Thursday, May 2, 2013

Just Enough Knowledge To Be Dangerous

When I was combing wool for the Sunday Stills - Hand Tools post a few weeks ago, I kind of enjoyed working with the combs and that wool, but was kind of beating myself to death doing it and once again thought "maybe this wool combing just isn't for me". 

I have a couple friends that are combing fools though so I figured, as with most things, I either didn't have the right tools for the job or didn't know how to use them correctly.  I happened to see a combing workshop at the Fiber Event in Greencastle just the next week so I signed up and hit the road.

The class was taught by Nancy de Caprariis of Sheep Street Fibers.  Not only was she an enjoyable and knowledgeable instructor, but she also brought a bunch of different sizes, types, brands... of combs and we tried them all.  That's exactly what I needed.  I ended up coming home with a smaller, lighter weight set of two pitch combs and a better understanding of how to use them.

This is a very special fleece I've been saving for several years.  It was from a dear Jacob lamb that was not with us very long, less than a year.  We had to have her put down when her kidneys finally failed and after the vet left I decided to shear her so maybe I could make something from/for her.


I divided her fleece into three main piles - mostly black, mostly white and some of each.


It was short to begin with and sheared through many tears, which didn't help matters any.


Under normal circumstances, no one would have thought to ever use this fleece.  I knew my only hope was combing.


Here I'm making a light gray blend.  I picked out what I hoped was the right color combination and placed it on the new combs.


Being by myself, I can't think of any way to show you exactly how the combs work so we'll just leave it as you use one comb to comb through the fiber on the other and the good fiber ends up sticking on the second comb...


...and the original comb is left with the ratty stuff, which you discard.


After a second pass through.  See how nice and neat and smoothly blended?  There are still some funky bits on the other comb so I discarded them and made one more pass.


Then, and I have no idea how to explain how/why this works, but you stick a tiny bit through a hole in your fancy handmade wooden diz that you can't find so you make a temporary one out of an empty plastic beer cheese container lid and start pulling and out comes a long piece of ready to spin "top".  Magic.

Did I mention the beer cheese container was empty?  Just checking ;-). 


Here I'm making a medium gray.


See all the bits and pieces and scraps of hay that's removed?  This would card terribly, but combed out...


...beautiful.


I mixed different amounts of black and white together and ended up with six different colors all from one sheep, Sunshine.  My plan is to spin this for a Kate Davies Sheep Heid hat.  I think the Jacob sheeps can give those silly Shetlands a run for their money ;-).  Ideally I'd like to have the yarn spun in time to enter it in the skein competition at the rapidly approaching Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival, but we'll have to see.

Speaking of the festival and different breeds of sheep, Deb Robson, one of the authors of  The Sheep and Fiber Sourcebook (yes, that awesome big red book) is teaching a two day workshop this year.  Talk about  some inspiration and better tools in your tool box! Here is a link to her class and several others interesting offerings. 


32 comments:

Bow Street Flowers said...

So, Sunshine is the special fleece girl? Aww. It must be hard to lose one.

Jean said...

I'm in awe! How wonderful that Sunshine will be keeping you warm! Such a lovely lamb we was!

Jean said...

Fat finger syndrome -- such a lovely lamb she was!

flowerweaver said...

Beautiful! A wonderful way to remember her.

Tombstone Livestock said...

Wow, maybe I need combs instead of sheep cards or drum carder, that is an amazing change. (But then the mill would not make any money off me) ..... Good Job, enjoy whatever you make, she was an adorable lamb.

Maybe you can get 20 or St. Tim to take photos next time.

Spinners End Farm said...

What a beautiful lamb she was. I'm glad you saved her fleece....she had more to teach you.

Alice said...

Perfect use for Sunshines fleece! The hat looks to be quite the challenging pattern as well as spinning 4 ply finger weight yarn! Nothing like the right tools to make it all happen. You are an inspiration!

Michelle said...

Thank you for sharing this. It gave me much more knowledge and I can see how time consuming it really is.

Willow said...

WOW such an interesting process. Also nice that you are honoring Sunshine in all of this.

MarmePurl said...

