It’s time to see what happens when we combine tools! For this tutorial I have a fiber kit that contains the following fleeces: cormo, rambouillet, alpaca, FDT (finn/dorset/targhee x), and kid mohair. I’ve also included a variety of add ins…silk, firestar, and nylon. This type of fiber prep will produce a fluffy mass of fiber great for woolen spinning and more textured thick and thin arty yarns.
I start by running my fleece through the mini-picker in small handfuls to open up the locks and remove some of the VM if any is present. To catch the fiber I place a plastic tub or laundry basket just below the end of the picker where the picked fiber comes out. As you can see, the mini picker has a very small foot print and is only taking up half of my fold out sewing cabinet.
Once the fleece has been picked to suit me I break up my add ins and mix them by hand in with the picked fleece. Once this is done I feed handfuls of the fiber mix through the picker to blend the fibers more. You can run this fiber mix through the picker a few times to blend the fibers and colors more but I chose to have as much color definition remain as possible so I only ran my fiber mix through once.
After my fiber has been picked I take it in handfuls and wipe it onto the blending board and burnishing until my board is full. I then begin to create my rolags by lifting the end of the fiber off the board, placing one dowel rod behind the fiber and one in front rolling the dowel in back over the one in front. From there I draft and roll until I’ve rolled all the fiber off the board into rolags.
The finished rolags and yarn spun from them:)
So, we’ve been over making rolags in videos, now it’s time to look at making mini batts and blending fibers on the blending board.
To demonstrate batt making and blending at the same time I’m using superwash merino mill combed top and various add ins (silk, bamboo, firestar, nylon, etc)
I first lay down a layer of my top on the board and then lay down my add ins with my second layer of top going down last. For this tutorial I sandwiched the add ins between the two layers of top to keep them somewhat “locked” in the fiber. Normally, for mini batts, I would lay down some add ins first so they show on the outside of the batt and then more on other layers as I built the batt.
To remove the mini batt from the blending board start from the bottom (always start from the bottom) and either peel your batt carefully off of the board or roll it off of the board using two dowel rods but without drafting while you roll as you would with a rolag. The mini batt will “poof” a bit once off the board. After removing the batt, I tore it into strips lengthwise as you would for spinning. I then tore each of these strips in half mostly so I wouldn’t have the “tails” catching on the carding cloth of the board while I worked. With the 2 halves of a strip in one hand I reload the fiber onto the board. Once a I have a layer down I burnish and repeat until I have about half of the original batts worth of fiber on the board. I find not packing the board full when blending works better. Please note: when blending this way your fibers will not stay in their nice neat vertical alignment unless you are very meticulous. I’m not so my fiber will be a true woolen blend.
I repeated the above process 3 times and as you can see the fiber is pretty blended though not to the point of being all one color. The more you “peel off and reload” the fiber the more blended it will get. It does take considerably more time to blend fibers this way than with a drum carder but the upside is you can do it while watching TV;) After the final loading of the board I laid it down on my table to remove the batt…again, this can be done be peeling it off the board from the bottom and working your way up OR rolling it off without drafting.
So, how many people noticed that this isn’t Ron’s original blending board used in the tutorial?? Yep, he’s come out with a larger table top model whose cloth is 18” long!!! I found I can still use it in my lap but I need more “elbow room” due to it’s extra length. I am able to put more fiber on this board and I seem to be averaging about 1.6 oz per board though fully loaded and packed I can get 2 oz on it at a time.
Here’s a little tip for you all that wash your own fleece that you may not know about. If you have a fleece that has VM in it, after washing and spinning the water out take a hand full and hold it by your finger tips and shake the heck out of it before putting it on your drying screen or whatever. You’d be surprised how much VM will fall out. I generally set up a screen just for shaking over to catch any fiber that comes off the bit in my hand and to catch the bulk of the VM so I can sweep it off the screen and put it in the trash. Be warned, the VM will fly everywhere so either wear goggles, turn your head, or shut your eyes when you’re shaking. You will end up with VM on your clothes and even in your hair if you do it right;) If you do shake out your fleece before drying it it will dry faster BUT it will not stay in perfect lock form. I find doing this helps significantly reduce the amount of VM in a fleece though it will not get it all out but it certainly makes combing faster since there’s not as much junk to comb out. Here are two examples of my shaking……
Grab a hand full and shake…..I find an up and down motion works best, but that’s my preference. Example #1 is using Rambouillet.
