The Majacraft Blog The official blog of Majacraft

14Jun/171

Its All About the Bags!

I have to admit to having a 'thing' about bags. If I ever feel like shopping for something really exciting, it always involves bags..  I have even purchased power tools purely because they came in a cute bag.. So of course, when Majacraft brings out a new bag it has to be news!

I frequently enjoy the excellent quality and protection the Little Gem bag provides when I am travelling..

Everything fits and there is room for bobbins and fibre, and I know it is protected and safe as well as being easy to pick up and carry!

Majacraft also offers bags of the same sturdy quality for the Rose and Suzie wheels, for the Fusion Engine, as well as a fitted bag for the Dynamic Heddle Loom (and yes the loom will be returning soon!).

And now we have a brand new bag! And I personally love this one so much I would even use it as a project bag just because it is so cool... However its REAL purpose is to store and protect your second Fusion Engine drum when not installed in your carder! This bag is purpose designed to fit that extra drum snuggly and securely, the solid quality zip is angled to make it very easy to take your drum in and out with no damage from sliding and no risk to your fingers either.

We know many of our Fusion Engine customers have either purchased both 72 and 128 tpi drums, or have later come back for the 'other' drum to extend the range of fibers they can card. (We have a nice little post here on how to choose the right carding cloth for your fibre)  The easy method of swapping drums means you can easily mix and match your carder to your stash. And now we have solved the problem of storing and transporting that second drum with this purpose made bag. And yes... I think I may also be purchasing an extra bag for my projects and spindles too (serious bag lady stuff here).. the carry handle on top makes it even more appealing for multi purposing!

Please contact your dealer for pricing in your country. We hope you will love this bag too!

Till next time,
Suzy

 

24Aug/156

Choosing the Right Carding Cloth

For the Majacraft Fusion Engine Drum Carder 

Majacraft now has in stock both the 72tpi and the 128tpi carding cloth for the amazing new Fusion Engine Drum carder. This raises a few questions! The first, and most important one is, ‘which cloth doth suit me best?’ So we thought it might be useful to create a guide to help you with that decision. What follows is really a full tutorial about carding, with extra info and tips for getting the results you want from the cloth you choose. For a quick guide, scroll down to the two flowcharts to check which carding cloth works best with the fibres you plan to card!

A while ago I made a review of the carder, and also a video  to show some of the amazing things that are possible with it, and highlight some of the unique ways this carder is different from others currently on the market.

That video was made entirely on the 72TPI carder, and in it I showed how I made both a smooth blended batt and a textured art batt.  When I have time I will make a similar one with the 128TPI cloth! In the meantime however, I wanted to share some information that might make it easier to decide which carding cloth you want to start out with. Of course the upside is that the drums are interchangeable so you can also be confident that you are not going to be stuck with the ‘wrong’ carding cloth if your carding needs change in a year or two..

So here’s the thing, the important thing. Your carding cloth just needs to be matched up with the kind of fibre you are ‘mostly’ going to be carding. You can make a smooth batt or a textured batt on pretty much any carder, so long as you have a cloth that is appropriate to the fibre you are using. Generally speaking this means that if you have coarse fibre you need a coarse cloth, for example most of your carding is going to be Lincoln, or Leicester, then you would want to consider a coarse cloth in the 45-52TPI range. If the majority of your fibre is fine, such as Merino, Alpaca, or Cormo, then you need to look for a carding cloth in the ‘fine’ range, 92TPI and over. Majacraft is providing a very versatile 72TPI cloth that works great on most fibres, and for those wishing to focus on the finer fibres as the majority of their carding, the 128TPI cloth is wonderful!

This is how it works, ‘TPI’  stands for ‘Tines Per Inch’ and refers to the density of tines on the carding cloth. When you have a low TPI count, it means there is plenty of room between the tines to accommodate thicker fibres. A high TPI count gives you closer packed tines that are more efficient for carding fine fibres. If you were to ever try carding a fine fibre on a coarse carder you would quickly see that nepps begin to form as the fibres are at greater risk of breakage due to the coarser tines. If you try to card a very coarse fibre on a fine cloth you will have difficulty cranking the handle as the finer tines try to hang on to the larger fibres but are unable to penetrate them to open them up. And this is what a carder does, what it is made for, taking your washed locks and opening them up and smoothing them out, giving you an even blend of draft-able fibres ready to spin.

One way to match up your cloth with your fibre is by paying attention to the micron counts (approximate) of your fleece. For our purposes, lets consider that anything between 18-24 micron is ‘fine’, that 24-32 Micron fibers are ‘medium’ and 33+ micron fibers are ‘coarse’.

