one of the most important things i learned at SOAR was that fiber prep not only matters, but it also guides what sort of yarn you can get from your spinning.
there are two major kinds of fiber prep. you can do both at home, have either done at a small mill depending upon what equipment they have, or you can purchase commercial wool that has been processed in one of these manners. the two ways to process wool are to comb the wool, which produces combed top or just top or to card the wool, which produces roving, sliver, or a batt.
carding: carding is done in one of three ways – hand cards, as pictured above, drum carder, or larger piece of machinery that is somewhat like a drum carder. here’s what the hand cards look like on the other side. although i plan to show you how to use hand cards here sooner or later, the main thing to understand about carded fiber is that the wool is brushed, but the fibers are not completely parallel and they contain some shorter pieces of wool still, called noils. in other words, they’re jumbled up a bit. if you want a smoothy smoothy yarn, this preparation is going to be working a bit against you. the benefits of carded prep include the ability to trap heat, obtaining lots of loft, and it’s an affordable way to prepare fiber at home.
these are my samples spun from roving:
here’s a closer view. click all sizes for an even better view.
combing: to make top at home, you need a set of wool combs, which i’ve yet to purchase. in this process, you comb out all of the short hairs and noils, leaving a very sleek, parallel tube of fiber. i got to try this for the first time in one of my classes and quite enjoyed it. the benefits of combing are high stitch definition, slicker, smoother wool, and top is a very nice smooth spin because all of the noils have been removed.
EDIT: i was reminded by lauren’s comment that i totally forgot one of the major benefits of combed top: wool spun from it is stronger and longer wearing. thanks lauren :)
here are my samples spun from top:
and a closer view. click all sizes to see it even better.
so the question for the spinners out there is, what sorts of fiber prep have you tried? any one in particular that you favor? any roving or top (i.e. merino top, carded corriedale…) that you keep going back to again and again?
i might favor carded fiber just a bit. you know me and the rustic woolie appeal ;) although smoothy drapey bfl is also pretty dang yummy…