Kid Mohair fleece…..with silky curly locks shaking is a bit tricky since it doesn’t stick together like wool, smaller handfulls work better.
This is my favorite combination of tools to use together....the Comb and Hackle set with the Art Roving Hackle. With the Comb and Hackle set I can comb and blend whatever fibers I like and "park" them on the Art Roving Hackle to diz off later and in larger quantities than I could on the stationary hackle alone. In this tutorial I am working with merino and rambouillet fleeces and for a little added luxury, some silk.
How one loads the Art Roving Hackle will determine the look of your fiber. As in the previous tutorial, if I loaded the Art Roving hackle in sections of a single color I could get a gradient or self striping top. In this tutorial I opted to go with a top that will have ribbons of color in it.
In the picture above I have loaded one layer of white rambouillet, a layer of pink merino, a layer of silk, and another layer of white rambouillet. The Art Roving Hackle will comfortably hold four of the 2 handed large combs worth of hand combed top and still be easy to diz off of with minimal waste. My final step is to comb some of the merino in teal and layer it onto the Art Roving Hackle.
I now have 4 layers of hand combed top on my Art Roving Hackle and have fluffed up the fibers to within approx. 1/2" of the top of the tines which are 5" tall. Since I want ribbons of all the colors in my dizzed top, I will be dizzing across the face of the hackle to gather a bit of each layer. Since my rambouillet is a bit shorter than my merino and silk I want to get in closer to the tines (within approx. 1/2") to ensure that I gather the shorter fibers as well as the longer fibers while I diz.
dizzed top wound into center pull cake
As you can see, after dizzing hand combed top there is very little waste and I was able to get a gorgeous "ribboned" effect in my dizzed top with a thin layer of pink silk running through it.
We're back! Our tools are made as a sort of "family" so that they will work together. In this tutorial I'm going to show how one can use our Art Roving Hackle in tandem with our Hand Combs. This would also work with our Blending Hackle which I still don't have but we won't go there;) Today, I'm using some natural cormo fleece that I will blend with some romney fleece dyed in greens to make a self striping hand combed top. I'm only doing one hackle full for the tutorial but, obviously, one could make the top with several color repeats by using the Ellis Technique as shown in a previous tutorial.
Using the Art Roving Hackle as a "parking station" for my fiber, I simply load my hand comb and comb until the fibers and colors are blended to my satisfaction. Since I want to do a self striping top, I load all of the fiber from this combing onto the same section of the Art Roving Hackle rather than spreading it out across the entire hackle. I found that the Art Roving Hackle will comfortably hold approx. 4 hand combs worth of fiber before I need to diz. As you can see, I've filled it up pretty well with 4 combs worth of fiber each in a different shade of green.
Since I'm using only hand combed top with this demonstration I am able to diz across the whole face of the hackle without worrying about getting to much waste. I do not do this when I'm using mill combed top as I find that I get way to much waste. So, I start on the right hand side of the Art Roving Hackle and work my way across the whole face of the hackle. Very little waste!
I was able to get a gorgeous top that changed colors in a sort of gradual way since when one gets to the "cusp area" between two colors you're dizzing off a bit of each until you move further into the next color. After dizzing I hand crocheted my lovely fiber into a braid and the color changes are a bit easier to see. Now to spin it!
I've had a few requests on the best way to separate a double coated fleece using our tools. Sounded like a good excuse to purchase another fleece to me:) I got this lovely double coated Shetland fleece from Diamond B Sheep Farm. The longer coat is approx. 5-6" and the shorter softer coat is approx. 3-4". I played around with the tools and found 2 ways of separating the coats that worked well for me and were fairly simple. Please note: I will not be going over how to load the combs or hackle nor will I go over the basics of dizzing.........this information can be found in previous tutorials.
