I'm back and I have no new injuries! I think that in itself is something to celebrate. Yesterday I started using my new combs and I think I'm doing pretty well. I've never actually seen anyone combing fibers before, so I got out two of my books that cover the subject: Alden Amos' Big Book of Spinning
and Deb Menz' Color in Spinning
. I do hope to actually see combing demonstrated at Maryland Sheep and Wool
because I'll probably learn all kinds of things that I'm doing wrong, but for now, the books and email tips from Janet of The Wheel Thing
(where I bought the combs - she's been EXTREMELY helpful, very quick on emailing hints and suggestions) and the Spindler's group (helpful in all things fibery, not just spindles), are helping me along. So, I promised pictures of what I did and here they are, except where I kind of got carried away with the combing and forgot to take pictures, but I got the beginning and the end and some of the middle part.
Step One: Make sure I'm properly caffeinated. This is important. I walk into walls without caffeine. And I don't notice that I've walked into them. Safety first!
Step Two: Make sure I have something to comb. All I had around here that was ready to comb immediatly was some dyed Mohair locks. I got them off eBay in November of 2004. I had no idea what I should do with them. They were pretty and they were spinnable. Ebay should come with a warning to new spinners - if you don't know what it is, and you don't have anything to process it into a spinnable form, don't buy it just because its pretty. I know that you can spin the locks into a yarn, letting their little curly ends stick out and have novelty yarn, but I've never tried that either. OK, so I sorted out the locks into general colors (clockwise from top left: pinkys, purples, greens, yellows) as you can see below. Step Three: Clamp comb holder/pad to counter. FYI: I got the Walnut combs and they are a black walnut, they just look lighter in the photos here. Step Four: Get the combs out of the holder part of the thing and stick one in the pad, anchoring it with the pretty walnut handled spike thing. Note the Steel Needles of Death are now out and ready to poke unsuspecting people. Double check caffeine levels at this time. Step Five: Lash some locks onto the combs. This is a fancy way of saying to stick some fiber on the combs. Don't poke your fingers while you do this. I think I was putting the fiber too far back on the combs too. I'll try to keep it just barely behind the combs today. Then you turn the comb sideways in the pad and comb it with the other comb. You kind of start it at the tips of the fiber and work your way towards the stationary comb. Here is a picture of a partially combed puff of fiber (I'm sure there's some wonderful term for this, but I don't know it - we'll call it a Puff in Progress or PIP today)I've turned the comb back upright so you can see the PIP better. Supposedly, the combed fiber will transfer to the mobile comb, leaving behind only short cuts, noils, and other things you don't want in top. I ended up with about half of the fiber on each comb and only found short cuts, noils and other things as I was dizzing the fiber off the combs. I think this is related to the amount of fiber behind the combs. So basically, I keep combing, back and forth until the PIP looks really well combed (or in my case, like a pink afro on the comb since there were some static issues yesterday) - yeah, this is where there are no pictures. Then you draw the fibers off the combs through a diz. If you look at the second picture, you'll see 3 dizzes on the left side of the picture - a cat with holes in him, and two shells with holes. The holes are the important part. You kind of gather up the PIP and pull a little through one of the dizzes and essentially draft the fiber off the combs, pulling on the fiber, pushing the diz back towards the comb. What you are pulling off is called top (which refers to the top quality of fiber that results from combing). My top is pretty wispy which I think is related to my lack of experience with the whole combing/diz thing, but as you can see from the picture below - its spinnable! This is what I got from the pinky pile of locks and the yellow pile of locks. I'm going to give the purple locks a go today (and maybe the green depending on time) and see if I've gotten any better at this. I've also got to track down some washing bags since I've got alpaca, llama, and some undyed, yearling mohair locks that I could also spin, but all of these are raw and need washing. Stay caffeinated!