Wallhanging From Start To Finish: Part 1 – Blending Fibres

I thought it would be interesting to document all the stages of creating a wallhanging – from blending and hand spinning the wool through to weaving and finishing off the piece ready to be hung.

wool tops
A mixture of wool tops ready for the blending board

We begin here, with a pile of various wool tops ready to be blended.  Since I only need relatively small amounts of each colour for a wallhanging, compared to, say, knitting an entire garment, I like to buy bags of World Of Wool’s Botany Lap Waste, which gives me a great mixture of colours and fibres to play with.  Plus I love anything that comes in a whole bunch of colours.  I’m currently impatiently awaiting a new batch.

In order to create the kind of look I want, I don’t simply spin the fibres as they come, I use a blending board to mix them together and create yarn with more texture (not just from my slightly inept weaving!) and variation in colour.  It’s not an exact science at all, so I’ve had to learn to embrace the joy of an unexpected result.

I use something called a blending board to “mix” the fibres together like paints.

You can buy a blending board ready made from lots of different places, but I purchased some “blending board cloth” from Wingham Wool Work and asked my Dad very nicely to tack it to a cheap wooden chopping board to create this –

blending board and tools
Blending board and high-tech equipment
blending board close up
Close up of the blending board cloth. The pins aren’t sharp but I’d advise not scraping your hand over them too much.

The blending board is a series of pins sticking up ready to grab the wool fibres as we drag them over the surface of the cloth.  I use a cheap paintbrush to push the fibres down and pack more on to the board, and a pair of dowels to roll the fibres off to form a rolag, which I then spin into yarn.

Here is the process in action –

Using the dowels to remove the fibres from the board and create a rolag –

A rolag is just the name given to the rolled up bundle of fibres.  As I pull the fibres off the board I try and stretch and smooth them out to make spinning easier.  I find spinning from a rolag quite straightforward, but it doesn’t suit everyone.  I also like to go on Pinterest and look at photos of rolags because, again, colours are nice. Try not to wrap the fibres too tightly around the dowels as you remove them from the board though – it’s no fun trying to pull the dowels out of a very tightly wrapped rolag, learn from my pain.

Here is a mixture of black and grey fibres undergoing the same treatment-

Finally, here is a finished stack of rolags, ready for spinning.  This is the beginning of my “artists palette” of wool for the wallhanging.  They’re quite easy to pick up and handle, but they can start to unravel into a sad woollen slinky if you are too rough with them.

As you can see, there’s a colour theme in mind at this stage, but not much more.  The next stage will be spinning each of the rolags into a length of usable yarn using my drop spindle.

I’m no expert at blending fibres, I watched a couple of YouTube videos and just started experimenting.  They are very quick and fun to make though and you can quite easily end up with a huge stack of them without realising.  If only spinning them all was as quick!


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