I found both methods worked well and I could see the difference in the two coats once separated in both staple length and softness. As bonus I have a nice fleece to play with and spin up for myself:)
Yep, I'm still waiting on a Blending Hackle...Eric is a busy man! In the mean time, I thought I'd post about how the 2 Pitch Stationary Hackle that comes with the 2 Pitch Comb and Hackle Set (and can be purchased separate) can be used as a Mini Blending Hackle. Gotta love versatile tools! I'm going to save the "how to" of blending fibers for the Blending Hackle tutorial and instead cover some information concerning dizzing.
In this tutorial I also want to show the difference between working with mill combed top and working with hand combed top which applies when working with any hackle. The difference is mainly in the amount of waste one will get depending on how much you pack the hackle and how you diz. For the first set of fibers I've chosen to work with I have faux cashmere, superwash merino, bamboo, firestar, and tencel.
Dizzing across the face of the hackle using mill combed top.
The first step is to load the hackle. Again, make sure you do not load more than half full when packed down gently as stated in previous tutorials. After loading, fluff the fiber up to within about 1/2" of the top of the tines. To diz across the entire face of the hackle, I gather up the fibers on one side of the hackle from top to bottom and twist the end together to feed through the diz. My lovely diz and threader set is made by Yarndemon Designs! I gently pull the fibers and push the diz up working in a rythmic motion from right to left across the hackle face. As you can see, dizzing across the entire face when using mill combed top leaves a fair amount of waste due to the various fiber lengths within the mill combed top leaving the shorter fibers behind. I was able to diz off 0.43 oz of spinning fiber and was left with 0.23 oz in waste.
Dizzing from the bottom corner using mill combed top
To diz from the bottom corner we're loading exactly the same as we did before. In the bottom right hand corner gather up some of the fiber and put it through your diz. Begin the rythmic pulling of the fiber and pushing of the diz working your way slowly to the left. I find the the fibers up top will migrate down to where I'm dizzing though not all so once I've gotten over to the left hand side I slide the diz up and continue dizzing to the right. As you can see there is not as much waste when dizzing from the corner to start as there is in trying to diz across the whole face of the hackle. I ended up with 0.47 oz of spinning fiber and 0.12 oz of waste.
Dizzing with hand combed top
Again, same process of loading and dizzing as above only this time for the bulk of the fiber I used some hand combed BFL/Romney X fleece. I was able to diz off 0.50 oz of spinning fiber and had 0.05 oz of waste fiber when I was done. Granted, I did not load the hackle with the exact same amount of fiber weight wise with each example, I was "eye balling" it, BUT you can still see the diffence your dizzing method makes in combination with the fibers you choose to work with and how much you pack on the hackle.
So, are you ready for the Hand Combs tutorial?? I had to show off the hand combs Eric made for me out of Maple with Purple Heartwood back caps......drop dead gorgeous!
As you can see, the hand combs are much smaller than the large 2 handed combs used with our stationary combing hackle. I generally use these to comb or blend small amounts of fiber if I want to see how a particular blend will come out before doing it in quantity on the comb and hackle set. They're also great for sitting on the couch and combing with while watching TV or taking to spinning groups and guild meetings.
Eric shapes the handles in such a way that you can get a really good grip on them.......much better I think than the round handles.... and there is a "knob" at the bottom to help prevent slipping. At any rate, they are very comfortable in the hands. The hand combs are very good for combing very fine fibers as well as short fibers but I've combed most everything with them from medium fibers to silk blends. Please check the Hand Combs page of our shop for the technical specs. In this tutorial I am going to blend some curly BL/BFL locks that have some VM in them with a fairly clean FDT (Finn/Dorset/Targhee X) fleece, both of which have approx. a 5" staple. My add ins are bamboo and faux cashmere for color.
