Fancy Kitty Big Tom Drum Carder and How to Make a Striped Batt

For today’s Fiber Friday, I’m going to focus on my new drum carder, Big Tom.  I’m not going to call this a review, since I don’t have any way to test this out side by side with any other carder.  Instead I’ll call it a ‘tour’, and you can join me as I put Tom through his paces and show you how to make a striped batt. I’ll warn you that this is very photo intensive, if your connection is slow you may want to go get a cup of tea and a snack.

Today’s subject is some pretty basic wool, these are 2 oz handfuls of mill end domestic wool from Brown Sheep.  I’ve hand dyed these by dropping in dyepots of other yarn and fiber that I needed to be exhausted.  The wool is soft, but not especially fine, and really likes to stick to itself.  There is also some mohair in there. It was ideal for me to ‘practice’ with, since it wasn’t likely to nep on me. (Or rather, some was already nepped, so it didn’t matter…I’m going for an artsy batt).  The cloth is 90 on the licker and 120 on the swift.  Other tpi densities are available, and it is easy to change out the swift. You can see other specifics on the Fancy Kitty site.

Why did I need to practice?  Well, Big Tom is somewhat different from my previous Kitten carder, although just as beautiful….if not more!!
Carding

Tom has separate motors for the licker in and the swift, both on adjustable dials, and both independently controlled as far as direction.   There are no numbers around the dials, or suggestions on how to set them, but I can figure that out as I go.

Alrighty, here’s the fiber….2 oz each of pink, yellow, and blue, with a bit of dyed firestar for each of them.
Carding
I wanted to card all these up separately first….to make the final batt smoother, and make it easier to do the stripes. Here is start to finish with the yellow. This was still in top form, so the cub and I pulled staple lengths from the end and fed them into the carder. We set the licker and swift speeds so that the swift went around about 4-5 times for every turn of the licker. This is similar to the speed of the Kitten, and most other drum carders.
Carding
After a good layer of yellow, I fed the firestar on directly to the drum. It likes to get caught in the licker, so it makes sense to just apply it to the swift. (Note, you could even turn the licker off, and build a whole batt directly on the swift this way.)
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And here is the whole 2 oz of yellow and firestar on the drum. There seems to be a lot in the licker. Just like my kitten did, it seems to fill up to a point, but really does a good job of keeping the short fibers out of the batt. Once I cleaned the licker I saw that it wasn’t really that much.
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Here’s an edge view of the batt on the swift. Still some room on there!
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Split batt ready for doffing:
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And here it is off the drum. Big Tom makes batts that are 36 inches long…yup, a whole yard!
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The yellow was a piece of cake, but here is the blue. Looks like trouble!
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Well, the joke was on me, because with a tiny bit of work, it ended up being all floofy and thin.
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Instead, it was the pink that gave me trouble. You can see here that it was going on all clumpy.
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Here is where the user really factors into drum carding. I had the swift going way too fast, and I was feeding in fiber that wasn’t floofed enough. A drum carder should make a gentle swooshing noise, especially if you have a brush, but if you are hearing tearing noises, you certainly ARE tearing your fibers. Try something different….go slower, flick card your fiber….SOMETHING. Garbage in, garbage out.
In this case, I should have taken my own advice…..I should have re-carded this pink batt before combining with the others. I didn’t. So yup, artsy batt it is (you’ll also see that I lost a fair amount of it on the next pass.)
Here’s all 3 color batts.
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Hmmm…..I seem to have neglected to photograph the actual putting together of the batts. I ripped each batt in half (I was making two 3 oz batts), and balanced them out as much as possible with the scale. Then I ripped each half into thirds (so really 6ths of the original batts) and fed them into the carder….one third yellow, one third blue, one third pink, then repeating two more times. Hence 3 layers per batt. If I had wanted even better blending at the overlaps, I could have split the batts even thinner, and sent all three colors in at once.  Or sent the whole batt through another time by peeling off full layers.   It suited me to just send the bits through a bit thicker and let blending happen at the wheel. Here it is on the drum. As you can see, the yellow and blue came through the second pass wonderfully, but the pink really had needed the second carding.
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Here it is ready to pull off:
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This is mid-pull on the batt (I use a dowel method). As you can see, the fibers were nicely carded (even the pink), and pulled off very cleanly.
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Finally, we have the finished batts!
Pastel Stripe Batt
Pastel Stripe Batts - 3 oz each

Stay tuned for the next drum carding adventure with Big Tom, which will be some superwash merino.  Yummy, and very fine!

Other posts you might be interested in:

Unpacking Big Tom

About ThePaintedTiger

I'm an Indie dyer of yarn and fiber. I love all the colors, but especially green and brown.....and purple, and blue.....
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5 Responses to Fancy Kitty Big Tom Drum Carder and How to Make a Striped Batt

  1. Ron says:

    Wow! Really great looking batts & wonderful pictorial.

    Thanks much,

  2. Angele says:

    I am very interested in purchasing a Big Tom, Thank you for posting pictures! I love seeing the process. I can’t wait to get mine! Hopefully I will be able to order it soon!

  3. Chelle says:

    Beautiful batts and very helpful tutorial. I have the smaller, nonmotorized Kitty but really enjoy seeing your photos and tutorial.

  4. Kari says:

    Very thorough and interesting! Thank you for taking the time to document all this. My Big Tom should be here next week and I have 8 different kinds of fiber to try on it and see how it does with each. Can’t wait to try it!

  5. Velvet says:

    Great post! I’ve been checking out the motorized Fancy Kitty myself and it’s pretty impressive so far! Love the 36″ batt – and I appreciate your posting every step with photos! Great eye candy!

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