Hand combs are one of the old-fashioned tools available to prepare fiber for spinning.
While you can purchase prepared roving for spinning, you will often have fiber that requires some preparation in order to spin high quality fiber. You can prepare fiber by hand either using hand carders or hand combs. There is more “waste” fiber produced when using combs to prepare fiber, (versus using cards), because combing helps to expose more of the “short bits.” Only longer fibers remain on the combs, which produces a higher-quality roving. Combing (or carding) will also remove any vegetable matter (VM) from the locks. The sheep were outside you know!
Step1: Get out equipment
Step 2: Lash fiber onto combs
Step 3: Combing Passes
Step 4: Pull fiber into roving
Step 1: Get Out Equipment
Get out your combs and a hunk of fiber to be combed.
Here’s a lump of super crimpy locks ready to be combed.
Step 2: Lashing Fiber Onto Combs
The combing process is basically combing out fiber, and moving the fiber staples from one comb to the other.
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Step 3: Combing Passes
Holding combs (ADD PIC HERE)
The photo below shows some locks that I have “lashed” onto the combs.
CAREFUL: the combs may be very sharp while you are lashing. Don’t cut yourself!
When combing, you need to hold the combs perpendicular to each other, as shown in the photo below. The fiber is on the left comb, and I’m just starting to use the right comb’s teeth to dig into the fiber. You move your hand straight down into the fiber, then pull right. Just hit the tips of the fiber on the left comb with the tines of the right comb, slowly transferring the fiber from one comb to the other.
There is more “waste” fiber produced when using combs to prepare fiber, versus using cards, because combing helps to expose more of the “short bits.” Only longer fibers remain on the combs, which produces a higher-quality roving. The lump in the front of the picture below is the waste fiber from the combing process. Even though I won’t use it in this particular roving, I save all the waste in a little bag for spinning later. It’s good to use in novelty yarn if you want to put in some “nubbies.”
You want to keep combing until everything is smoothed out. It will entirely depend on your fiber, but it will likely take several passes. Note: As you comb back and forth, there will be little bits left on the comb. Oh by the way, it’s impossible to comb it TOO MUCH. When it’s done, it’s done, you will just keep moving the fiber back and forth between combs.
Step 5: Remove Waste Fiber
In the picture below, you can see there is still a bit left on the left comb. This is fiber that is too short to be used for making a roving, and must be taken off the comb before continuing with the next pass.
The photo below shows the locks after a second pass. It looks more combed out, but it’s still pretty bundled together. If I tried to pull it off the combs right now into roving, I’d have to pull very hard.
Finally, after four passes, I’m satisfied with the condition of this fiber. I’ve combed out all the VM and short fibers, and all I have left are the longer soft fibers.
A note on vegetable matter: If you are combing out fiber and locks that are not far from the sheep, you will see vegetable matter coming out of the fiber. See the little black specks on the table in the picture below? That’s vegetable matter.
Step 6: Pulling Fiber Into a Roving.
Now, you probably could try spinning this blob of fiber into yarn, but it’s much easier to pull it into a long roving instead.
(PIC OF BLOB, PIC OF ROVING)
These particular combs have an optional table clamp that one of the combs fits neatly into, (shown below). This makes for easier pulling of the fiber into a roving. You can either use your hands to pull it out, or use a diz.
A diz is just a piece of something (usually wood) with a small smooth hole in it, through which you pull the fiber to make a roving of consistent width. This particular diz is multi-purpose. It has two holes, and the chunk taken out of the middle also makes it a “wraps per inch” gauge tool.
Here is the fiber after I have pulled it off the combs and into a small roving. I used my hands to make this roving.
The following picture shows me pulling the roving through a diz to make a consistent roving.
PULLING THROUGH A DIZ