Batts Are Delicious

  A Polwarth/tussah carded batt from Into the Whirled. It may look like a bonbon, but it contains about 4 ounces of fiber. Photo courtesy of Into the Whirled.

When Jillian Moreno spread out the materials for her video 12 (Plus!) Ways to Spin Batts, there was a collective intake of breath.

Jillian had brought with her not only finished yarns to show all the things that batts could become, she also brought a small stash of batts to demonstrate with in the studio. Some were smooth, some were textured, all were colorful, and all were positively droolworthy.

We resisted the urge to paw through her carefully carried supply and watched her get to work. I’d previously only known of about three ways to spin a batt: by tearing it into chunks, stripping it lengthwise, and rolling the whole thing up into a giant unwieldy rolag. But with the variety of colors and textures in the batts you can find today, there are choices to be made: Do you want to spin a batt with short color repeats or long runs that exhaust each color in turn? Bright, distinct bursts of color or more blended segues from each hue to the next? Jillian has many techniques up her sleeve for managing colors and textures in four different types of batts: striped, layered, smooth, and textured.

  Dividing a batt in a Z style creates a long rope of partially aligned fibers.

Batt Abundance
When I started spinning, most of the batts I encountered had been made by the spinners themselves. These days, I’m finding more and more choices online and at wool shows. Last year at Rhinebeck’s New York Sheep and Wool Festival, I found myself standing next to a wall of ample, bursting batts from Into the Whirled. It was all I could do to leave enough room in my suitcase for my clothes.

Just as there are more places to find batts today, there are more ways to spin them than I would have dreamed of. You can use a diz with a batt, or divide it so that it will stretch like a Jacob’s ladder into a long rope of roving. Spreading out the huge Into the Whirled batt, I fell in love with the color transitions and decided to turn it into a long strip of roving. Following Jillian’s directions, I gently separated it into a long strip that resembled an accordion, slightly drafted it, and wound it into a ball.

  Spinning singles keeps the lovely color progression intact.

When it came time for spinning, I went for the most basic option to let the colors shine as they were presented: I spun fine low-twist singles for a color-progression yarn. One batt yielded 600 yards of fingering-weight semi-woolen singles. A somewhat rough wash made the Polwarth/silk blend full very slightly and added strength.

Now for the next 11+ ways, I’ll just have to find some more batts. However will I manage?

Tip! If you have trouble keeping your singles low-twist, try spinning them with normal twist, letting them rest, and then running them back through the wheel very rapidly in the other direction to take out some of the excess twist. If you’re concerned with them holding together, wind off the singles, wash, and dry before the second trip through the wheel, then wash again to set the new twist. 



imageplaceholder Anne Merrow
Editor, Spin-Off Magazine

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