Don’t be scared, despite looking quite lethal this is not a torture implement, it is just a nice piece of scary-looking equipment designed to comb and fluff up fibres in a neatly ordered fashion.
With raw fleece, I haven’t always been entirely happy with the prep I obtained on my carders (rolags) or on the drumcarder (sliver of semi parallel fibres) with the Gotland especially. It spun up slightly hairy and even with low twist felt more wiry than the raw fibres had led me to expect. So I thought I’d try out another type of prep in the form of combing.
According to Anne Field’s Spinning Wool Beyond the Basics (1) ‘using wool combs does produce the best parallel arrangement of fibre’ which is essential for worsted spinning. Yet she doesn’t go on to describe the method, arguing that they are a very costly piece of equipment and that the method is thoroughly detailed in Peter Teal’s book Hand Wool-Combing and Spinning.
There are quite a few different types of combs, and you can read more about them and how they are used here. The ones I borrowed from my guild are English style combs, which means they come with a station which can be clamped to a table. Actually the box says they are Peter Teal combs, designed by the expert himself, they have been out of production for years and are considered to be the classics of the genre. Wingham Wool seems to be carrying a range based on the design, although I haven’t tried them myself.
I was quickly shown how to use them at the guild but I like to search for videos whenever I try a new technique. I’ve looked at quite a few different videos, and I think my favourites are the ones from the blue mountain handcrafts channel. The combs they sell look absolutely beautiful and there is much positive talk about them although I haven’t had the pleasure to handle them. Their videos on how to use all of their tools are very clear and simple.
I enjoyed the combing process and turning the fibers into a long roving through a diz, a lot more than I’d enjoyed carding. Maybe it’s all just a question of practice…
I’ll report later on how the combed fibres spin… At the moment I’m ever so slightly swamped and only managing to steal away a few hours a week for knitting and spinning, hence the lack of regular posting.
How about? what’s your favourite fibre prep tool or method? If you’re using combs already, do you have a favourite style?