Category Archives: wool combs

Exploring Fibre Preparation Techniques – Fibreswest 2015

wool combing 003wool combing 005wool combing 009For more information about Fibreswest and how to register for class, visit here.

Exploring Fibre Preparation Techniques – Diana Twiss. Half day, Fri.Mar.13/15. 8:30-12:30. $65#106

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a carded roving and a combed top? A batt and a rolag? If you are keen to know, then this workshop is for you. In this 4 hour workshop, you will learn a variety of fibre preparation techniques that will help you understand one of the elemental factors in making the yarn you want to make – fibre preparation. You will learn how to flick card, hand card, comb and drum card a variety of fibres. In addition to learning how to use these tools and creating samples with them, you will also play around with fibre and colour blending.

Materials fee: $15 payable to the instructor

Skill Level: intermediate and beyond. Must be able to spin a continuous thread and be comfortable with plying.

Equipment required: spinning wheel in excellent operating order, lazy kate, three bobbins, any and all fibre preparation tools you may have – flick carder, hand carders, wool combs, drum carder.

Testing out some fibre

Here is some fibre – cria (baby alpaca) to be exact – that has been sitting in a bag in my laundry room for the last two, maybe even three years. That’s just crazy. Over the weekend I decided that I had to do something about it – spin it up or give it away.
The Backstory:
I’ve been on this de-junking spree lately getting rid of old magazines, clothing, household goods. It’s been making a difference and the house is looking tidy and much more spacious. I’ve also been semi-ruthlessly going through my fibre stash getting rid of things that I really don’t want, making better storage decisions about things I do want to keep. This cria (six bags like the one seen below) has been in my laundry room for a long while.
It was time to make a decision about this fibre so I took a bag of it onto the back porch and opened it. The staple are long, about 10 inches. The fibre was also full of VM – vegetable matter. It called for the combs. What’s seen below are the two test nests I combed. Each nest took four passes of the combs. The total weight of both nests is 11grams, and the total weight of the waste was 5 grams. That’s a lot of work to lose 50%. One strike AGAINST it.

Then I spun up these nests into a 2-ply yarn measuring 20 yds or 18 metres. You see it below. The first picture of the test skein is before it was washed. You can’t see any sheen and it looks decidedly creamy.

2014-05-19 07.10.36 This next photo is the skein washed up. The wash water looked like chocolate milk after the first wash. And here you see the sheen coming through. It’s really lovely stuff. A mark FOR.

2014-05-19 07.38.02

Despite the fact that it really is lovely fibre and spins up to be beautiful yarn, I made a difficult decision. At our annual guild “swap and shop” I gave it all away – for free. I don’t have a lot of time, and what time I have I don’t want to spend it on the amount of fibre preparation that this requires. I know the fibre folks who walked home with this fibre and it’s in good hands.

Now whenever I walk into the laundry room, I just see an empty space on the floor, and not a bag of fibre that gives me stabs of guilt.

The wonder of tools

It always amazes me what you can do, or how much you can get done when you have the right tools. I have owned my wool combs for at least seven years now and I have finally purchased a wool comb clamp.

What on earth is a wool comb clamp? It is a simple tool that holds your wool comb in place so you can pull the fibre off the comb using two hands, and not one. It’s a luxury item if you comb fibre once a year.  It’s a necessity if combed fibre is an essential aspect of your workshop materials — and you are doing it weekly.

Duh.

This is a specially made clamp for my wonderful, hard wearing Forsyth mini wool combs.

In addition to the clamp, I have also added the diz to my repertoire of necessary tools.

In the past I have dissed the diz, thinking it a finicky and unnecessary tool for pulling wool off the end of a comb. But with my hands freed by the wool comb clamp, I suddenly saw the benefit of having a tool that helped to determine the amount of fibre that came off with each tug. And really, why not?

A diz is neither a high-tech or expensive tool. In fact, in my case it’s a large button.

I use that dental floss looped stuff to help feed the sliver of wool through one of the four holes. And man oh man, it makes life so much easier.

What was I thinking? Some kind of Puritan I-don’t-need-fancy-tools, I-can-do-it-the-primitive-way approach.

Well bollocks to that.  It’s nearly magic. I was able to comb up three times the amount I usually do in a sitting, and I wasn’t tired and sore.  When you have the right tools you can get the job done efficiently and effectively.  In so doing you can also minimize wear and tear on your body.  What’s not to like about that?