Tag Archives: fiber prep

Ask Nancy: Fiber Prep

Ask NancyGot weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about fiber prep; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

Q:

I have a ton of fiber (most of it very dirty) that I need to get carded so I can spin it. I do have wool and cotton carders, but the problem is that I now have some shoulder and elbow issues, so the carders are a little bit hard. I’ve looked at drum carders, but they are very expensive and it seems like you still have to really prep your fiber (plus you have to crank it), so it may not work for me. I like processing the fiber myself; I don’t want to send it out.

From what I’ve seen of combing from videos, it appears to be a little easier on the elbows than carding. If I can clamp one comb to the table and then use two combs (one in each hand), I should be able to get it done fairly quickly.

Would you agree that combing is easier physically, or just as challenging as carding? Can you recommend some combs, please?  I have wool and alpaca (very dirty) and also lots of cotton that I grew myself, so I will be processing both short and long fibers.

A:

All fiber prep will be wearing on the hands, wrists, and shoulders. If you are finding carding tiring, you will find combing to be equally so; there is no prep technique that will not have your arms screaming to be put down after half an hour. There is also no such thing as getting it done quickly; even with a drum carder (and there we have expense and still needing to hand-crank the thing), the best rate that you will get is about a pound an hour. Hand carding or hand combing will yield you about 4 ounces an hour, at best if you are lucky. The best strategy is a mental one; one is prepping for the enjoyment, it is all part of the game, and all things in moderation.

For alpaca, fine double-rowed wool combs are the best; they will also help get the debris out. For wool, you don’t mention the grade or length, so it’s a little tough to advise on that; but probably fine single row. For the cotton, cotton hand cards are best; the fiber is really too short and challenging to hand-comb at home. Hope this helps!

Q:

Hello, I have been spinning for a few years now but have always had my fiber processed by a mill. This year I have a fleece from an older alpaca I want to play with carding myself. What size or rated hand carders would I need for Alpaca?

A:

For most alpaca, cards in the 90-110 range will do just fine. In size of cards, the full-size are always going to be the most efficient. If you have any wrist or hand issues, then scale down to the student-size or even the minis, to give your wrists a break; though efficiency will suffer.

Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for more answers to your fiber and weaving questions! In the above video, we talk about the differences between combing and carding; click here to see more videos in the Ask the Woolery series.

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Guest Post: Things I learned from Rosie with Jacey Boggs Faulkner

jaceyThis week’s guest post is by none other than Jacey Boggs Faulker, editor of PLY Magazine. She has spent the last decade falling in love with fiber, writing a book (Spin Art, Interweave, 2012), writing for various fiber and spinning magazines, producing a spinning DVD (Sit & Spin, 2009, self), and teaching all over the world. We are very much looking forward to the PLY Away Retreat happening in Kansas City, MO next Spring, which the Woolery will be sponsoring! 

We recently sent Jacey our new Rosie Blending Board to try out, and she was good enough to put together her thoughts to share with our blog readers. Enjoy! 

All the best,

Wave, Perri & the entire Woolery team

I learned three things this past week. The first thing I learned is that I hold (or rather, held) the belief that because I’m good at many fibery things, I will have an immediate affinity for all fibery things. This assumption of skill was previously an unexamined and not-too-attractive part of my psyche. It’s been corrected now.

The second thing I learned is that I’m not always as good as I think I’m going to be at everything.

The third thing I learned is that blending boards are fun, but like all things, they do take time and practice.

Let me go back to the beginning. I got a big box-of-beautiful in the mail from one of my favorite places that sends big-boxes-of-beautiful – the Woolery. You know the feeling, right? The anticipation, the excitement, the quick rip of tape, the reverent unwrapping of plastic, and then you see it, your most recent fibery purchase. In my case, it was a Rosie Blending Board, some yellow merino wool, a few packets of sari silk waste, a yellow silk cap, and a bit of sparkle. My plan was easy – I would master the blending board and make perfectly blended rolags right off the line.

I have seen other fiber lovers use blending boards with laughing faces, unfurrowed brows, and beautiful results. I assumed I’d be just like them. I assumed I’d somehow morph into somebody having Gwen Powell–like blending board talent in no time, blending the perfect ratio of this to that, making stripes, and rolling my perfect rolags off at an angle.

I was not, and it was nobody’s fault but my own.

I invited my best fiber friend, Christie, over so I could show her the glory and magic of blending on a board (instead of the handcards she and I have toted to fiber classes or the drum carders that get shuffled back and forth between her house and mine).

blending2

I set up the station before she arrived. I didn’t even practice because I wanted her to see it all unsullied, fresh, and pristine. I didn’t do any research, read any manuals, or watch any videos. Like I said, I assumed success.

