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fiber prep preference

jordanj's picture

 What is your favorite method for preparing a clean sheep's fleece for spinning? Carding? Combing? Other?

esmesmom's picture
Joined: 10/03/2009
It pretty much depends on

It pretty much depends on what you want to end up with.  Combing results in fiber that is aligned which spins up into a worsted type yarn.  Carding makes the fiber fluffier for a woolen yarn.  If you dye in the wool, then dealing with the colors becomes another set of issues.

Being in my first decade of this stuff, I don't comb yet.  I just bought a lovely Jacob fleece with tons of nice, well-defined locks, so this will be my opportunity to try spinning "in the grease."  My other fleece is being scoured in small batches that can be dyed in a crock pot (or not), then dried and carded.  So I guess carding by hand is my default method.  It is a messy process but it's the cheap way to feed the spinning habit.

Caroline's picture
Joined: 06/09/2009
If the fleece has little or

If the fleece has little or no VM, I prefer spinning in the grease, then cleaning it. If necessary, I will comb it with a dog comb, but some of my latest fleeces have been coated so it really is a case of putting your hand in the bag, pulling out a few locks, separating them with your fingers and away you go! This way you can get a worsted-type yarn without the hassles of combing.

For a scoured fleece, I hand pick it over in front of the TV at night, and tease the locks open. I might do this a couple of times depending on how matted the fleece has become, then its onto my drum carder. This is not necessarily my favourite way of doing a fleece unless I am blending fibres and colours, but does result in a lovely bouncy blend that spins up beautifully, and is soooooo light and airy. I have a box picker and use this for picking and blending too - it really depends on what it is I want to spin.

I'm spinning for weaving at the moment - very slowly - so I prefer the first method with the fleece in the grease.

Aunt Janet's picture
Joined: 06/09/2009
I'm a commercial processor,

I'm a commercial processor, so I have a different perspective.  I make roving and batting in my mill, so with all that roving available, I usually spin that.  But I have been wanting to spin worsted yarns more often lately.  I borrowed combs, then bought some.  I am loving combing now.  I've been dying the fiber from my angora rabbits lately and combing that.  It is really hard to pull a top off the angora, so I just flick the butt end after combing and spin from combed locks rather than top.

Today I had fun combing some 12" suri alpaca.  I used my heavy duty Peter Teal combs.  worked great.  The top is so pretty.  Have you ever seen a suri alpaca or llama all groomed up for show.  Oh my what a grand animal.  I love the way their hair flows.

I prefer to work on clean fleece.  If it is full of static I spray with a fine mist of water with hair conditioner after each pass.

I haven't gotten proficient at hand carding.  I enjoyed using a drum carder before I got the big one.  I do know some drum carder techniques that worked well.  Sometimes I miss the little carder.  It would be great for sampling  fibers that I don't want to run through the big one.

I feel I'm pretty much in control of the fibers in my hands.  I can make a worsted or woolen preparation and spin exactly the yarn I want to spin.  I do let the fibers speak to me, so I don't try to make lace out of rug fibers, if you know what I mean.

I got into this business because I love the raw fiber, and the whole process.

Aunt Janet

Joined: 05/13/2009
For me, it depends quite a

For me, it depends quite a bit on the fleece.  I had quite a fleece collection a while back. 

Some I washed and picked and spun from the picked cloud -- a lamb Romney fleece gave a nice result this way, as did Brecknock Hill Cheviot

Some I washed and carded into batts or roving -- this is my favorite for medium wool breeds, it leaves them airy and softer than the commercial top of the same breeds.

Some (a fair chunk, I had a lot!) I sent away to mills -- I combined a llama and a CVM for an excellent roving from one small mill, an alpaca and a Shetland went to another to be blended, also lovely.  The mill near me got a fair selection from me and did a nice job, each one distinct as I requested: Dorset, Jacob, and Romney cross.

My own llama I like to comb with handcombs, one of my llamas (I have two) has a lovely sheen that really benefits from the combed preparation.

I kept an Icelandic fleece to process myself (haven't yet) because I want to separate the two coats that breed has; and a Gotland, because it's likely I will wash it in lock formation and flick the locks to spin worsted. Yah, I'm one of those spinners who is also a Lord of the Rings fan, so the thought of spinning this up for my own elven cloak is very appealing.

What did I do with all that? Well, a fair bit went into learn to spin kits, much was spun and shared with my mom as yarn, or knit into gifts for people.  And yah, there's still some to spin, not to mention it's time to shear the llamas again :-)

Aunt Janet's picture
Joined: 06/09/2009
Amelia,    I'm a Lord of the


   I'm a Lord of the Rings fan myself.   Just nearly finished with the last book for the third or fourth time.  First read it in the '70's.  I have been invited but never participated in a Middle Earth festival.  My costume was pretty lame, a ratty felted shawl with some fingerless gloves, and an odd knitted felted wool hat.  i was going to go and sell spindles and wool roving.  I may just go one of these days.  It would be lots of fun.  If you ever make that cape, I'd love to see it.

Aunt Janet

Cindy Jo's picture
Joined: 05/13/2010
I'm nuts over Lord of the

I'm nuts over Lord of the Rings. My family always knows when I'm in crafting mode because my videos of the movie go in the DVD player while I am crafting. It doesn't matter how many times I watch, I love them.

Cindy Jo

paulz's picture
Joined: 07/13/2011
Fleece preparation

I know this is more to do with fleece than weaving but I like this site and hope to find the answer here rather than have to sign up to another site.I have been given some Jacob's fleeces which are a couple of years old. It looks as if the bit around the neck piece on one of the fleeces has become rather felted.

What can I do with this? Presumably carding for spinning would be a complete waste of time. Many thanks Paul

mneligh's picture
Joined: 09/26/2010
If the fleece is more than a few weeks old

If the fleece is more than a few weeks old, I would scour it.  If desired, sort it by color before scouring in extremely hot very soapy water. Throw away or find some other use for the felted portions.  Unless the locks are at least 4" long I would card it.

Or, conversely, felt it all!.  Card what you can, and arrange several layers of overlapping batts on an old bedsheet in a rectangle with one dimension longer than the woven width of the desired piece.  Roll the bedsheet up and stuff it into both legs of a pair of pantyhose, washable pants, etc.  (If pants, secure the sheet so it can't open or loosen.)  Run the whole thing through the washer and dryer (hot wash, cold rinse, with soap), several times.   After you are sick of wool abuse, take it out, cut the felt into narrow strips, and weave a nice rug.  Leave the ends out on either edge, and plait them once off the loom.