combing for the first time

This week has seen me using wool combs for the first time and some of the nicest and most consistent yarn I've made so far.
The gauge is not only spot on, but I've been experimenting with colours. The black is the zwartbles fleece that I've been selling. I thought the yarn would be great for the trekking sock pattern in the background, but I've found that wool on its own wears quickly, so the middle grey section is with the addition of some mohair (I heard someone refer to this as 'nature's nylon' this week) and the top section is some brown shetland, again combed and mixed at the same time with some mohair. The decision is to make the socks using mostly the black zwart with the brown shetland mix as contrast colour / heel & toe.

So let's do this story backwards. I'm very proud of the yarn. Combing takes out shorter or tangled fibres leaving you with the best fibres arranged nice and parallel. (Known as worsted preparation.) Fabulous to spin. In my case there's a little grease left in the wool which also helps.
Short draw keeps the fibres straight and even. In this case quite a long short-draw worked well because the fibres are nice and long. With the combed wool drafting like a dream I switched to the faster ratio and have been working very quickly.
This pair of mini-combs has been knocking about here for a long time but drum carding makes such short work of fleece that I've not tried them before now. With lots of fleece around, curiosity got the better of me. Even with these small combs, I found that you can work with quite a few locks at a time.

You work with the empty comb at right angles to the static one and a sweeping motion. This transfers the long fibres onto the second comb leaving the rubbish on the first one which you remove. I've been repeating 4 - 6 times.
It pulls off the comb into a sliver which is ready to spin.

I love combing and am now in the market for a grown-up sized secondhand pair - if you can help, contact me!

The Frame-breakers

I read this blog post from Amy of Spin-Off magazine which made me think about the Luddites and their motivation. Wool and cotton mills and spinning and weaving machinery were broken and burned.

The recent distubances in London have similarities to the actions of the 19th century textile workers, but also some important contrasts.

'Luddite' is a term used about someone who has a fear of new technology. I think that's a bit unfair; the Luddites weren't simply afraid of technology and progress.

Unlike the young people in our cities recently, Ned Ludd and his followers were clear about their purpose. They valued their skills and employment and were fighting for their jobs and way of life. They believed in a skill-based economy and were resisting a move to automation and unskilled jobs.

Some were executed or transported for their actions.

Although it's not proved possible to halt automation and technology, we can't shake off connections with the past. It's clear that we still feel the need to develop and use manual skills to create beautiful and useful things.