Sunday, July 11, 2010

Okay, what are batts? And what is plying? Questions answered about fiber art implements and techniques...

Dear Friends of Fiber and Pugs, 

While the pugs have been trying to entice you to jump through hoops so they can get more treats (rolling eyes), I have actually been working. And as I read through the comments and e-mails offline and on my Facebook page, I realized that I started my shop with lesser known items. It might have been best if I started with items that I had made like the wearable art pieces which might include anything fiber-made, items from jewelry to scarves, stoles, vests, capes, shawls and more. And these will arrive in the shop in the weeks and months ahead. Some very soon. But as an enthusiastic fiber artist who loves the process from the ground up, I started with batts. I think that I wanted, in the items I presented, to work through the whole process of creating and selling fiber art from the genesis of the process from raw fibers to finished items. Or so was my reasoning. However, it has left quite a number of people who came to the shop to support the pugs rather puzzled. They had no idea what batts were, and there was nothing, yet, up for sale, soooooo..... I thought I had best explain.

What are Batts? The first 7 items in my shop are "Pug Love Spinners Batts." Batts are an elemental part of the process for one who handspins yarn whether on hand spindle or wheel. Not everyone uses batts. With more traditional spinning a specific fiber is chosen and spun, usually thinner yarns, bigger skeins, the type and amounts of yarn you will use to knit a whole sweater say, or other garment that requires more yarn than "Novelty Yarns" or "Art Yarns" will yield. As the modern age of spinning has drifted onto the scene, much as there are many schools of art in painting where there are the traditional realistic paintings, surreal, modern, and more, we have evolved, in spinning, to broadening our horizons from the simple, traditional, elegant yarns that are the basis to knitting, crochet, and weaving to a whole new day when fiber artists have been drawn to "drawing outside of the box" and using more and more non-traditional fibers and elements in the yarns that they create. 

One of the first steps in this process is to card many elements into one form that you can work with to spin the yarns. This begins with blending varieties of an infinite number of fibers and often unusual elements into a lofty roll of blended fibers that are very soft, easy to spin, and provide a wider range of color, texture, and interesting, infinite possibilities. Hence, fibers are "carded," and when taking the blended fibers off of the drum carder you have a "batt." Here is one batt from different angles so that you can see the outcome of this process...

(This particular batt is in my store at the link above and is the "Falling Into Pug Love" batt.)

First ~ Choosing The Fibers...

More ibers to sort through and the carding begins. See drum carder at bottom right in picture below...

After lifting carded fiber off of the batt you can see the two sides laid out flat...

And then the batt is rolled and up in the shop it goes...

Note how different the batt looks from each side, as it does when looking at bottom and top. These color variations create beautiful yarns as they are spun, hence carded fiber gives the spinner a much wider range of possibilities in color, texture, look and feel of the finished yarn.

In making a batt you choose from among a great many fibers what you want to use from vast numbers of types of wool, exotic fibers which might be buffalo, chiengora (dog hair), llama, alpaca, angora, etc,. and other elements from silks, rayon, wool curls that have retained their bouncy curly nature and have been dyed to make a wispy yarn with panache and delight, perhaps some of the new elements that create amazing sparkle to the batt/yarn like Angelina, Flash, Firestar and more. These are pretty basic. If you are creating Art Yarns you may be including anything and everything but the kitchen sink from torn, cut or ripped fabric and essentially anything in the house that will run through a drum carder It is truly amazing.

Fiber being "carded," run through a drum
carder that blends all of the elements you
want to include in the batt. A batt is a great
boon for a spinner who wants to be able to
spin beautiful yarns that have already been
blended with many elements into one usable
form that they can then tear off a strip at a
time to spin.

The above fiber was carded into a batt that I will be handspinning to go up in the shop in the next week. Here is the finished batt --

This will be spun into what I call my "Batty
For Pugs" yarn, the yarns I have spun from
a batt I created just for one particular yarn.
All of my yarns are one of a kind and will
never be duplicated.

Next time I am going to discuss the differences between traditional yarns, novelty yarns and art yarns. And do note that if you talk to 10 different fiber artists they will give you ten different definitions of the difference between the last two. Some yarns are considered both novelty and art yarn, but art yarn can actually stand alone as a piece of art in and of itself. To see some of this you need to visit the amazing Lexi Boeger's website/blog. She has written two amazing books on creating art yarns, and on her website you will see that some of her yarns have actually been installations in galleries. Truly and utterly amazing. And she has a whole host of wonderful links to other yarn artist's blogs and websites. Find Lexi here. Lexi is known as "Pluckyfluff" and she is one plucky fiberfluffyliscious yarn artist.

I will end by answering a question about plying. In one of the last entries you see a yarn being plied. Not all yarns are plied and actually few of mine ever are, but I am starting to ply a little more to add definition and the ability to add more elements into the yarn to create wilder ever more artistic flair to the yarns themselves. 

When you spin (And I am speaking about using a hand-spindle here which is the main method of spinning that I use and prefer.) the spindle spins, or turns, clockwise. The fibers are twisted together and on the spindle full of spun fiber you can see what the yarn will look like. For example...

Two separate yarns are spun...

And then a third empty spindle will be used to "ply" the yarn. The two yarns having first been spun clockwise, are held together and spun counterclockwise on the third spindle. Plying secures the spun fiber, and creates a more 3 dimensional look to the yarn which is positively fascinating to work with.

The nubs in the above yarn are
called "cocoons" in the new world
of art yarns and are fun to spin and
really spice up a piece of fiber art. I
used this yarn in a piece of wearable
art I created, a serpent I named

"Beatrix," one of my "Rainbow
Serpents of the Dreamtime"
wearable art pieces...

So I hope that that helps a little for people who are entering my "Pug Love Fiber Art" shop hoping to find more traditional items and wondering what the HECK is going on. More wearable pieces of fiber art will be coming along soon. The yarns are next up however.

Until next time, and, ahem, don't let the pugs reel you in for treats with their sad stories. They are positively shameless...

"Don't listen to her. She starves
us here. It's shameful. If we don't
get extra treats we might not
survive! Where's the "Pug Love"
in that, I ask you?


Never trust a pug. They are so cute they are dangerous. They can get by with anything. And around here they pretty much do.

Come back again soon and look for handspun yarns to go up in the shop this week. I'm behindhand because I lost my first little pug, wee tiny little black Babsie, 2 weeks ago and everything here kind of came to a halt. You can read about her tender last day and gentle passing on my other blog, Maitri's Heart.

Blessings and Love to one and all, from the 3 pugs, Big Dog Moe, the 6 parrots & I...


  1. Another beautiful blog displaying your beautiful work -YAY! Adding to my blog roll right now :) Have a nice day!

  2. Thank you so much Michelle! You're just a doll. I don't know why but I just found this comment! Sorry to be late!

    Hugs to you Angel (and kisses to the kitties!)...

    Maitri :o)