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.
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.