Preparing Fiber to Use

Depending on what the end use of your fiber is, there are many ways to prepare a fleece for use. But did you know that there are many parts to a fleece? And– all those parts are not necessarily equal?

Camelid fleeces are separated into Blanket fiber (1st), neck, upper leg fiber (2nd) and belly, lower leg fiber (3rd) as they are shorn, so you know what you are buying up front.

However, wool from sheep and goats come all together in a bundle called a fleece. Some sheep have ‘full’ fleeces and some have ‘fleeces’, what is the difference? Well, look at pictures of a Merino and a Romney, then look at an Icelandic and a Cheviot. What is the first thing that that you notice? Right! The Merino and the Romney are covered from toe to tail to nose with fleece and the Icelandic and the Cheviot only have fleece on their body. You will not have head, leg, or tail wool from Icelandic, Cheviot or similar breeds. Most of the time when you buy a raw fleece it has been skirted to remove most of the ‘yukky’ bits – the belly, leg, face, tail and the worst of the britch or haunch fiber.

Parts of a Fleece

Parts of a Fleece

Parts of a Fleece:

  • Back- Less dense or strong than the shoulder
  • Belly- Fine, short, tender, may be felted, usually throw away
  • Britch or Haunch- may be course or strong
  • Head- Sometimes coarse, sometimes like the back
  • Leg- Short, irregular, dirty, poor, coarse, hairy strong
  • Neck- Fine, short
  • Shoulder – Best quality, often the finest
  • Sides- May be fine
  • Tail – May be course, dirty, kempy

What are you supposed to do with these different parts of fleece? Well, that depends strictly upon the fleece and what your project is. Some fleeces have very little variance in quality throughout, so you can just blend the entire thing together, others have a lot of variance so only the shoulder and part of the side will make nice yarn. The rest can be used for felting, rugs, or stuffing.

After washing, you have this wonderful pile of fluffy wool that needs to be dealt with. Now you must decide how to proceed.

Flick Card – Smaller than Hand cards the Flick carder is used to open individual locks from both the cut end and the weathered end.Flick carding is usually used on wool that is being spun in the grease to open the fibers so it can be drafted and spun.

Procedure for Flick Carding:

  1. Hold a lock of fiber in one hand on a protected surface.
  2. Quickly flick the lock from the center to the end in a snapping motion.Do not drag the card, just flick it.
  3. Repeat until the lock fibers are open.
  4. Turn lock end for end and repeat.

Hand Cards – There are several types of Hand carders.Hand carders are made for cotton (very fine-200 PSI), standard wool cards (fine-110 PSI) and course wool cards (coarse-60-70 PSI).

Instructions for hand carding.

  1. Lay one of the carders down (in your lap or on a table), place locks of wool across the teeth of the carder starting on the long handle side and ending with the locks draping off the other long side.
  2. Distribute the wool evenly across the entire card until you have a nice thin layer to work with. (your carder is now ‘loaded’).
  3. Hold the loaded carder in one hand with the handle pointing up and the wood paddle laying on your wrist.
  4. Starting about 1/3 of the way up the empty carder, place it on the bottom of the loaded carder and roll it up.
  5. Then, starting 2/3 of the way up the partially full carder, place it on the bottom of the loaded carder and roll it up.
  6. Then starting at the bottom of the partially full carder, place it on the bottom of the loaded carder and roll it up.
  7. All the fiber should now be on the ‘other’ carder.
  8. Repeat until the fiber is carded to your satisfaction.

Remove fiber either in a rolag (rolling from top to bottom) for woolen spinning or in a sausage (rolling from side to side) for worsted type spinning.

Drum Carder – There are many, many Drum Carders in the market place.The one you pick will be mostly a personal choice.Carders are used to prepare fiber (mostly) for woolen type spinning.

Using a Drum Carder

A drum carder is used to turn clean wool into batts, to blend different fibers, and to blend colors in dyed fibers. I have a Strums and Strums carder, she is old, but still works quite well.Using a drum carder is fairly simple, a couple things to remember are do not over load the carder and feed fiber in slowly.

When the drive band is properly attached, the crank is turned and the big drum rolls quickly in one direction as the little drum rolls slowly in the other direction.

Wool is fed into the tray and the drums open and aligns the locks and wraps most of the wool onto the big drum.

Feed the wool into the tray, controlling its intake with one hand while cranking the carder with your other hand. It won’t take a lot of wool to fill the big drum.

You will need a doffer to remove the batt from the big drum and a comb or brush to help remove excess wool from both the small and the large drum.

Once you’ve run wool through the carder, you may need to run it through again to fully open the fibers. Pull the new batt into two so that you have two roughly square pieces. Feed the first square through just like you did with the clean wool, then feed the second square through.Continue working until the fiber is what you want.

Combs – are used to align fibers for worsted style spinning.  Combs come in may shapes (mini combs, hackles, dog combs, etc)They work basically the same.

To use combs:

  1. Fill the whole width of the combs by lashing locks of wool onto the tines of one comb, butt or cut end first
  2. Now put another layer of lock onto the combs
  3. Gently comb the fibers by entering the tips of the locks with the times of the empty comb.
  4. Swing the comb from the left to the right so that the wool flips back over the head of the comb so it won’t tangle on subsequent strokes.
  5. Continue combing until all that is left on the first comb is short cuts and trash.
  6. Empty the first comb.
  7. Repeat steps 3 through 6 until you have neatly lined up all the fibers or the fibers are blended like you want.
  8. Now you can create sliver using a diz.

Where to now?