Now its time to consider your requirements!

You may want to ‘mostly’ make smooth and well blended batts, and you may want to do this with your ready supply of medium micron Corriedale. In this case the Fusion Engine carder with a 72tpi cloth is going to be great! It will work wonderfully with medium fibres (such as Corriedale, BFL, Suffolk, Perendale etc), it will also handle the medium to coarse fibres well, so long as you are a little careful about their preparation before feeding them into the carder by making sure they are pre-opened. You do that by flicking the ends open with your flick carder (that comes with your drum carder) and hand-picking them to pull thick locks apart. So long as you are feeding in small amounts at a time you should be happy with the result you get using the 72TPI cloth with  most coarser fibres, and for your medium micron fibres the 72TPI will do a fantastic job of making beautiful blended batts.

You can also make textured art batts on this same 72 TPI carder. I will come back to this soon with some tips and tricks to keep the texture in your fibre despite putting it through a drum carder!

If you work mostly with fine fibres, you would definitely be wanting to look at the finer cloth, and the 128 TPI cloth that Majacraft supplies for the Fusion Engine is excellent for making thoroughly blended smooth batts with fine fibres such as Merino, Cormo, fine Alpaca, Shetland, Polwarth etc. You can be confident that your fibres will not be damaged when they are well prepared and gently carded on the Fusion Engine with the 128 cloth.

Here are a couple of charts that you might find useful when making your carding cloth choices! You can view them here or click the links to view them full size. The first is about making smooth blended batts on your drum carder with both kinds of cloth, and the second about Textured art batts. Click the image for a closer look and feel free to download and print if you would like to keep these as a reference. For troubleshooting please scroll to the end of the page!

In these charts you can see (hopefully) the steps for carding both a smooth and a textured batt, using either cloth. Just keep in mind that the 128tpi cloth is not the one you want to choose if you are planning on making mostly textured art batts, even if you have a lot of fine fibre to put in them. The job of the carder is primarily to open out and smooth the fibres you feed in, and the 128TPI does that very efficiently! There are ways to ‘trick’ the carder to leave some texture in, but if you are wanting to make more textured than smooth batts I would strongly suggest you choose the 72TPI cloth as it is more versatile in handling a range of fibres, you then only need to alter the ways you need to prepare and feed in fibre to get different kinds of batts from it. (As shown in the video above).

The 128TPI is really most suited to making well blended batts with fine fibres, which it does very efficiently, it is also fantastic for colour blending as the number of passes you need to make to get a good blend is less than on any lower ratio carders. If you want to keep colour variation as a feature of your batt you simply pre-card your individual colours and then put them together into your final batt for one pass, and you will get some distinct colours.

What follows is a photo series to give you some idea of the efficiency of this machine with the 128TPI cloth, and mixed fine fibres including some previously uncarded locks,  images taken during a colour blending session.

I started with a mix of kid mohair, silk, Polwarth hogget (young sheep) and some Angelina:

I fed on fairly thin layers, alternating the fibre type, to enhance the blending:

This is the result of the first pass, you can still see the individual fibres and colours, but it is all blended into an easy to draft from batt. You can still see defined curl and crimp texture too. If you spun this now it would give you a wonderful,  gently textured yarn.

The second pass yielded this result, smoother and with more blending visible. This would give you a smoother yarn with some distinct colour variations:

The third pass gave me this, and you can now see the colour getting more blended, the yarn from this will be a mostly evenly coloured with still some interesting colour variations:

And the fourth pass produces this wonderfully smoothly fluffy (remember the Mohair?!) pink batt: This will create a fairly evenly pink yarn and I plan to spin it quite fine.

So with this 128TPI cloth I created the batt I wanted from my mix of fine fibres, it is light, fluffy, has some sheen from the silk and mohair along with some bounce from the Polwarth. Four passes was all I needed for this!

Now to try the pre-carded roving and commercial top for a colour only blend! Here are my results:

One pass in which I layers the three colours (brown, grey, and white) in thin layers:

The white streaks are tencel which I 'painted' onto the main drum directly because I wanted blocks of bling in the batt. You do this by 'stroking' the fiber against the tines as you are cranking it.

The second pass gave me a more blended colour:

and the third and final pass gave me a very homogenous blend, in which the brown tone really warm up the grey, the white lightens it, while as a whole  it looks more like a single colour with some rich depth to it. If you wanted to blend it even further it would not harm the fibres on this 128TPI cloth to continue for another two or even three passes, the only consideration is not to crank it too quickly, especially with the 8-1 ratio of the Fusion Engine, you don't need to as all the gears do the work for you!

