? Especially since I had never used rolags, never spun with a long backwards draw, only had two weeks to spin then ply and then knit the hat, and I was travelling for one of those weeks.
But I did it! I spun half the batt, which was the same as the one above in every aspect except color, on my Cascade Mt. Baker spindle. The spindle broke just as I finished the first ply, so I had to spin the second single on my Matchless. Don’t worry, a little wood glue has fixed the spindle right as rain, plus I got two more spindles for Christmas. I was shocked- I loved spinning long draw. I loved the little rolags, even though I had to join a new one every few minutes. Do you know something- spinning woolen is fast. I mean, seriously fast. I ate up rolags like they were chocolate truffles. I was done spinning and then plying the 4 oz batt in just over a week, even including spindle malfunction and travelling. I even got the two singles to match up in length with only a five inch difference! I swear, this was a magic batt!
The yarn was beautiful. It was soft and squishy, the drape was lovely, the bamboo made little shiny highlights, it was warm. I was in love with this yarn and so was everyone else who touched it. It was so nice that I’m kind of afraid to spin the other batt- what if it doesn’t come out as well? Now, to be fair, the making of this yarn was not entirely without trouble. I rolled the batt into rolags with the merino on the outside and the bamboo on the inside. Often what would happen when I spun them is that the merino would pull off from the outside, leaving me at the end with a core of pure bamboo which was slippery and hard to spin long draw. It also ruined the look I was going for, which was a mostly blended merino/bamboo yarn. But, I still love how it turned out and, in retrospect, if I hadn’t been so stressed to finish in time, the bamboo wasn’t so bad.
Next post, I’ll show you how I made the batt into rolags as I prepare that blue batt up there to turn into a hopefully luscious yarn.
Oh, and here’s the finished product:
A simple beanie style hat with a garter brim and a wavy, lacy pattern.
In the one on the right, you can really see the long runs of bamboo, even though the color is all off.
The happy recipient!