Preparing fleece without carders:
One of the biggest drawbacks to spinning is the cost of basic equipment to get even a free fleece into a spinnable condition.
Second hand drum carders, when they appear generally go for in excess of $250.00,and hand carders can set you back $60.00
a pair. So what do you do if you are new to the craft and want to experiment a bit to see if you actually like it?
The cheapest wool combs on the market are your fingers - a bit crude, perhaps, but the results can be stunning!
Firstly, dealing with that free/inexpensive fleece: unless the fleece is hopelessly tangled and dirty, or several years
old with the lanolin and other oils set solid, with
patience you can separate out the individual locks with your fingers.
Hold the lock in your hands, and gently separate the individual fibres so that they fluff out. The fluffier
the better as it lets more air in and your spun fibre will be much better, and warmer. As you go, you pick out the bits
of seeds and other vegetable matter, commonly called VM. When one end of the lock is done, turn your attention to the other
end and do the same. There are many spinners that only ever do this to their fleece, and they spin the most marvellous and
award-winning yarns. Its quite surprising how much fleece you can prepare of an evening in front of the TV!
You will probably find that the ends that have been weathered are dirtier and drier than the end that has been clipped,
but that once you have the lock fluffed out, it can be difficult to tell which end of the lock is which . If the weathered
ends of the lock are too dirty and glued together you can trim the dirt off with scissors.
As for the dirty and daggy bits - if you don't want to put your hands on it, you probably don't want to spin it! It makes
excellent mulch and fertiliser for your pot plants or veggie patch. And remember, the lanolin is excellent for your hands!
Commercially prepared tops or roving, or already prepared rolags can be mixed and blended with other fibres and/or colours,
to make something similar to the blends you see for sale. This again is something you can do in front of the TV of an evening.
With a towel or piece of cloth over your lap, sort your fibres out. If you want to go hitech, weigh them, then divide
the piles into smaller amounts that will be blended together before blending the whole to make sure they are evenly distributed.
You need to keep the amounts of each fibre in balance in each batch you process.
Take a small piece of top or roving of each fibre, about 5 inches, hold both ends and gently tug so that it comes apart in
the middle. Place the pieces on top of each other,
and holding them between your fingers, gently pull until the fibres form a small roving. At this stage, if fibres of one
colour or type have bunched up, you can separate them out with your fingers to make them evenly distributed. Then again pull
gently on the fibres until they come apart in the middle. You keep repeating this procedure until the fibres are blended as
you want them, then carry on doing the same to the next batch, and so on. If the colour varies from the beginning to the end
of the process, you may want to re-divide the roving and go through it again to even it up.
If you want a heathered or variegated look to your yarn, you will not want to blend your fibres too much, but it is possible
to blend the fibres sufficiently to change the colour of the roving you are handling. This is useful if you have a colour
you don't like, or is too bright, etc. You can tone it down by adding natural fibres such as Moorit (brown) or grey and making
sure that the fibres are evenly blended. Or you can use small amounts of a bright colour to highlight a duller colour. If
you want to add little specks of pastel colour, you can use bits of coloured cotton wool balls drafted in with your wool,
or try adding bits of fabric trimmings, felt, and other fibrey
materials to create a one-of-a-kind yarn. If you still don't like the colour, you can overdye wool, silk and nylon using
food dyes from the supermarket.
This method is ideal for small amounts of fibre; I have blended up to 50 grams this way, but if you are considering larger
amounts, I do recommend finding a set of hand
carders - second hand ones are readily available and they really are not too expensive new if you intend to continue with