This is not an official face off. More of musings whilst processing a fleece. While at Olds, once of my class member brought in his motorized drum carder. He made blending wool especially from commercial top look dreamy. My drum carder has been collecting dust for the pat 4ish years. I was carding heavily while I was still working with all of the Alpaca down in NM. Since moved, it has had no love.
This is largely due to the fact that most of my largish projects have been on my hand carders for my final projects or on my new love, my combs. I recently (June) purchased a fleece for this class I will be teaching. My original idea was that we would wash the fleece in the first day and then work on it in the subsequent classes. This thing being a week long event. I have since revised that plan with input from the sponsor and organizer of the event. I should just teach the same class each of the 5 days and let people float in and out as they have interest. This idea has a lot of merit because I want to get people drop spindling and one, four hour class is simply not enough. So now I need to process a fleece in about 3 weeks.
After Olds, I was convinced that Drum carding was the way. I pulled out my fleece and skirted it. Then I washed up a batch. I have learned so much since the first time I washed a fleece! Anyway, when I wash a fleece I take care to keep my locks in formation. No matter what method you choose after that, everything is smoother if the locks are still intact. Just take my word on this…. Really. I place my locks into little packets of window screen and pin them. Here they are all ready to go into the first bath of HOT (usually around 140 ish) water and some wool wash. My current favorite is Unicorn Power Scour as I found a bunch of samples I was given ages ago and have been using them up. First wash…. YUCK!!!! you can see how dirty this fleece was! I then put the fleece into two other hot water rinses. They stay in the wash and rinse waters for somewhere between 30-60 min ish…. Really it depends on how distracted I get and if I forget that I am washing wool…
Washed locks on window screen to dry. Usually, where I live this takes 24 hours ish or less. Because it is summer and there is very little humidity here. You can see the VM (veggie matter) in the pic above. Much of this fleece is a bit full of it. I have to admit it makes me cringe….
Which is where the combing vs carding thing comes in. First, as I said, I was determined to comb this stuff up on my drum. My drum should theoretically process wool faster than my combs. This made tons of sense in my head. Until I actually pulled it out and tried it. First of all, it took me hours to card the whole batch, which was just one batch. Secondly, the VM was pretty imbedded in the batt when it came off the drum. Thirdly, even when I attempted to “diz” the fiber off of my bat, it was really hard to make neat little rovings that would be helpful to new spinners. I was sort of surprised that it took so long. I felt that it should have taken me less time. I am thinking that part of my problem is that I have been combing for the past year exclusively unless using my hand cards for a project.
The VM is the problem. If the fleece were clean with no VM I think carding would be the way to go, even if initially it took me longer. I really probably could process more in a shorter time once I got the hang of it. Also time is a factor. I need to get this done. In the next two weeks before fair.
So I decided to see what would happen if I combed it. It turns out that I can comb some sliver in about 5 min… with less VM than if I card it. Now that’s 5 min per batch…. So It probably takes me around an hour-ish to comb the fleece I wash the previous day. However, the result…. AMAZING!!!
In the pictures above, I decided to load my combs with the worst of the VM fleece I had washed. Stuff I really wanted to just throw out. The second pic is what the fiber looked like after 4 passes through the combs. Not perfect, but much better. The final pic is of the wool dizzed off the coms into top. You can see that there is still some VM in it, but not like there was. Much if the VM falls out while combing and the rest gets stuck in the waste on the combs.
See that is the real problem with the drum, there is no place for the VM to fall out to. It just gets trapped and then makes the whole bat riddled with VM. Most of my little nests are not even as VM filled as the pic above. Because I can pick and choose which fleece I comb. I can do that with the carder too, but again the VM mostly falls out of the combs, to which my floor can attest.
I tell you, I am so in love with this fiber. It is a CVM fleece from the same grower that I bought Tipsy from last year. Just looking at those little fiber bundles makes me want to spin them into something divine.