I Can Spin a Rainbow

I’ve been meaning to do this blog post for ages. I do often get asked by customers “How can I use my Build a Batt Box?”. I know that although the initial temptation of lots of fibres in different colours is enough to coax people into purchasing, once it’s arrived it can sometimes seem a little overwhelming as to how to put it together and what to use if for, what kinds of yarns to create and so on. There have been some really wonderful examples in my Ravelry group over the months but I thought these yarns deserved a feature post of all their own. It’s a really good set of examples as to how one of my friends uses her BaBB fibres.

Elaine is not only one of my customers (she’s managed to snag one of almost every BaBB I’ve done!) but she’s also a good friend of mine from Guild. I know she really enjoys using her Build a Batt boxes, I’ve seen snippets that’s she’s made up and spun in the past. We have quite similar colour sense so she enjoys the colours I make up and likes it when it’s something she might not normally choose because it encourages her to try something outside her comfort zone. Last time she visited with our other friend Dawn she came into my house mysteriously carrying large zip up holdalls. This isn’t especially unusual; a lot of my friends are fellow fibre addicts so will often bring spinning or knitting when they call by and we nearly always shove a few skeins or knitting projects in our bags to show each other when we meet wherever that is. But I have to confess I was slightly intrigued by the sheer volume of yarn that appeared to be coming in – was she coming to stay for the weekend perhaps!?!

But no, like the angel she is, she’d brought all the sets of BaBB yarns she’d spun up so far to show me and offered me the chance to photograph them to use on my blog. I was blown away by how beautiful her yarns were and it’s interesting how I could recognise the “months” they came from straight away but using her own interpretation to blend them, they’d also changed. Even though the basic fibres in each box is broadly similar, her yarns felt different depending on what she’d chosen to blend with them. Some were distinctly woolly, some soft as clouds, some drapey.

Sadly the light levels were quite poor that day so I had to use artificial light and also my camera played up a little so the following photographs don’t really do justice to Elaine’s spinning. Nevertheless it’s a really interesting display of how she goes about it and I hope it will be useful for anyone wondering what they can make with theirs.

She told me that she aims for 1kg of handspun yarn from each batch. The BaBB itself contain just under 300g of fibre so these fibres constitute less than a third of her finished yarn but she likes to have a sweater quantity from each colour way, knows that to fit with her default yarn weight and the kind of styles of garments she likes that 1kg will give her enough to work with and allow for adaptability in garment/sleeve length and patterns like cables and so on that take up more yarn. (It’s worth pointing out here that you might need more or less than this; it’s very much an individual thing as we’re not only different shapes and sizes but also spin yarns to different thicknesses and this along with the pattern we chose really affects how much yarn you’ll need for a project).

Using that as her starting point she then goes through her stash to look for fibres that will work with the ones in the BaBB. These might be in similar shades or contrasting ones and can be anything; sometimes braids of dyed fibre, sometimes plain tops or dyed merino, sometimes a nice fleece either wool or alpaca. Bits of luxury fibres also get included like silk or other more unusual fibres. Once Elaine has approximately 1000g of fibre she then starts dividing them up into piles. She knows how much fibre she can fit on her drum carder so then can work out how many batts she needs to make and divides the fibres up by weight into a batts-worth. Sometimes there may be as little as a gram of some of the luxury fibres in each pile but the aim is to spread the fibres evenly throughout the mix.

Once everything is divided up ready she can start to card. She likes the tweedy effect of the different colours and textures so doesn’t put the batt through the carder too many times. I think she said she does two passes per batt to achieve the look she wants. Once all her batts are ready she can then start spinning. She also does a sample square to show how the yarn will look (in fact I think she does this before carding them all to check!) which also helps her when she comes to choose a pattern later on.

June 2014 – Lavender’s Blue Dilly Dilly.

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August 2014 – Sweet Meadow

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September 2014 – Kaffee un Kuchen

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October 2014 – Ruska

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and because the back was as pretty as the front in this sample!

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November 2014 – The Gathering Storm

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Elaine had already started knitting this up – it’s was all caked up ready to go and she’d started on the pattern which I’ve included here, a lovely cable.

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February 2015 – Faded Rose

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And although this isn’t a BaBB, she’s used the same method with some of my fleece and made a beautiful set of colourful yarn cakes! This is the lamb fleece from Elvis, one of my crossbred sheep (his lamb fleece was pure black but he is now a sort of Charcoal colour now he’s an adult).

Elaine only bought a small amount of this fleece raw at Wonderwool from me but she’s expanded it by adding more fibres, changing the feel of it and including colour with bits of texture. I really love how this has lifted and enhanced the natural black wool to make an interesting tweed yarn. If you want to try this, the last bit of Elvis’s lamb fleece that she used is in the shop. I’d kept some for myself but decided I had too much fleece to keep it so coincidentally I’d washed it ready for the shop when Elaine showed me what she’d done with her portion of it!

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Massive thanks to Elaine for her help with this and for sharing her yarns and method. I’ve found it really inspiring and hope others do too!

The September/Ocober 2015 Build a Batt Box will be out in around a week or 10 days time. It’s slightly more challenging as it has a wider range of colours than usual but is nice and zingy, seasonal with a twist!

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