1. enter...you will win.
2. I love that hat.
3. combed wool has to be one of the prettiest sights ever.
4. Can't wait to see the spun wool.
5. Many thanks for showing us all of it.

Sheepmom said...

I didn't realize you had any fiber from Sunshine! This will be a wonderful project to showcase her wool. The hat even has little shapes like the Jacob head you made on the Jester Sweater. A special hat from a special lamb. Can't wait to see the project unfold.

Terry said...

Sunshine was adorable! I'm so glad you have her fleece, and I can't believe how well the combs worked. I enjoy carding (yes, I'm strange, lol) but I've never used combs. When I took spinning class, I think the teacher was afraid we'd hurt ourselves combing.

Tyche's Minder said...

That wool is gorgeous. I am also amazed at the combs.

Tyche's Minder said...

And the picture of Sunshine is really charming. She was beautiful.

majorasue said...

This makes me wish all the harder that I could find my combs (sweetie put them somewhere before he passed away 4 years ago. I'm still looking). Shearing after they've passed is hard to do, but makes the fleece all the more special. Had to do it twice in 10 days last month, but couldn't bear the thought of losing 2 gorgeous fleeces. What a special hat you will have! Love the color blending you did.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Wow she was a real looker..your hat will be special! :)

Linda said...

Wow, I'm super impressed with your combing process. I'm not so hot on carders etc but doing this on less than a big fleece would be something I would enjoy. Something I could do a little at a time. I might never spin it though because I would enjoy handling it in the combed stage so much. I have the book you mentioned so I think I'll do some reading in it.

Dianne MacDonald said...

Sweet Sunshine lives on. (and yes, I got the beer cheese hint - will see what can be done about that)
Dianne@sheepdreams

Wol 'n Draad said...

What a beautiful fleece! And what a cute lamb! I love the way the fleece turned out when you combed it. It will spin heavenly I'm sure! Enjoy!
Love, Ineke

Rebecca said...

I wonder if this is something I could try. I still haven't been able to afford a drum carder and carding is one of my least favorite chores. I will check into the combs and see. Thanks again for a lovely post. You make my day.

Christine said...

Hey, don't be dissin the shetlands! Your wool is gorgeous. I have a set of combs but I have yet to master them. I think I'll have to use them on the Leicester Longwools.

thecrazysheeplady said...

I too am having trouble doing more than just looking at it in the basket!

No dis - I love the cute little Shetlands ;-). My concern with this project is that they keep talking about how Shetland wool is so perfect for Fair Isle because it's "sticky" which helps with the patterning and you don't even need to weave the ends (?). Not sure if I'm going to run into trouble with the Jacob lamb fleece because it's not sticky?

Bandon, Oregon said...

Amazing.... Thanks for showing what combing wool is... the wool is Beautiful!!!!

Faith

Dreaming said...

The basket of combed wool is so inviting. It looks yummy. What a sweet way to remember such a darling little girl.

Andee said...

Oh that hat is going to be perfect!!! I love it. I am so glad you are such a pro with the combs know. I am still afraid of them.

Miha Giustina said...

Wow, amazing how the fleece comes to a new life as a perfectly color-coordinated basket of wool. Beautiful colors! Sunshine was a pretty girl. I am sorry you lost her.

Michelle said...

I have purchased the pattern and THINK i have enough Shetland spun; we should do a KAL! (I need the motivation and hand-holding....)

Mary Ann said...

The fleece is beautiful, but the lamb was a doll, too! Sorry you lost her.

Deb W said...

When you said a 'special lamb,' I thought it might be sunshine. I hope it's been long enough that you can work with the fleece without tearing up (too much)

Hmmmmm..... I wonder if anyone will have combs for sale at KSFF? That is one thing I don't have. What brand/description are yours? They look small enough to not be as scary as some, but big enough not to be toys.

Tree Hugger - Suzan said...

combed out - the wool fiber is lovely! All those different colors! And Sunshine ----- so sweet!

sheepsclothing said...

beautiful wool. I've been meaning to make one of those hats- such a neat pattern. can't wait to see yours!

Kim said...

I've never seen combs used before. I'm going to have to get some and try that. Sunshine was such a pretty little thing. So glad you could finally use her fleece.

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