It’s raining combs!

Well, wouldn’t you know, as soon as I am able to get my hands on one set of combs, another one appears! And here I’ve been waiting for going on three months to use some. Too funny.

I am a very lucky girl to be surrounded by such a generous bunch of fiber folks.

These combs that I’m playing with now have been kindly loaned to me by Julie, a fellow spinner. They are double row Indigo Hound Viking Combs.
Indigo Hound Viking Combs

These guys aren’t as big and heavy as the John Meck English Combs, and they can be used with one in each hand, working one across the other, but they come with a little table clamp that you can use to hold one down while you’re dizzing off it, or I suppose you could use the clamp to work with one stationary like the other set. However, it’s not nearly as beefy a set-up. I suspect you wouldn’t want to put the little table clamp under a lot of pressure.

I do like these guys. They would probably work really well for most fleeces- liberating and veg and short bits (second cuts, anyone?) and giving you a nice smooth, silky top to play with. Can be a good upper-body workout, too- but do be careful, and don’t go nuts swingin’ those babies around. They are mighty sharp!

Though I’ve been truly captivated by the combs of late, I have managed to make some significant progress on the sweater project. However, the sweater is part of a “process” piece that I entered in the arts and crafts show at work, so I’m unable to photograph it right at the moment. (The show opens Monday. Perhaps I’ll go and take some photos then.)

But, since I have no sweater to work on until Friday, and it is truly a scary thing to not have a knitting project somewhere nearby, I am casting on again.
Instant Gratification project

This is the Merino/Silk that I bought just after Christmas as an instant gratification spinning project. Now it is the instant gratification knitting project. It will be a Seafoam Scarf, knit lengthwise. Simple. Elegant. Sorta like this one. That’s the plan, anyway. Let just hope there is enough of it to make a respectable sized scarf.

Stay tuned.

Combin’ Fool

Yesterday I went to a SpinDrifters meeting in Bellingham, and picked up some English combs that the group was kind enough to loan to me. I’ve been dying to have some combs since I saw Susan Forsyth demonstrate their usefulness at the SpinDrifters’ First Annual Spin-In last fall!

So here they are (BTW-these are not Forsyth combs- they have the name “John A Meck” on the case:
English Combs

Scary, eh?

Yeah, I thought so too. Brought them home and I was half inclined to just leave them in t their nice wooden case where they couldn’t hurt anybody. These guys are amazingly sharp, and the longest tines are about 6.5″ long.

But I also knew that they are probably the only thing that would help me tame the Lincoln fleece that I have had in my stash for about a year and a half. I bought this wool at the NW Washington fair in 2006, when I was just getting into this whole business, and was looking for fleece where ever I could find it. It is beautiful and silky- silver and gunmetal colored, with champagne tips. But it is somewhat matted at the skin, and there is veg about an inch from the tips that binds it all up. Early on I processed a small amount of this by pulling it apart by hand and then brushing the heck out of it with a flick carder,, but I’d since given up in this method and put it aside to deal with later.

Now it is later. And I have the right tools at my disposal. So here we go!

Here is the wool we’re starting with:

washed lincoln

And here we go with combing it out into something I can spin!
english comb in table bracket

First I pulled the locks apart a little by hand, because they were really bound up, and I don’t want to go using excessive force and somehow damaging these wonderful combs I’ve borrowed. Then I placed on of the combs in it’s holder, clamped to a table.

comb loaded with lincoln wool

Then I lashed on a few locks and worked from left to right, transferring the wool to the hand-held comb.
combs after the fisrt pass

Notice the waste left on the clamped comb. That has a lot of matted stuff behind it that just wouldn’t let loose. You don’t want to spin that anyway, so don’t feel bad about tossing it!