To load the comb I take one in my left hand and lash on fleece/locks much like I do with the comb and hackle sets. Due to the fibers I'm using I was able to load 0.5 oz onto my left hand comb. I would not suggest loading your combs more than 1/2 way when packed down gently and I find loading them slightly less than half way gives me less waste. We all want to comb off as much fiber as we can at one time but just remember the more you pack on the more waste you will get and if you pack on to much you'll have a hard time combing it off. After loading, fluff up your fiber to within about 1/2" of the top of the tines. When combing a few different type of fleece or locks together I will load the fleeces on first to comb and blend them and remove any vegetable matter or second cuts before I add fibers that are "ready to go" like my bamboo and faux cashmere.
Combing & Reloading
To comb the fibers from the hand combs I hold the left comb upright (tines pointing up) and use the right hand comb (my empty comb) to comb off the fiber starting at the tips and working side to side. When you are ready to comb some from the opposite side flip the left hand comb so it is pointing down, comb a bit off and flip it back. Just a tip, I find having my thumb on the back of the "working" comb helps my grip and I have much more control over the comb.
Continue this until you find you're not getting much more fiber off the comb. Due to me loading the comb with the fiber going in all directions versus loading individual locks all going in the same direction, I will comb off the back side of the left hand comb on this first pass only. This will grab some of the good fiber on the back side of the tines and loosen up what's in the front so I can comb off more there.
After all of the fiber is combed off of the left hand comb I remove the waste and brace the comb against my knee reloading it with the right hand comb with a side to side motion exactly like I do when reloading the combing hackle flipping the comb every few times to get both sides. You can also hold the full comb and comb off of it side to side as you did in the beginning with the initial combing. I prefer to reload the comb as if it were a hackle but this is just a preference on my part.
So now our BL/BFL locks and FDT are blended it's time to add the goodies!
I load some of the blended fleece on to the comb and then put a layer of "add ins", add more blended fleece then another layer of "add ins". After this it's just combing and reloading until you've blended the fibers to suit you.
There are several different ways I use to get fiber off of hand combs. If I intend to card the fiber I've combed or want to spin from a cloud I will pinch a bit from the ends and pull it off in little tufts. You can diz without a diz (this is my favorite method) by bracing the loaded comb securely between your knees and from the top right corner (or where ever you prefer though I think the top works best) gather a bit together as if you were going to use a diz. Then, with your left hand thumb bracing the comb at the top of the tines gently pinch and pull your fiber in short draws working your way across the comb and down.
If you prefer to use a diz brace the comb securely between your knees, gather up a bit of fiber from a top corner and diz across and down. I find this much harder to do as I can't hold the comb tight enough between my knees. There is much more "pulling" on the comb when using a diz because it wants to catch more fiber than you would in the "no diz" method.
Ready to Spin!
And here's the lovely blended fiber all ready for spinning. I was able to get .36 oz of spinnable fiber with .14 oz in waste using the hand combs. Again, the amount of fiber and waste you get greatly depends on the fiber you are working with, how much you pack on the combs and your method of combing.
Okay, I know I said I wasn't going to post another tutorial until May but Eric had to go and create a new tool set and totally screw up my schedule. I think he did it on purpose, he's rascally that way you know ;)
So, we'll be combing with the 2 Pitch Comb and Hackle set in this tutorial. For specs on the 2 Pitch set please see the listing in the shop. For the most part, it is exactly like combing with the 4 Pitch Comb and Hackle set so I won't be going over a lot of the Basics or techniques........please refer to the previous tutorials on the Comb and Hackle sets for this information.
The 2 Pitch sets do not have recessed clamp areas. Your hackle should be clamped to the edge of a good sturdy heavy table as shown. Remember, if you can't hold on to the hackle and pull the table the hackle probably isn't clamped tight enough. Having the hackle come off the table while combing is not fun........don't ask how I know this!
The 2 Pitch Comb and Hackle set is well suited for shorter fibers (3 1/2" and shorter) BUT will comb longer fibers as well. Due to there being only 2 rows of tines, you may have to make an extra pass or two to remove all of your vegetable matter if is there quite a bit of it. For this tutorial I decided to comb a cormo lamb fleece with a 3" staple and some lovely Pygora fleece with a crazy long staple of 7+ inches when stretched out.
