Teasing with combs

Today I share a video where I tease my wool before carding. Teasing with combs is a fast way to tease quantities of wool. In the video I also show you how I blend wool with sari silk at the teasing stage. Towards the end of the video I show you how I card the wool.

The fleece

Earlier this winter I spun a similar yarn and knit a sweater, the Margau beta sweater. Lots of people asked about how I had added the sari silk to the wool. I know from experience how hard it is to show spinning and wool processing on dark fibers, so now I am doing the same process with white wool so you can see better – teasing with combs, adding sari silk and carding rolags.

The wool is the same – a finewool/rya cross. The fleece is from the same shepherdess as the dark fleece, Margau Wohlfart-Leijdström. It is the fourth fleece I buy from her. She does a wonderful job with her sheep’s fleeces and has never let me down.

Teasing with combs

Teasing is an important stage to open up the wool staples before carding. This makes the wool easier to card and reduces the risk of over carding. Over carding is when you break the fibers in the carding process. The broken pieces turn into nepps in your yarn and finished project. Teasing also helps to get any vegetable matter out of the wool instead of having it stuck in the rolags or in the cards.

Setup

When using combs for teasing I don’t need to find the right orientation of the staples. I simply load the combs brutally with a handful of wool. Remember, I am not combing the wool as a final preparation method. Rather, I just use the combs to open up the locks as a preparation for carding.

I try to load the combs as close to the tines as possible – I don’t want a lot of wool sticking out on the handle side of the stationary comb. I load to about a third of the height of the tines. Any more will require more muscle power and may result in more uneven bits than necessary.

When teasing with combs I load the combs to a third of the height of the tines and with as little wool as possible sticking out at the handle side. Combing station from Gammeldags
When teasing with combs I load the combs to a third of the height of the tines and with as little wool as possible sticking out at the handle side. Combs with combing station from Gammeldags.

The combs

In this video I use my table mount to fasten one of the combs. This makes the process easier on my arms as I can use both hands to hold the free comb. I could just as well do this without the table mount and hold one comb in each hand. This is a medium sized pair of combs which are easy to use both with and without the table mount.

Blending with sari silk

When the stationary comb is loaded to about a third of the height of the tines I add the sari silk I want to blend it with. To make sure I end up with an even amount of sari silk I count the staple length tufts I add in each comb load. In this case I add six staple lengths of sari silk for each comb load. Now I’m ready to tease.

A circular movement

I tease just like I would if I were combing the wool: I hold the active comb perpendicular to the stationary comb at all stages. The only thing that changes is the direction of the movement of the active comb. I move my active comb in a horizontal, circular movement, much like if I were to stir a big pot of soup in front of me. The tines of the active combs are horizontally oriented.

With the tines of the combs perpendicular to each other I move the active comb in a circular movement.
With the tines of the combs perpendicular to each other I move the active comb in a circular movement.

When I can’t get out any more wool from the stationary comb and all the wool is on the active comb, I change the movement: I now move the active comb in a vertical, circular movement. The tines of the active comb are still horizontally oriented. I like to change the direction of the active comb between each combing motion to make the transfer of the wool easier, but the tines are still horizontal and the movement is still vertical. I continue this vertical movement until I can’t get any more wool out of the active comb.

Two passes are enough for this wool and for the purpose of teasing. If I were to comb the same wool I would probably make three or five passes.

Removing the teased wool

Before I remove the wool from the stationary comb I spread the wool evenly over the height of the tines. This makes it easier to remove the wool from the stationary comb.

Before removing the teased wool from the stationary comb I spread the wool over the height of the tines.
Before removing the teased wool from the stationary comb I spread the wool over the height of the tines.

When the wool is evenly spread over the tines I pull tufts of teased wool straight out from the stationary comb, perpendicular to the tines. If I were to simply lift the wool off the stationary comb, the nepps and short fibers would come with it. When I instead pull the wool off the stationary comb perpendicular to the tines all the short bits, nepps and tangled fibers stay in the stationary comb.

Pulling the teased wool straight out of the stationary comb, perpendicular to the tines.
Pulling the teased wool straight out of the stationary comb, perpendicular to the tines.

I pull the wool until there are only the nepps and shortest bits left in the stationary comb. The harvested wool is evenly teased and blended with sari silk. Long and short fibers are blended, promising a yarn that can be both soft and strong. The teased wool is ready for carding.

Carding

When I load the cards I pull the teased wool onto the stationary card to make it stick to the stationary card. I load the card with as much wool that will stay on the wires. I remove any excess. I like to leave a frame around the wool empty. This way I make sure that there is room for all the wool on the card and that the wool will be carded evenly. If I were to load the whole carding area with wool, some of it would eventually stick out and be left uncarded.

When I load the cards I make sure a frame around the wool is empty.
When I load the cards I make sure a frame around the wool is empty. 108 tpi hand cards from Kromski.

I card in three passes, six times in each pass, just gently stroking the wool.

To strip the card between passes I place the cards with the handles in the same direction and transfer the wool in two strokes.

When I strip the card from wool I hold the cards with the handles in the same direction and transfer the wool in two strokes.
When I strip the card from wool I hold the cards with the handles in the same direction and transfer the wool in two strokes.

All the wool is lying on top of the wires on one card and I’m ready for the next pass.

By the third pass the wool is spread evenly across the card area and there are no uneven parts left.

I stroke the wool gently with the active card to separate the fibers.
I stroke the wool lightly with the active card to separate the fibers.

After the third pass I use the active card and my hand to pull the wool off the stationary card and make a rolag.

To make the rolag I use the active card to lift the wool off the stationary card and my free hand to shape the role and make it more compact.
To make the rolag I use the active card to lift the wool off the stationary card and my free hand to shape the rolag and make it more compact.

A final roll between the cards makes compact and even rolags. This is a step I have incorporated into my carding routine quite recently. I watched the splendid Interweave download How to Card Wool: Four Spinners, Four Techniques and realized how much this tiny final step does for the shape of the rolag and for the spinning quality.

Finished rolags with sari silk, ready for spinning.
Finished rolags with sari silk, ready for spinning.

The wool is neatly criss-crossed over the rolag in the promise of a soft and warm woolen spun yarn.


I love this way of working with combs and cards to make even rolags. Teasing with combs is effective, yet I don’t compromise with quality.

I am spinning the yarn with English longdraw and 3-plying it. I still have a lot of wool left and lots of opportunities to practice. I am enjoying the process and result so far!

A finished 3-ply yarn spun with English longdraw.
A finished 3-ply yarn spun with English longdraw.

The yarn turned out just the way I hoped it would and it is a perfect cable knitting candidate.

From fleece to cables in a basket.
From fleece to cables in a basket.

Sometimes I need to stop and look at all this loveliness. That such a lovely knitted fabric can come out of a sheep’s weather protection still amazes me.

I'm playing around with cables. This is swatch number 2 and my favorite so far. A stag's horn center edged by mirrored ropes.
I’m playing around with cables. This is swatch number 2 and my favorite so far. A stag’s horn center edged by mirrored ropes.

I have searched lots of books for ideas for a simple cable pattern. I made a swatch like this, only flanked with honeycomb ladders. I asked in a couple of forums if the honeycomb ladders were too busy and I ended up removing them. This looks much better. Thanks for helping me decide!

Happy spinning!


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