Black Friday Spinning

After being brutally knocked about all summer, Little Diana needed some work.   I spent an hour or so tightening, oiling, adjusting and tuning her all up,  then got to spin!

Since my whole thinking about this Black Friday thing is best summed up as “Screw that”,    I was dead set against going out on Friday – but my daughter wanted too, and she can’t drive yet.   Compromise – I drove,  but we only went to two locally owned small businesses.     She wanted to check out Sir Troy’s Toys, and for me we visited  Artist’s Gallery Yarn,   where I found a nice local hank of hand dyed Coopworth!

It was hidden in the back in the fiber room, sort of buried in plastic bags full of other fibers,  and I was delighted to spot it.   It’s got all these lovely sort of autumn wine grape colors.  I  practiced my woolen draw to spin some reasonabley consistent sock yarny sized singles,  and then triple plied it.   Yield – approx. 60 yards of extremely bulky yarn.

After spinning it looks like this –





A Tale of Two Wheels

I saw in the old antique mall two histories

Two old spinning wheels, the same in birth and form.

So differently polished by time that the light of each

illuminated the other.

I haven’t been able to identify a specific model,  but I’m fairly certain it’s an old Kromski  –  they looked like a cross between the Polonaise and the Symphony,  and had that distinctive sliding mother of all that Kromski’s do.  They also had direct drive setups – the flyer and bobbin all in one solid piece,  which I’ve never seen before.

It was really fascinating to be able to see both of these wheels at once, and compare the different conditions they were in.     One was very little used,  but damaged in some pretty serious ‘no more spinning for you’ ways – most notable a broken off flyer arm.   The kinds of damages that come of not being used and being carelessly stored.

The other was extremely worn,  and had a number of obvious repairs,  but was still in excellent working order –  it just needed a new drive band.   I turned the wheel by hand, and it spun as smoothly as if freshly oiled.


The Great Grey Fleece project.

As I talked in about in an earlier post, I have this large longwool fleece that I am slowly processing and spinning. It’s not a great fleece, but I’m fond of it because it was my first fleece purchase. It’s a fine exercise in patience and thoroughness in process techniques. I’ve started working on it every day. I comb enough to make six bird’s nests of combed top, and stick the combing waste in a sack to card later.

The combed top I am spinning on Sakura, a 0.8 oz Spinsanity that I got a few years ago. I spin in the morning and afternoon, using up the birds nests I combed yesterday, and then in the evening I comb more. When not being spun, the fiber and spindle hang out together in a nice bin I have.

From Spinning

Every few days, I sit and pick over then card the bag of waste from combing, and spin the rolags fresh off the cards. It’s good practice for the woolen draw, which I am working on learning to do well. I can really tell the difference between the rolags where I’ve been nitpickety about the fiber the ones I haven’t. I”m learning to be more selective about the fiber I choose to process, and what is just not worth the trouble. It’s a fun project.

A couple of skeins.

I’ve been trying to learn to spin with the woolen long draw on my spinning wheel recently, and just finished my first full long draw spinning project.

From Spinning

This fiber was a Rhinebeck purchase – 4oz of Shetland wool combed top from Gnomespun Yarn, in their Heart of the Green colourway. It didn’t like being spun worsted at all, and since I’d been watching Abby’s video recently, it occurred to me to try spinning it woolen, and that worked very well. The large skein is about 120 yards of very bulky thick and thin two ply — the small one is approx 20 yards, a sample skein from the end of my spinning, after I got better at the woolen technique. It’s a much more even 2 ply, and closer to a standard worsted weight. I don’t have WPI on either of them. Woolen is a neat technique, and very fast spinning. It’s well suited to wheel spinning, though now that I am getting a feel for the technique, I can see how one could spindle spin woolen. It definitely needs a great prep in order to spin well.