I immediately grabbed some fiber, loaded the board to the tips of its tiney teeth, and rolled it off. There, I thought, no problem, that was easy. And after pushing and pulling with all my might, I finally got if off the wooden dowel and held out my first board-blended rolag for Christie to ooh and ahh over. She did not ooh and ahh; she grimaced and then guffawed. Christie thought it looked like a giant mustache rather than the delicate fiber it was, destined to be spun. I didn’t disagree as we both bent over in peals of laughter.

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

After a few more attempts (I’m embarrassed to say exactly how many), she suggested that maybe I was putting too much fiber on the board. If you’ve ever used a blending board, you probably spotted that problem right away. She also said that I might be wrapping it too tightly around the dowel. Then she whispered that maybe there was a YouTube video that I could watch before I tried again. 

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

Less fiber and not rolling it as tightly as was humanly possible went well. Perhaps it was because my first few (many) were such a mess, but I was as proud of this rolag as any I’d ever made. 

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog! I went on to make several that were more and more on the good side of the rolag–giant mustache continuum, and after I did a little research, read a few blogs, and watched a few YouTube videos, I managed a few that I even want to spin.

So if you’re considering a blending board, for portability, cost, and ease of rolag construction, I can say this:

The Rosie can deliver all of these things – it’s super light and portable but also sturdy and comfortable to use. It’s very affordable and, once you understand a few simple things, very easy to use.  And finally, the super fine blending brush it comes with is super nice!  I couldn’t stop touching it!

Don’t use as much fiber as I did. Seriously, my first few rolags weigh in at over an ounce while the latter ones are an eighth of that weight. What was I thinking?

Don’t roll the rolags as tightly as possible. When I did this, even the rolags that would have been decent took so much abuse as I pushed, pulled, and screwed them off the dowel that they were a disheveled and misshapen mess.

Don’t assume just because you’re a great handcarder or drumcarder, or have skill with any other fiber work, that you’ll immediately make perfect rolags on a blending board. This isn’t the fault of the tool or you; it’s just that it takes a bit to grow and fine-tune a new skill. 

Read instructions and watch videos. Other people have tons to teach, and we should never forget that we each have tons to learn.

Fun with Fiber - check out Jacey Boggs' guest post on the Woolery Blog!

As for Christie and me, we’ve got another date with the blending board, and this time, we’re going to be ready!

Picking, Grinning, and Heavenly Handspinning!

King Edwards, a Border Leicester at Windsor Wool Farm.

We are just back from the Kentucky Sheep and Wool Festival. We brought back big bags of beautiful Border Leister Fleece from Windsor Wool Farm, a fourth generation family farm. These fleeces have lovely long locks that are just begging to be washed up and run through our new pickers.

Pickers look like some sort of medieval torture device, but they will quickly become one of your favorite fiber tools, particularly if you are trying to process an entire fleece.  They open up the locks and make combing or carding a dream!

Spinning Wheel Spotlight: Heavenly Handspun!

Now that you have gathered your fleece; picked and carded it; you are ready to spin! Meet Heavenly Handspun, one of our newest additions to our spinning wheel line up. These budget-friendly wheels work with bobbin lead or Irish tension. The drive band goes over the wheel and bobbin and the take up is controlled by a brake on the flyer.  They have two styles of electric spinners and two types of drive wheels: the clever bicycle wheel and the beautifully engraved wooden wheel.  All of their wheels are light-weight and easy to move around.  Simply put they make spinning heavenly.

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team!

Get To Know The Drum Carder: New Video!

Abby (center) talks about twist.

Last Saturday was one of those days that makes us feel very lucky to do what we do. Hosting Abby Franquemont, one of spinning’s greatest treasures; and Otto and Joanne Strauch, makers of Strauch drum carders had the store hopping. We all learned something new.

Many of our regulars joined us for the day. Among others, were Liz with her new Sidekick; Tavia with drop spindle in tow; Moe who is a regular in classes. It is such a pleasure to watch students emerge from a class brimming with excitment and new knowledge.

While Abby was teaching a very full house, Otto and Joanne were giving demos on their Petite and Finest Drum Carders.  We know that many of you were not able to make it to the shop. We wanted you to still be part of the day.  Here is a video of Otto and Joanne giving us an introduction to the drum carder.  It is brimming with information on how to turn use a drum carder including lots of tips and tricks.  They show us how to transform fleece into light and airy batts ready for the spinning wheel.  Whose in?

Chris, Nancy, and The Entire Woolery Team