Troubleshooting:

Even if you have the right carding cloth for your fibre, you may still have the occasional carding problem. Here are a few tips that might help.

If  you are finding the nepps are still forming in your batt there are several reasons this could happen, even when your cloth and fibre are matched well. Nepps are formed by short pieces of fibre, either from short cuts from the shearing, or from broken fibres caused during carding. To remedy this you can: check that you have shaken out the fibre to remove short cuts, you will also see these as you open up your locks and pick through your fibre supply before you feed it into the carder. Make sure they are all out.

You should also check the strength of your fleece, 'tippy' fleeces, ones that have delicate tips (usually due to weathering) should have tips removed, you can either do that by cutting off the tips with scissors, or pulling your staple holding the tip in one hand and the cut end in the other, breakable tips will come off with a bit of a tug.

Another thing that can cause nepps, especially in very fine fleeces, is residue lanolin in the fleece, if there is still some greasiness in the fibre it will also snag it more and cause breaks which lead to nepps, so make sure your fleece is well washed.

If your colours and fibres are not blending as quickly as you would like, or you are finding large patches of colour that you wanted spread through the batt, you can try splitting your batt into smaller pieces for your subsequent passes, try 6 strips instead of three, and spread them the width of the feedtray to create really thin layers.

If you are hearing the tines meshing while you are carding you can make adjustments to the licker in position to find the optimal setting for your carding needs. Do not be scared to move this around, it is useful to change the distance between the licker in and the main drum to get different kinds of batts. In general you want it as close as possible to the main drum without the tines touching. If you want to create more textured batts with a bit less blending, you can move the licker in further away from the main drum to allow more fiber to transfer to the drum at once, reducing the 'carding' action - this is great for art batts.  You can see how to make this adjustment on our video HERE.

 

 

We hope you have gained some useful information about which carding cloth will most suit your fibre and batt making needs! But as always, please feel free to contact us for more information about the carders, the accessories, and delivery times, and contact me (Suzy)  directly if you need any help using your carder or in deciding which cloth you need! (suzy@woolwench.com)


 

 

 

 

 

8Aug/154

Majacraft Tutorial: Making Tweedie Yarn

Hi Everyone! This week I wanted to share a project with you that I have been having fun with recently! If you have been following our Facebook page you will have seen that I am currently playing with the new 128tpi cloth drum on my Fusion Engine Carder (its so great with my fine fibres!). If you are also feeling inclined to do a bit of carding and spin along with me, I have created a mini tutorial for you right here! We are going to make a Textured Tweed style yarn, and I think you will enjoy how easy and fun this is to make.

The first step is to choose the right fibers. Remember, preparation is everything! Choose your main fibre, I selected a dark colour (Charcoal)  because I wanted something contrasting in my final yarn, but you can make this any colour you like, it will be the primary colour of your yarn.

For the main fibre, select one with a medium to long staple length such as Corriedale, BFL, or even Merino is just fine for this, the important part is that the main fibre is much longer in staple length than your 'texture' fibre. Mine is a NZHalfbred blend with a staple length of about 7-8cm.

For your textured  fibre, select one that is very very short, such as Yak, Cashmere, neppy Camel down,  silk noil, or you could even save up and use the waste from your carding and combing! I used some beautiful soft but very neppy ultrafine Merino. You can see the difference in staple length in the photo, in fact the pale coloured fibre almost has no staples at all:

You will need more of your base colour fibre than of the short texture fibre. Your fibre proportions are entirely up to you however,  depending on the amount of tweedy texture you want in your fiber. You will see in your batt as you add the textured fibre if you are getting the effect and quantities you want. Because now is the time to card it together!

Carding and Blending
You will be blending this at least two times. For the first run through the carder start by puting a thin layer of your base colour on the drum first. Then you can start adding more fibre, I like to lay some of the short fibre on top of the longer and run them through the licker and onto the drum together, but you might like to add them in separately.

You will start to see the effect very quickly as you card and your short fibres start to feed onto the drum:

 

When you have filled the drum as much as you want to and have achieved approximately the proportion of texture to base colour that you like, you can go ahead and remove the batt, split it into four lengths, and recard these, spreading them across the width of the feedtray to enhance the blending. You will see on the second pass that your short fibers are spreading through the batt.