I also recently finished spinning this:

From Spinning

It’s a BFL/silk fiber that I’ve had and been slowly spinning here and there for years. I finished the singles sometime this spring and finally got around to plying and washing it in July. Spindle spun worsted draw, about 350 yards of a light sport or sock weight. No WPI here either. It’s lovely stuff, and reminds me of ponds and marshes with the greens and browns and rusts. I cannot for the life of me remember where the fiber came from. A swap package, I think.

I’m still working out how to take good photos with my new camera. Or rather, *if* I can take good photos with the new camera. The evidence so far is inconclusive.

If I didn’t have cheap-ass rechargeable batteries….

…you’d be looking at my own picture of my new toy, instead of this one. As soon as I get my batteries recharged, I’ll plug in my own picture. This one is from the shop website.

Maine Fiber Spindle Kit

I got my first bottom whorl spindle, in a spindle kit from Maine Woods Yarn and Fiber — I love Etsy! Tons of great hand crafted stuff, including plenty of fiber artists, and my blog buddy Sarah’s shop — her bags are divine.

I really wish I knew what kind of wool the white top is — it’s lovely, and sheepy scented, fairly long staple length, and smooth smooth smooth. Partially it’s the combed top preparation – but the wool is not like anything else I’ve spun — it seems almost like Lincoln, if Lincoln were really soft. I hope I can figure it out!

Done and done.

I finished spinning my Cormo – here’s the final tally.

1 lb. raw Cormo fleece yielded 10 ounces of 4ply cabled yarn, approx 400 yards total. It is a heavy worsted weight, about 8WPI, and will eventually be a hat and mitten set for me. The six ounces lost is partly due to washing – this was a a very lanolin rich fleece – and partly due to sampling and leftover bits. I probably have about 10 or 20 yards of singles, 2plies, and sample skein hanging about.

And here it is:
Finished Cormo.

3 large skeins, and one little one, which is ten yards, and not included in my yardage above.

I also sat down and did a little organizing work on my spinning stuff. I took a fiber sampling class a while back, and came away with a box full of top and roving samples from about 20 different fibers. With my usual laissez faire attitude, I stuck it on a shelf and ignored it, until yesterday.

Yesterday I pulled the box down, laid out all the samples, pulled out the singles sampler I had spun during the class and my little note card, and labeled everything. Now I know what I have, and can refer back to it when ever I want to know what someone else is talking about.  Gods willing, I might even refer to my samples for oh, say, designing spinning projects.

Fiber Samples

I’ve got a nice range of fiber – bombyx and tussah silks, several rayons including milk fiber, and a wide range of wools from Optim stretch merino to Lincoln (which is startlingly like dolls hair). I’ve also got some yak in there, and a bit of possum/merino. Fun stuff.

News of the day.

I have finished carding and spinning all the Cormo.  The last two bobbins of singles are waiting to be plied,  and once they are plied I can spin the final yarn, and then the Cormo will be done.

I have made a Navajo spindle for the Navajo spindle class I will be taking in October.  It cost about ten dollars to make,  including buying a seven dollar drill bit.

I am knitting a round pink and white dishcloth – it is the first new knitting I have done this year.  Everything else has been stuff that was on the needles in January.

I have decided to comb as much of the sweater fleece as I can, and card the rest.  That will give me two yarns, and between them I should have plenty to make my sweater.

I am trying to decide how to process the Jacob I have.   Probably I will card it, because it has a very short staple, and the black and white locks have different staple lengths.   I will blend some, and keep others black and white.

What I’ve been up too.

This little silence of the past few days has been due my being deeply occupied with making and playing with some new wool combs.  It’s the most involved woodworking project I’ve done in a while, and has been keeping me agreeably busy.

I decided I needed wool combs after processing the Cormo I’ve been working on —  my sweater fleece is a mixed breed longwool,  with a 4-5″ low crimp staple,  while my Cormo has a staple length of about 3″ and an extremely fine crimp.   The Cormo is pretty much ideal for carding, and having gotten a chance to work with it,  I realized how unsuitable for carding my longwool fleece is.

