For those not familiar, this is one way to process wool. This way produces what’s referred to as ‘top’. Think of cream rising to the top. Combing wool, extracts the best and longest fibers. When spun, this will create a worsted wool yarn. It will be denser since all of the fibers are neatly lined up, which produces a longer wearing wool. Worsted wools are great for items like socks, or jackets. Any clothing item that will need to withstand more friction.
After the wool is washed and dried, I am trying to pick out the individual locks. The cut end is what is loaded on the tines and the tip is free in the front. The second comb on the right there is what you use to starting coming with. Starting with the outermost fiber and working back towards the tines.
I should also mention there are two styles of combs: English and Viking. These are English, they have four rows of tines. The Viking combs have only two rows. Most everyone I have seen has the Viking, and I understand why. They do a great job and are lighter. Trust me, when you are using these combs, you start to feel like Wolverine, and after a while, all those tines get heavy. The base is also clamped down. Just like coming long knotted hair, the comb can get caught up. Same principle here, that’s why we go slow and only working on the free tips and then further back as the fibers straighten up.
After the first pass, you can see the blunt end. This means that almost everything there is of the same length. There is also still some vegetable matter left. By the second pass, it will be gone.
This is the shorter ‘waste’ part of the combing process. It’s not truly waste, but it’s not long enough for top. It will go in a bag of shorter fibers that I will use on my drum carder. Carders are like brushes for your hair. They get the fibers mostly straight, but not all. Carded fibers will create a batt, rolag, or roving. These are all terms to denote the fiber that has been carded. When spun woolen, this will be a woolen wool. Sounds redundant, I know. Woolen creates a much lighter, stretchy yarn that is great for hats, mittens, scarfs, sweaters, etc. Any garment where warmth is the primary goal.
Here is a picture I have of a hackel that is loaded up with the combed wool. This is my ‘parking spot’ for what is completed on my combs. I made a mistake with this. I just took the fiber off my combs and transferred it to the hackel. I needed to COMB IT ON THE HACKEL, just as if it was another comb. Oops, my bad!
The next step is to draft it off. I do that by using a gauge called a Diz. This is a really nice one that I got from the Clay Sheep. It has a threader and three orifice sizes. I’ve used buttons, washers, anything with a hole the approximate size you need. This one is just so pretty!
Once you get a little bit of fiber threaded though, you just start to pull gently. Draft the fiber, but not so much that you will lose it, then gently push up the Diz and then draft some more fiber. You will end up with a long tail of fiber. You can gently wrap that around you hand to make a nest. When ready, grab a nest and start spinning!