Monday, April 27, 2009

Batting for Crochet

Me? Attend a Sheep & Wool Festival? What would I do with all that fluffy stuff? I'm not a spinner! I'm a crocheter! ... those were my thoughts once upon a time. Then I took an eye-opening class with Janet Rehfeldt at a CGOA Conference and I've been hooked on batting ever since! ... not batting for baseball, but rather batting as in yarn yet to be spun! Also known as crocheting in the raw! Breaking the rules! Ask a sheep about it and he'll tell you the same thing, perhaps singing it Michael Jackson style, "You know I'm baaaaaa, I'm baaaaaaa..." ahem; we're getting a little off track, which tends to happen to those who attend sheep & wool fairs & festivals, but in a good way. Seriously.

For those who collect archive magazines, you'll want to check out Janet's article entitled, "From Batt to Beautiful," in the November 2006 issue of Crochet! magazine.

First, why would one want to crochet with unspun fibers? One good reason is cost. It cost less because of the elimination of having someone (by hand or by machine) to first spin and then ply it into strands creating what we call string or yarn. This makes working with alpaca, angora, camel, mohair, silk, wool, and so on, more affordable.

(The picture on the left shows the hat I was crocheting during the festival, using roving I had purchased from the event last year. The picture on the right shows the hat nearly done, along with pink/orange wool, and earth tones silk/merino blend "pencil roving" --yummies from this year's CT S&W.)

Second, using unspun fibers makes for a loftier project because the unspun fiber won't have all that twist from the manufacturer-- it will have just the natural twist which occurs with crochet. Natural twist in crochet? Yes! I'm sure you've noticed this happening... you are crocheting along, say with a ribbon type of yarn, and notice that every so often you need to lift the ball to allow it to "unspin" to prevent it from kinking up. That phenomenon happens because of the way we crocheters yarn over, the way we connect to our stitches, along with the direction our work flows. (If you wish to learn more about this phenomenon, then you'll want to be in my Pushmi~Pullyu class this summer.)

Third, think of the possibilities! You can create your own blends, your own colorways! Isn't that reason enough to give it a try?

When you attend the Sheep & Wool Festivals & Fairs, you'll want to purchase the batting that is ready for spinning -- it's called "pencil roving." However, if you go and come home with a sheep rather than "pencil roving," then you are on your own! LOL The key to crocheting with the batting is to understand that the individual (hair/fur) strands that make it up come in varying lengths, so as you pull (called "drafting") from the batting, you'll want to do so gently and to do so evenly so that the thickness of the draft will match that of the crochet hook you wish to use. It takes a little practice, but is oh! so! worth! it! :)

Want to learn more about crocheting with unspun fibers? Check out these links:

...And, as promised, here are some more blogs discussing the 100th Annual Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival:

With this many people blogging about the Connecticut Sheep & Wool Festival, I think it is proof, that even for its small size, it is well worth checking out! Write it in on your calendar for next April so you can get some batting for your crochet (or knitting) too! ;)

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