Kit Fisher recently gave a workshop, at Guelph Handweavers and Spinners Guild, on combining fibre with a hackle. Creating yarn this way has always appealed to me. In fact, thinking back, it was one of the reasons I wanted to learn to spin in the first place.
There are various ways of combining different types and colours of fibre before they are spun together. A hackle is a large, deadly-looking comb that you load with fibre. You then draw it off, typically using a device called a diz, which is like a small concave seashell with a hole in it. Once the fibre is lined up this way it can be spun into yarn. A hackle has a couple of advantages. For one, it is less expensive than another popular tool, the drum carder.
Another thing I like about a hackle is it allows more fine control over how the fibre combines. You can create cool colour progression or introduce flecks and highlight of different fibres and colours.
My partner owns a hackle but I have never used it. Now that Kit has demonstrated what it can do, I am addicted. I brought home three samples of fibre from the meeting this week and quickly spun them up (top photo). Then I set up Danny’s hackle (above) and started a new project.
Kit specializes in natural dyes. The idea appeals to me but the problem with natural dyeing is the process does not allow you to create painted yarns and fibres as you can with artificial dyes. You usually get solid colours like the ones below. Here is some yarn Danny and I dyed one weekend at the cottage in 2006. The greenish golds on the left were made with goldenrod, the sandy yellows on the right with beech leaves. Lovely colours, boring yarn.
As Kit explained, you can dye fibre before it is spun and then combine different colours on the hackle. In this way you can create more complex colours and progressions. Think of how much more richer the yellow would be with all these shades blended in one yarn. I can hardly wait to start playing with natural dyes again.