Hand Carded Rolags vs Drum Carded Rolags

It’s taken me longer than I wanted, but after a bit of a delay, I’m finally writing about my last bit of Tour de Fleece spinning. It was a bit of an experiment and a lot of fun. See, several months ago, I got a rolag from a spinning guild demo on making and spinning rolags. Spinning it was fun and I loved the finished yarn but I only had that one hand carded rolag. Fortunately, I’d also gotten some fiber from the demo - natural wool, dyed wool, silk noil, and white mystery wool - to make another. The only problem was my complete lack of hand cards. A few months later when I rented a drum carder, I finally had the chance to turn that fiber into a batt and then a rolag. But would it match? Could a drum carder create rolags that matched hand carded rolags? To find out, I fed the 18g of material through the carder twice to blend the colors and fibers evenly. 


To match the guild rolag, I split the batt 3 times across the width and rolled each piece into a rolag. When it came time to spin and I kept everything about the process the same. Used the same ratio and twist direction. Plied the single with itself, just like the first. They both got the same finishing, a soak in the kitchen sink with Eucalan and a few good pops across my hands.

Are the finished sample skeins the same? Yes…and no. 

Both yarns are the same weight with similar WPI and have the same lumpy-bumpy texture. They’re both thick & thin and a little hairy. They’re both squishy and airy like the true woolen spun yarns that they are. So far, so good, right? The only difference between the 2 samples is the color and it’s not just because of the silk noil. The hand carded skein is darker with clear distinction between the brown and teal.  The drum carded skein is more blended, lighter in color, and noticeably teal. If I’d passed the fiber though the carder just once, the colors might have been more similar but maybe not. A drum carder has more surface area than hand cards which directly affects how fibers (and their colors) interact. 

Besides from the color differences, the hand carded skein and the drum carded skein have the same texture, the same weight, and the same loft. So long as the 2 are spun the same way, the finished yarn will be the same. The only difference is one of color and blending. Drum carders make it easily to repeatedly card fiber until it is as blended (or not) as you want it to be. How many times the fiber is fed through can have a major impact on the final color, especially with hand painted rovings. 

As for these 2 skeins, I’d definitely use them for the same project. To mesh the colors (AKA dyelots) the best bet is to alternate the skeins every 2 rows. Now, what to knit with 36 yds?