We load the 2 pitch hackle the same way we do the 4 pitch. I'm treating the pygora much like I would alpaca and loading a little less (volume wise) on the hackle than I would if I were combing wool since it's not "springy and poofy". Fibers that are not "poofy" are easy to overload on the hackle in which case you get more waste than is necessary so it's best to not load as much. Again, we comb from side to side and reload just like we do with the 4 pitch set.
With the cormo lamb's fleece I pack the hackle about half way when gently pressed down, fluff it up and comb. I forgot to mention in the other Comb and Hackle tutorials that with the finer wools (merino, cormo, rambouillet, etc) you can get nepps.......little pills or balls of wool.......when combing. To minimize this, or eliminate them all together in some cases, do the initial combing off the hackle first. After you have all the wool on your comb lightly mist it with water before loading it back on to your hackle. You will probably have to do this a few times as you are reloading the hackle. You do not want the wool wet just barely damp. Our tools have stainless steel tines and will not rust so it is not necessary to add anything to the water. The static electricity created from the metal of the tines and the action of combing causes the fine wools to "spring back" toward the tines causing nepps. I have no problem with nepps when I keep the fiber lightly misted and it dries quickly after dizzing.
Dizzing off the 2 Pitch hackle is the same as dizzing off the 4 pitch, start in the bottom right hand corner and work your way across and up. Remember dizzing does take practice and some fibers are easier to diz than other so don't get discouraged!
With both the Pygora and the Cormo lamb fleece I loaded 1 oz onto the 2 Pitch hackle. The pygora had almost no vegetable matter but did have a few matted places due to me not being able to keep my hands off it when I was washing it, it's lovely stuff! The Cormo had some vegetable matter as the lambs weren't covered. Both fibers were clean and beautiful after 2 passes (combed off the hackle and reloaded=1 pass) and each had exactly .02 oz of waste and .08 oz of spinnable gorgeous fiber.
Cormo lamb's fleece and pygora fleece combed and ready to spin!
In the final tutorial for the Comb and Hackle set we are going to blend various fibers....fleece, locks, and "add ins". I have chosen some gorgeous cormo lambs fleece, kid mohair locks, firestar, crystal metallic, bamboo, and silk in spring colors.
The cormo lambs fleece and the kid mohair locks each have a little vegetable matter in them so to begin I'm loading some of each onto the hackle so it's just a tad less than full to save room for the add ins we'll be adding later. I combed the cormo and kid mohair out twice (2 passes) to remove all of the VM. The more you comb the fibers the more blended they will become.
When reloading the hackle for the last step of the second pass I only loaded a small amount from the comb and then added one of my "add in" fibers. I continued this layering process until all of the wool had been transferred from the comb back to the hackle.
After all of the fiber was transferred and my layers in place I combed the fiber out one more time blending all of the add ins with the blended cormo and kid mohair and transferred it back to the hackle. One could continue to comb and blend until the fiber was all one color. I preferred the subtle hints of pastel against the white and so only combed once to blend in the colored add ins just a little. After blending simply diz off as instructed in our previous tutorials.
There are almost countless ways to blend fibers on the comb and hackle set depending on what type of preparation for spinning you want. I do suggest combing any fiber that contains VM separately to remove the VM before adding other fibers as I did above. If your fleece/locks have no VM go ahead and load your add ins with the fleece and blend it. If you'd like streaks of a definite color running through the fiber you could layer and load your hackle and then diz skipping the pass that blends the colors. Play with with, be creative, and have fun!
Yarn spun from top combed and blended in this tutorial and plyed with cormo.
NECESSARY WARNING: The tines are blunted on the ends but still sharp and will cause injury unless all due caution and care are employed in their use and storage. Please do not use these in close proximity to others or pets. Do not allow others unfamiliar with combing to use these without direct and constant supervision. Do not allow children of any age, convicted felons, former presidents of the U.S. or other questionable individuals to use or have access to these. Please store them immediately after use to prevent inadvertent injury to yourself or others.