Many thanks go out to Laritza, who saved me $134.95 + shipping, for suggesting that I do not need fancy schmancy wool combs to process this fleece. I want to spin at least a portion of this wool very fine, worsted technique, 2-ply, for knitted lace. (How shocking,I know.....) I figured, worsted=> combed top=> wool combs=> new big pointy lethal fiber toys that I should buy. Laritza suggested I try flicking the locks with a dog comb instead, or at most use 2-pitch combs; that the 5-pitch combs are really overkill for this application and this fiber. Of course, I still want combs eventually because I like spinning worsted, but in this case they're really not necessary.
So I procured this at the thrift store for $0.25:
And set about turning this lovely wool into (hopefully) lovely yarn. I took one lock:
Combed the cut end while holding the tip end, then turned it around and combed the tip end while holding the now-fluffy cut end:
The little pile to the side is the combing waste- short fibers, occasional nep or two, and second cuts- which came out in the comb. This was a coated fleece, and there is literally NO vegetation in it and very, very few second cuts. The bulk of that "discard" pile is probably due to my inexperience with combing more than anything wrong with the fibers. It really is a gorgeous fleece.
I started spinning, and after I got the wheel tweaked the way I wanted it, it was effortless. I've never been able to spin from the end of the lock before, without attenuating it into top beforehand, though I have spun from the fold. I was just never able to "get it" when spinning from the lock. I always ended up with a tangled handful of fiber, instead of everything drafting out in an orderly fashion.
But this time it worked! I was able to spin the whole lock into singles without it tangling or catching or dragging, and it went so smoothly.
It was one of those experiences that is just so perfect and easy and glorious that you want to laugh and shout and and tell everyone you know, and at the same time you feel a little teary and you just want to sit there and marvel at what your hands are doing, because what is happening with the wool and the wheel and your fingers is just what you wanted to happen and it feels SO EXACTLY RIGHT.
I spun very fine singles, the finest 100% wool that I've ever been able to spin, at 130 wpi. The two-ply is about 60 wpi, after washing and poofing. Spinning this wool was not like anything else I have ever spun, certainly not at all like spinning commercial merino top. It was springy and alive. Just wonderful.
I spun five locks on each of two bobbins, then plied them together. Those ten locks, a total of 8 g (.28 oz), gave me 175 yards of yarn, which works out to a grist of 10,000 ypp.
It took about 15 seconds to comb each lock, then 15 minutes to spin it. I combed one lock at a time and spun it immediately. I thought it would be disruptive to stop and start like that, but it wasn't. It was just a nice break. I don't know that I'll do the entire pillowcase of fiber like this (how many miles of yarn would that be?), but I'll definitely do enough for a shawl.