Fiber Preparation
for Spinning

by THL Lucia Thaylur

Terms you should know:

Woolen: fibers are arranged in a criss-cross fashion and may be either carded or combed to produce a very warm and lightweight yarn.

Worsted: fibers are arranged in a parallel fashion (combed) which produces a sleek yarn showing good definition in the finished product.

Combs usually have either one, two or more rows of teeth. My preference is using two row combs. They weigh less than the English combs and help eliminate veggie matter as well as second cuts (both will pass thru single row combs).

Combs are sharp-use care when handling and never leave unattended around children or pets.

Puncture wounds should be cleaned immediately with soap and water. Call your doctor if the wound becomes infected.

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1. Natural brown corriedale, dyed merino, natural white Romney
2. Commercial preparation teal: top (aligned fibers), white roving (crossed fibers)
3. Hand dyed Tussah silk top
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4. Line flax purchased as ready to spin
5. Sheared Angora rabbit
Combs and Cards
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6. Combs left: Valkyrie Viking combs, right: Louet mini combs
7. Strauch curved back fine wool cards
8. Top: cat brush, bottom: Strauch flick card
9. Dog combs
How to use a dog comb
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10. Start combing at tip and work towards hand
11. Reverse lock in hand, comb cut end
12. Prepared lock ready to spin
Hand Preparation of Silk-needs no further combing or carding
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13. Split silk top lengthwise into small sections
14. Starting at one end or other: grasp silk top with hands placed 6-8 inches apart
15. Move hands until thumbs touch
16. Quickly jerk hands apart-will make a popping sound.
Work your way along the length of the section-popping fiber every 6-8 inches
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Using a flick card
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17. Grasp cut end of fiber and hold firmly, start brushing tip of fiber.
Work your way up the locks to thumb, reverse lock and brush cut end.
Hand Combs
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18. Lash cut end of fiber onto comb
19. Fill comb less than half full
20. Hold full comb in left hand-teeth of comb should be facing upward. Grasp empty comb in right hand with teeth facing away from you (will make a right angle to stationary comb). With teeth of comb aimed for tips make first pass thru the fiber. continue making passes until all fiber has transferred to the working comb.
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21. Place full comb in stationary hand and get ready to start over. Please note: there is a great deal of controversy whether to continue by reversing the process and combing right to left or by combing from floor to ceiling. In all honesty, I've tried it several different ways and found it makes very little difference in the finished product so suggest doing what feels comfortable to you.
22. Continue combing fiber until fiber is passing freely from one comb to the other with little to no resistance. The small pile of fiber in front of the comb was removed during the combing process. Makes great cat bedding and can also be used for felting utility items.
23. To remove combed fiber place hands near teeth and begin pulling a small section from center. Pull out 3-5" of fiber. Let go of the section you pulled out and grasp fiber near the center of the teeth and pull another section.
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24. Continue pulling, releasing and starting over until all fiber is removed from comb. the sliver removed from the comb can be spun as worsted. To make woolen yarn
To make woolen yarn
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25 thru 27. Gently spread fiber out on flat surface. roll into a loose sausage shape. Sausage may be stretched and rolled several times or can be spun after first roll.
Combing line flax
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28. Begin at tips of stick and work you way thru the bundle.
29. Small section combed out. Haven't found much use for the waste and haven't bothered to try and spin it.
Hand cards
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30. Begin by placing fanned lock onto outer edge of card
31. Add several layers
32. Left hand is stationary and right hand does the work. Begin by making short passes thru the tips of the fiber
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33 thru 35. When all fiber has been transferred from stationary to working card, begin process over. repeat as necessary. there are several ways fiber can be removed from cards. Easiest I've found is
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36. Grasp small section of fiber and pull away from card.
38. Fiber can be spun as is or you can gently spread fiber out
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40. Start on long edge and roll loosely into a sausage shape.
41. Loose roll which can be spun as is or
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42. Attenuated (gently stretched out to full length)
To make a simple wrist distaff
43. Gently wrap attenuated fiber loosely around wrist
Assorted spindles
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44. Assorted spindles...always fun to collect. The stick and rock usually generates interest!
45. My personal preference is for top whorl spindles but not for spinning flax or silk.
46. Winding on the first length
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47. commercial tow top. Couple of passes with a dog comb and it's ready to spin.
48. bottom spindle: silk spun at 98 wpi, middle spindle: cotton spun at 60 wpi, top spindle, tow flax spun at 66 wpi

Further Reading:

Gibson-Roberts, Pricilla A., High Whorling. Nomad Press. 1998. Cedaredge, Co. 81413. ISBN 09668289 0 9 A very good book for beginners, author covers tools, fiber preparation, spinning techniques, plying and finishing techniques.

Editors: Spin-Off Magazine. A Handspindle Treasury. Interweave Press. 2000. Loveland, Co. ISBN 1-883010-85-3
A fun book filled with easy ways to learn spinning. Features tools (including spindles) which can be made from items readily found around home. Comprehensive coverage of all forms of spindles from top and bottom whorl to supported spindles (Navajo and Takli).

Photography by: THL Donegal

Last updated: 11/23/2006