Preparing a Fleece for Spinning

Beginner’s Series: Wool – Part 3

After you have washed your fleece and it’s all squeaky clean, you need to get it ready to be spun into yarn. There are options for doing this, but thankfully not too many options. It’s pretty easy to decide.

From The Lock

First option is to spin it from the lock. If you look at your fleece you’ll see that the hairs are sort of clumped together into standard-sized sections. These are called locks. If you’re gentle, you can pull one of them apart from all the others.

Fluff up the “tip” end, which is the part that faced away from the sheep. Usually it’s all stuck together. All right. Now you have a little, very short, roving. Very very short. This method is really only recommended for sheep with a looooong staple length. Like a four inch minimum.

If you want to go this route, but you’re having trouble fluffing up those ends, you can get what’s called a “Flick Carder.” It’s the little one in the lower part of the picture. Here is a great demo on using it.
But be warned. For any spinner, this sort of video is rather like grocery shopping when you’re hungry.

Hand Cards a.k.a. Hand Carders

Second option, moving in the direction of cheapest to most expensive, are hand carders. They are the little gizmos that are all around the flick carder. A brand new pair runs from $55 up. I got mine for a lot less, but they were very old and aren’t holding together so well. A downside with hand carders is that they are rather heavy, and if you card a large amount of wool (or go nuts and do it all afternoon long, like myself) they can cause blisters on your fingers and make your wrists ache.

A less expensive option are dog combs that look like this. These work best for coarser, high-crimp wool.

Here are a few little videos that show how you use hand carders. It’s quite simple. Notice that she doesn’t load the carder clear to the handle, only about two thirds of the way down. The videos are over on the right hand side, and the text/picture version is in the middle.

The Big Ones

Third option is a drum carder. These babies run from $300 up and are really geared toward those who will be processing a lot of fiber. My favorite brand is Strauch. And although I have yet to possess a drum carder (my wallet passes out at the thought) it’s definitely the brand I’d pick. I recently got to play with a drum carder that was less “main stream,” so don’t think those few brands on the website are the only ones available!

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a nice, complete video demonstration on how to use these. If you’re like me, you want to know what parts of the drum carder do what, and all the little details of how to get a perfect batt, and I have yet to find that type of video. If I had a drum carder I’d make one myself. This video is the best one I’ve found for giving an overview of the process.

There you have it. Those are the main three. There is also something called “combing” the fibers. It’s rather like hand carding, but I’ve never done it. Here is a little info to get you started.

Tomorrow we’ll get into the different forms of processed fiber.

One Response to Preparing a Fleece for Spinning
  1. Sunsun
    September 12, 2009 | 4:52 pm

    Thanks for such a useful information!!

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