Flip-flopping on fiber prep

August 23, 2012

Early on as a spinner I thought how fun it would be to spin fiber that started as a raw fleece. Then I washed my first fleece in the bathtub at home. It was a bag of wool that I got for free from a sheep farm in Vermont. It turned out to be lovely wool, but the washing process isn’t exactly exciting. Also, after seeing what was left behind in my tub afterwards, I wasn’t too thrilled about the cleaning up process after cleaning the wool. Not to mention that I was forbidden to ever wash another sheep’s fleece in the tub again.

Raw fleece will make a mess of your bathtub. Trust me.

Then I experimented with dyeing. It was interesting to learn some of the basics of dyeing and experiment with different colors and techniques. But I quickly realized that the mess and disruption in the kitchen wasn’t all that fun. I came to the conclusion that there are so many dyers out there with far more passion and talent for it than me, and I don’t have to clean up after them. So like washing wool in the bathtub, dyeing was simply not for me.

Dyeing is fun, but kinda messy.

I figured if the fiber was already washed and dyed I’d have no problems prepping it for spinning. Still unsure of how much of that I’d really want to do, I started small and purchased a set of hand cards. As it turned out, I really liked this aspect of fiber preparation! Soon after came the lovely bag of fleece from a sheep named Flora at the Foster Sheep Farm. Flora’s long lovely locks were just perfect for combing, and a set of 5 pitch English combs was added to my collection of tools. However, four pounds of wool is a lot to comb or card by hand. I wanted to do more and my thoughts turned to investing in a drum carder.

Fiber tools or murder weapons?

Unsure of what I should buy, I asked friends who own drum carders what they chose and what they liked about it, as well as what they didn’t choose and why. Several friends had suggested checking out the Fancy Kitty drum carders because of their lower price. So I did, and once I saw the options available and the fact that they were made right here in the USA, I was certain I’d found my drum carder. I immediately joined their group on Ravelry and began asking questions.

A packing brush was a highly recommended featureWith the help of Ron Anderson who makes the Fancy Kitty carders, we determined that a carder with 120 TPI on the carding cloth would be best suited for the range of fibers I would want to process with it. I like wools that some people would find too itchy but I also like softer fibers like alpaca and llama, and I’ve got a lots. I like blends of these fibers too, and was really interested in making my own, and the model I chose was perfect for the range of fibers I would likely use most.

With all that figured out, I was happy to place my order and by the end of the week, my new drum carder had arrived! My new drum carder quickly found a home on the table I set up for combing and carding. I haven’t had time to do much other than take it on a test run and make a couple of batts, but I’m absolutely thrilled with this new tool, and there are lots of bags of fiber just waiting to be prepped for spinning!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and I’ll see you next week with a bit about blends.

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