After a few passes, everything seemed pretty well sorted out, so with the wool back on the table comb, it’s time get out the diz and make a top, or sliver, or whatever you want to call it. (Completely off topic: In case you’re ever playing Scrabble and need to get rid of a Z, don’t try “diz”. It’s not in the dictionary. At least not mine. Maybe I just need a newer edition?)
dizzing top from comb

Isn’t this amazing? Beautiful silky lincoln top from matted locks. Sure you’re gong to loose quite a bit to waste- but a lincoln is a big sheep. Lots of wool to spare. No worries.
lincoln top and washed locks

And always remember to put the big scary combs back in their case when you’re done. One wrong move with these guys could do a lot of damage.

English Combs in case

(Those are more little combed wool muffins in the background. Aren’t they adorable?)

Ply Me a River-

So, since we last visited, I’ve been spinning up some of those little wool muffins (lots of them, actually), and I finally have something to show for it-

Romney Ram lamb 3ply finished

It’s a three ply, so it’s a little more labor-intensive, but I am really happy with how it’s turning out. (As an aside:Whenever I do a three-ply, I am reminded that you can never have too many bobbins. I thought 5 was enough. I was wrong.)

This is how Denise does three-ply:

Denise's 3-ply workstation

It’s really easy and surprisingly effective. Knitting needles (long, metal ones) and a shoebox. If you lay the box down on it’s back, the bobbins spin freely, but if you can stand it up at an angle (on the ends of the knitting needles) then the bobbins rubbing against the side of the box are kind of self-tensioning. Brilliant in it’s simplicity, eh?

Anyway, this is the yarn straight off the bobbin, before it got it’s spa steam treatment:
Romeny Ram lamb 3-ply unfinished
Romney Ram Lamb three ply 3-08

It was actually pretty well balanced, so he difference between this photo and the finished product isn’t all that dramatic, but steaming really does a nice job of setting the twist and kind of “plumping” the yarn. (and you don’t have to wait for it to dry like you would if you soaked it!)

The other tool in in the photo is my niddy noddy. It’s made of PVC. Totally cheap and easy. There are a lot of places on the web with instructions on how to make one- like here and here and here .

I used somewhat heavier PVC than these directions specify, and it works great. Very sturdy, slightly flexible, and super low-cost. With the money you save, you can go buy yourself another fleece. 🙂

Baa Ram Ewe..To Your Fleece Be True

The rain has returned, an I have been able to enjoy some time behind the wheel (spinning wheel, of course) lately. And that is great. But right at the moment, I’m actually enjoying doing fiber prep more.

I’m working on that dark brown (almost black) romney ram lamb fleece from the “Shearing on a Stand” demo (see previous post), and it’s really nice.

romney wool muffins 02-27-08

Sitting and flicking out locks and pulling fiber bunches into strips of roving really gives you time to think about the wool, and how the processing affects the final product. I really think that the best thing you can do for the wool (and the finished piece) is to process it only as much as absolutely necessary to remove dirt, debris, short bits, etc. The more heat and chemical agents (dye, etc) you apply, you more you take away from the natural beauty of the fiber.

Wool is a marvelous, malleable raw material and can be made into all sorts of things that are funky and fabulous and highly stylized, but I personally prefer to produce yarns that feel closer to the source, and let the best characteristics of the wool show through.

Romney Fleece 01-19-08

This wool has a lot of character. It’s dense and strong, crisp and springy. Not to mention the beautiful deep color. I love the caramel colored tips, but unfortunately they will not show up much in the finished yarn.

This would make a nice 2-ply sock yarn if I gave it a lot of twist, but I think I want a heavier weight, more lofty end product from this, so I’m going three-ply. I plan to do a “real” three ply once I get the third bobbin loaded, but in the meantime, here is a sample that I Navajo-plied as a test-drive:

two yarns 02-08
It’s the one on the right- Of course you can’t tell how nice and squishy it is from the picture, so you’ll have to take my word for it. I’ve been using it as my “thinking ball”. I just walk around holding and squeezing it.

More to follow-