Last time I shared some common tools that can be used when prepping fiber. And while I also shared the common outcomes for using those tools, the pictures I shared were of the tools. Today I want to show you some outcomes of the prepped fiber and how I sometimes mix up the intent of a tool.
No matter how I prep or play around with prepping, I have some basics I follow… The first step for me, after I make sure the wool is clean and lanolin-free, is to open the locks a bit. You don’t have to do this, but I find hand carding and combing to be easier on my hands, and I even enjoy the process of open locks. It too is relaxing for me. Keep this in mind as you are doing any form of prepping - carding or combing should be done in such a way that your hands, shoulders, and arms do not ache or become sore. I also recommend taking a class if you have the opportunity. It helps to have someone “live” to show you and watch how you are using the tools – especially in the beginning. Plus, you may find some like-minded folks who will enjoy learning and prepping with you in the future. I believe there are still a few openings in Tammy Jordan’s Fiber Prep 101 – All You Need to Know class.
When I open locks, I use a piece of art leather I picked up – it happens to measure 8.5” by 11”, not expensive and so worth finding a piece. I place it over my thigh – to protect my pants, but a table top, or TV tray works too. Then I lightly hold one end of a lock, brush the other lightly until the tips “open” or ends are not matted together. Note: I open both ends for either drum or hand carding, but generally only open the tips for combing. I tend to use a pet brush as my tool to open locks, but a small flicker works well too.
Note 2: when I am prepping and/or spinning and I notice static in the wool I have a little spray bottle and use one quick squirt to address the static. Sometimes I add a drop of an essential oil – like tea tree or lavender to the water in my sprayer (not directly on the wool, but through the sprayer.)
In this photo of prepared fiber, you can see differences right away – and I’m not referring to color. The largest prepped fiber is from a drum carder. You can see that the drum carder produces the largest volume. And while carders produce woolen preparations, I oriented my locks all the same direction, tips facing out. When I ran the fiber the second and third time through the drum carder, I stripped the output longways, and ran it through the drum carder as parallel as I could. The striations from this preparation show that the fibers are primarily running parallel, which is more of a worsted prep. I was trying to demonstrate that with some practice and care, you can get an end result from a drum carder that more closely represents the worsted prep. However, combs do a better job of pulling out, or “wasting”, the inferior fibers and different lengths of a lock. The fiber used in this batt is also a fine, or lower micron count fiber, [learn more about Micron count] which usually excludes that type of lock from being prepped on a drum carder. The drum carder used for this prep was designed to “play well” with finer, more delicate fibers.
The charcoal looking preparation was produced using the combs. After I combed the fiber, which was an inch longer than that used on the drum carder and a higher micron count, I used a diz to pull the fiber and make the nest. It looks airy, but that is mostly because of the way I wrapped it after using the diz. It is very soft to the touch and as my fiber friends say, “spins like butter”. If you’ve spun from a true worsted prep you’ll get that. While I did use a longer fiber, it was a fiber more commonly used with carders because of it’s coarser structure. Again, this was for myself as I wanted to see how it would spin using a different prep orientation and it was delightful. I love the yarn I have produced using this method.
The longer tube looking prep, or rolag, was from hand carders. I tend to load up my carders with too much fiber, so this may not be a prime example of a rolag, but I was also using a finer fiber, pushing my carders to see how the woolen prep would spin. I had more nubs to contend with when I spun because I used my hand carders and not my combs. It made a lovely yarn, albeit a bit tweedy, but again, was pleased.
I hope these last two articles are inspiring you to try your own preparations. To even try new approaches as to which fibers to use/try with a tool. Remember it’s okay to explore, and especially to enjoy your fiber!