June 7, 2009

Sheep to Sweater Sunday n° 5 "Combing"

I have to admit it! I LOVE spinning combed fiber.
In fact I honestly enjoy this method of fiber preparation.
I find it to be very relaxing and somehow quite satisfying.
And, in my opinion, this method of preparation does produce the finest and most beautiful yarns.
Of course there are some pros and cons.
But first let’s start with the advantages.

  • Combing allows you to separate the beautiful prime fiber from the not-so-nice stuff! You get rid of the second cuts, short fibers, most vegetable matter, noils, small matts, etc...
  • Combing produces an easy to spin “top”. The whole processes of combing and using a diz to draw off your fiber is the ultimate in fiber prep! It’s like an elaborate pre-drafting operation. It makes spinning a dream. Once you’ve spun combed fiber .. nothing else will quite measure up! (Of course that’s my opinion! LOL!)
  • Combing allows you to produce “hand spun” yarn that doesn’t “look” hand spun. None of the lumps and bumps that a carded preparation can often leave you with. Of course some people like hand spun yarn that looks, well ... "hand spun". But some of us prefer a yarn that is even and finely spun.
If you are interested in combing wool you will need to purchase a set of wool combs. Please be warned that these are very specialized and somewhat expensive tools : a quality set of 2 pitch mini combs will cost anywhere from 100 - 150 € There are a number of different styles of wool combs : minis, small, large, Dutch combs, English 4 pitch combs, etc. So it is best to do a bit of research before you decide where to start.

After a lot of research, I decided to get 2 pairs of wool combs : minis and mediums, both from Wool Combs by Emmy in Canada. Here’s a picture of my mini wool combs.

Mini Wool Combs in Apple with Bird's Eye Maple inlay!
Matching diz and threader in apple
Combed black and white ouessant top

Aren’t they just beautiful! Such fantastic little tools.
I purchased these from Pauline at Wool Combs by Emmy.
She also has a etsy shop for easy purchase.
These combs are reasonably priced and she will ship to France!
But even more importantly, these are beautiful, functional combs.
I’m ever so glad to have these as part of my fiber prep arsenal!

Empty wool comb with lock of washed (in cold water) ouessant fleece

Here's the same lock after it was combed!

And a bit of the combed top, spun to gage : 14 wpi!

I do LOVE this method of fiber prep .... but yes, there are a few drawbacks!

  • First, combs are more expensive than hand cards or a flicker brush.
  • The other major problem with combing is the fact that it creates a lot of waste. Even if starting from a clean, well-skirted fleece you will lose anywhere between 30 - 50 % when combing! And that IS a lot of waste, particularly if you're starting with a small fleece!
Here's a picture of some of the combing waste that was left over after combing RhumRaisin's fleece :

RhumRaisin : combing waste!

Note that this "waste fiber" isn't horrible, it's merely what was left over after the prime fiber was removed.

But never fear! This fiber will not be thrown away. I will be using it in a different project. But more about that later.

In the mean time, find out more about wool combing by viewing the following videos.


Anonymous said...

What do you do with the fleece from the combs? I have alot from my Shetland fleece! It would be a waste to throw it out!!.

Diane said...

Hi Keli!
Stay tuned! I'll be posting more about what I do with combing waste. As long as it's not full of vm, you can use it for other projects. I'll be doing some knit for felting projects with yarn that was spun from combing waste. So don't throw out that combing waste ... you'd be surprised what you can do with it!

Thank you for visiting the Spinning Shepherd!