So,  I hunted around online and on Ravelry,  and found Loxoceles’ plan for making wool combs.    A trip to the hardware store later, I had everything I need to make a version of these basic wool combs.

An oak plank, some wood glue, some finishing nails and some epoxy.   I also indulged in a number of little wood working toys that I didn’t really need,  but wanted, like new sandpaper and some little clamps, etc.

Here is my plank clamped to the table and posing with my handsaw.  You can see the baseplate I just finished cutting next to the epoxy.

I had to figure out what size wood pieces I need, and the nail spacing for the tines. Once I had the wood cut, I matched the nail size with a drill bit, and went to work with the drill press, drilling out the comb heads so I could put the nails through them without splitting the wood. This took three attempts to make two comb heads, since I did split the first head.


Here are the nails ready to be put through after drilling, and the finished stationary comb clamped and drying. The nails are driven through the headpiece to make the tines of the comb, and secured with epoxy. I then chiseled a bed for it in the base plate, and woodglued it together.

Ready to seat.Clamped and drying

I did the same thing for the moving comb, except that instead of a base plate, it got a handle. It’s really rough, since I just knocked it out with a chisel and rounded and sanded it a little to avoid splinters.
Here is the finished comb pair, stationary and moving.

The finished set.

Wool combs are pretty straightforward to use — I actually find them easier tp use then cards, because they seem to need less skill to make a good spinnable product. They do produce a lot more waste then the cards do, though. But the waste from combing is good for carding, so it’s not a complete loss.

The stationary comb is clamped to the table (I need better clamps – these ones get in the way and slow down the combing process):

Clamped down.

Then the stationary comb is loaded with fiber, a process called lashing on.

Locks lashed on.

When the stationary comb is loaded, you take the moving comb and hold it crosswise in front of the wool, and rake it across the tips of your locks in a horizontal motion. With every pass you move the comb deeper into the locks, pulling wool onto the moving comb as you work. Eventually you are sweeping the moving comb across the stationary comb touching or almost touching it (this is where my clamps got in the way – I couldn’t get so close), almost all of the wool is on the moving comb, and what is left on the stationary comb is short knotty waste.

This it what it looks like in the middle of a combing:

In the middle of lashing on.

You then return the fiber to the stationary comb in a similiar process, but this time moving the comb in vertical strokes down past the stationary comb. Still holding the comb crosswise, and still starting at the tips of the fiber and working deeper until almost all the fiber is back on the stationary comb.

This process removes the shorter fibers from the wool by leaving them as waste on the almost empty comb — how much waste you decide to leave is up to you, so you can comb for only the longest fibers or for a more mixed blend. Combing also aligns the fibers fairly neatly, so that they will pull close together when spun, and make a single with a smoother more rounded surface but less air in it then carded fiber.

When you are finished combing a load of fiber, you then draw it off the comb in a long piece, much as if you were drafting to spin. I don’t have a diz yet, so I didn’t use one.

Drafting off

The prepared fiber is called top, or combed top (which seems redundant to me), and since my combs are small and make small amounts, I coil them up into little nests. This one is all ready to be spun from, and will make a fine tight worsted single.

The birds nest

Freshly made handcombed top is the most pleasurable thing to spin that I have ever laid my hands on. It it light and airy and flows like water through my fingers.

Wool work.

I’ve got the second skein of cabled cormo finished, and tucked up with the first. I wrapped this one on my 2 yard niddy, and it’s made a very pretty skein indeed.

Today is a carding day – I finished picked over the last of the Cormo last night, so it is all fluffed up and ready to card. I’ve got two bags now, one of neatly fluffed locks, and one of rough fluff. The rough will make worse rolags, so I am carding it first, and saving the pleasure of the locks for ending with.

So far, it’s going nicely – lots of neps and VM to take out, but that’s okay.