If you are using one of our Fusion Engine Drum carders, with the very efficient carding ratio of 8-1, you are likely to find that just two passes is enough to get the tweedy effect you want. If you overcard this your little clumps of fibre and noils will get broken down too much and you are likely to lose some of the texture and contrast, so stop at the point where you feel you have a good distruction of texture versus base fibre, on some carders this may take three or four passes to get the effect you want. I liked this effect in my finished batt so I stopped at two passes:

And now we can spin the yarn! The idea with a tweed style yarn is that it should be light and textured, you can certainly spin this longdraw if you like, or you might like to spin it as I do simply by splitting the batts into strips and spinning it with a light forward draw in which I do not smooth the yarn down as I spin.

You will see you little clumps of texture fibre coming through as you draft, caught into the longer base fibres. Try not to smooth these down as you spin them in, they will get trapped into the twist and when we 'finish' the yarn will be quite stable.

I spun my yarn on my Little Gem, and created it as a simple balanced two ply, splitting my batt in half and spinning onto two bobbins. Here is how it looked freshly plied and on the bobbin:

The next step is very important!

Finishing and setting the yarn. This is particularly important for this yarn, because it not only sets the twist but it also fulls the yarn slightly, and this in turn helps to trap those short fibers into the final yarn, reducing the chance of them simply pilling up and pulling out. In this step you need to skein up your yarn, tie it well in four places, then immerse it into some hot water with a little wool soap. Let it sit five minutes. At this point I will give the yarn a little agitation, rough it up in the water a bit! And then take it out of the hot water and put it directly into cold water, swirl it around a bit more. Repeat this step several times. You should be able to 'feel' the fibre change its character a little and not only bloom but also become more (and this is the only word I can come up with to describe this) combined as the fibres start to grab onto each other.  Next press out the excess water. Once you have done that, and this is something I do not do to all my yarns but it works very well on this one, 'thwack' it against a hard surface. It feels mean and a little crazy, but its ok! It works to finish off that fulling process, it fluffs up your yarn somewhat, and remember this is a desirable character of tweed style yarns, and it further integrates your nepps and short fibers into the structure of the yarn.

This is how my finished yarn turned out: (to see them closer click the pic)


And here is another one I made using the same technique and the same texture yarn, only this time my base fibre was a soft grey NZ Arapawa.
And just in case you are wondering, this is how they look when they are knitted up!

I really love this effect, it can be subtle and create a gentle texture and colour variation in your yarn, or you can do this with many different colour and texture combinations to get more extreme yarns with pops of mega-textures. I love how easy it was to prepare the fibre for this yarn and the simple spinning that I enjoy when I want to just relax. For some other variations you could try plying this as a four ply cable yarn, or add an auto-wrap, or even coil your single instead of ply it! There are many possibilities for using this particular fibre prep, and  I hope you enjoy experimenting with this yarn too!

 

Till next time, happy spinning!
Suzy (WoolWench)

To create this yarn I used: the Fusion Engine Drum Carder with a 128tpi cloth drum, the Little Gem spinning wheel set on the medium size pulley and the standard delta flyer, and a mix of longer staple and very short staple fibres.


20Mar/150

Introducing the Fusion Engine

We have built a drum carder. It is called the Fusion Engine and to be honest, I think it is pretty amazing!

Fusion Engine left

The Fusion Engine left hand side

 

Fusion Engine right

Fusion Engine right hand side

 

It is packed full of features and innovations that make this drum carder incredibly versatile and easy to use.

Many of the design choices are focussed around creating a machine that does not require cleaning. The drums have special edges that minimise the possibility of fibre wrapping around the axles while packing fibre on to the drum right out to the edge. The drums are interchangeable and we will be building drums with different cloth so you can use finer or coarser cloth depending on what you want to do.

Fusion Engine magic drum

Fusion Engine magic drum

 

It has an integrated gearbox that uses actual gears and these are hidden in the side of the carder. The ratio runs at 8:1 so there is considerably more blending of fibre that goes on compared to machines that run at 3:1 - 4:1. The gears are always positive and will never slip and being integrated into the side of the carder means there is never any clogging of fibre around the drive mechanism.

Fusion Engine gearbox detail

Fusion Engine gearbox detail

 

It has a movable feed tray that you can slide back and forth depending on whether you are working with fine fibre or something a little more raw.

This is just a basic introduction to the Fusion Engine. If you want to discover more, read about it on the Majacraft web site here.

We have the freely downloadable manual for the Fusion Engine which also has plenty of fibre preparation tips

Fusion Engine manual

Fusion Engine manual


Suzy Brown of Woolwench has written a review of a pre-production machine on the Fibery Goodness web site and you can find it here.

If you are interested in a Fusion Engine then I suggest you contact your dealer promptly. Orders for the first run of machines are filling fast!

Until next time
Andrew

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