Part 2: Equipment and Fibers

Section A: Fiber Prep Tools

Worsted Combs

Fiber for worsted spinning can be prepared in several ways but the most common hand technique is with wool combs. Wool combs come in many styles: large and mounted, small and mounted and hand-held in various sizes. Large combs hold more fiber but are heavy, must be mounted to a sturdy table or post and are typically used while standing (image 6.) Small combs are easier to store and handheld combs can be used nearly anywhere (image 7.) All combs have sharp tines.

The fiber must be treated to reduce static and flyaway during the combing process. Either the wool is first coated with a small amount of oil or a water-based solution is sprayed on during the combing process. This may be plain water, water and oil, or a combination of water and another substance such as hair conditioner.

English combs are an example of large mounted combs. Modern English combs come in pairs of two identical combs, generally with three to five rows of tines. More rows of tines spaced closer together are used for finer wools. Most English combs can be mounted with the tines either vertical or horizontal. Dutch combs are an example of small mounted combs. They have one or two rows of tines, one comb can only be mounted and the other has a handle. Viking combs are an example of hand-held combs. They have one or two rows of tines and come in sets of two identical combs. Viking combs are available in a wide assortment of sizes: fewer tines for coarser wools and more tines or two rows for finer wools.

Load the comb by impaling one end of a staple of wool on the tines, the other end hangs off the front of the comb. Continue until the comb is about one third full. If you want to maintain the direction of the fiber (cut end or tip end,) always place the same end of the staples on the comb. For many wools, it is easier to lash on with the cut end. You can also lash on randomly arranged fibers by "combing" the fiber onto the empty tines a small amount at a time. (Be careful to not catch your hand.)

Comb the fiber by moving the empty comb perpendicular to the loaded comb through the fiber ends only. Work from the outside in as the fiber is pulled from one comb to the other. Be sure to completely pull free of the fiber before starting the next stroke to avoid tangling. The tines of each comb should not catch each other but only go through fiber. Continue until only short or tangled fibers remain on the first comb (these are called noils.) Often it is not clear exactly where to stop, but look at the remaining fiber and decide if it is something you would like to include in your yarn or not. If it's not, then it's time to stop. You have now completed a pass. Remove the noils from the first comb.

Continue with another pass and as many more as needed until the fiber is combed to your liking — less to simply open up the fiber, more to produce top for worsted spinning. Each pass removes more short fibers. For Dutch style combs, move the now full comb to comb the fiber back on to the mounted comb. For English style combs, you may either move the full comb or exchange it for the now empty mounted comb. If you lashed on all the same end of the fleece, an even number of passes leaves the wool in the same orientation as when you started.

If you wish to use a diz, a small disk with a hole to control the size of the top, mount the full comb; it takes two hands to use the diz. Gather together the ends of the fiber and gently pull it off starting from the outside end. If you are using a diz, thread the fibers through the desired hole and hold the diz against the mass of fiber while you pull through it. For a smooth top, only pull a small amount at a time, about half the length of the fibers. The longest fibers come off first and as you get closer to the tines the fibers are shorter — continue pulling top until the fibers are too short for your yarn.

Some combers like to spin directly from a small handheld comb.


Maximum 12 points

Examiner 1: 12
Examiner 2: 12