Yarn made from combed top and worsted draw

I bought some wool combs a few weeks ago and I now have some of the best yarn I've ever made.

The black is some Zwartbles, the white is a cross owned by a friend. I thought that the wool combs would zip through some of the fleece I've had stashed for some time. In fact it's quite labour-intensive work, but the resulting 'top' is such good quality that spinning it is incredibly quick and makes really smooth consistent yarn. I found that I liked making a very fine single and then a true 3-ply for a nice dk yarn which I can use in a colour-work project maybe.

Despite the worsted preparation and worsted draw, these are also the lightest, squishiest, elastic skeins I've made. The black in particular stretches almost like a rubber band. I put that down to the crimp in these fibres. Making thin singles and the 3 plying may be the secret of the lightness. I used the same zwartbles fleece for this jumper which is very dense and heavy.

There's nothing in this picture for scale, but the combs are mahoosive; swinging one is like wielding Thor's hammer.

Next up - colour blending. I'm going to try mixing these locks to make a grey.

the Appleton-le-Moors Alpaca Back to Back Challenge

The weekend of 9 and 10 May saw the Appleton-le-Moors Back to Back Challenge, possibly the first back-to-back involving alpaca fleece.

The concept is simple; the fleece makes its way from the animal's back to a person's in the shortest time possible. The modern challenge involves a sheep's fleece, a team of eight people (including the shearer) and a target of eight hours. The record stands at below six.

The Appleton challenge was a less formal event with the aims being to spend a weekend bringing together the local and wider community, to promote the alpaca industry, to demonstrate the crafts involved and to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
John and Katrina Lane's three alpaca were sheared in a public demonstration on Saturday morning.

The carding team used drum carders to blend the various colours together. Time didn't allow for washing the fleece. Alpaca don't produce lanolin, but the locks hold a remarkable amount of dust, a lot of which dropped out during the carding but there was enough to cover the spinners and knitters.
 The team of spinners, one on plying duty, started spinning at 11:45 with the first stitch cast on around half an hour later.

 The knitters continued through Saturday, with the jumper being sewn up Sunday afternoon. Raffle tickets were sold for the jumper and time allowed to make a matching pom-pom hat and scarf, which were also sold at the celebratory supper on Sunday evening.
The event was a huge success in every way. Everyone involved had a great time, people were inspired to learn to spin, the jumper was finished during the weekend and an amazing amount was raised for Macmillan. The final figure is expected to exceed £4,000.

English combs and worsted preparation

I recently managed to buy a set of what I believe are Martin Hills combs. A couple of weekends away have meant that it took a while before I was able to watch this series of four videos and then set about some washed fleece (risking life and limb in the process, those tines really are huge and sharp)
You'd expect these mahoosive combs would eat through fleece in no time, but it took much longer than expected. In her videos, Amanda makes half a dozen passes of the combs, pulling out a rough roving half way through. I'd spun some of the same fleece previously using mini-combs which were even slower work and I don't think I took anything like as much trouble.

But when you spin, you discover that the time spent has been an investment. My roving, pulled through a diz, was already fairly thin. The combs leave you with the best and longest fibres and they're very well aligned. I had to do very little work, it actually felt like cheating! With the high-speed kit on and treadling furiously I got through half a dozen of my painstakingly-prepared nests in the time it took to listen to Duke by Genesis.
The result is very fine and even. So fine I may make a 3-ply. This zwartbles wool is very bouncy and when plied it springs out into a very squishy yarn. I can't wait to have it finished, but it's going to take more patient hours with the combs.