Lookie what I got yesterday!!!!
Indigo Hound double-row Viking combs! Eeeeeee! I actually ordered these October 28. Yes, they took more than a MONTH to get to me. Backorders. Bah. I don't want to talk about it. Now that they're here, I couldn't wait to play. I did a bunch of combing last night and a bit this morning. SO. FABULOUS.
Brace yourselves, I also took a bunch of pictures of the combing process. Please, try not to drool on your keyboard too much.
I'm using Herkel's fleece, the Merino x Columbia that gave such lovely results. To start, I loaded the comb by lashing on enough locks to fill it about a third of the way.
Then I took that comb in my right hand and the empty one in my left (I'm left handed), and transferred the wool to the empty one by combing perpendicularly across the full comb. Here's what it looked like after one pass.
I removed the combing waste, switched the combs so the now-empty one was in my left again, and repeated. Here's the wool after two passes.
Repeat again. Here's the wool after three passes.
Yummmmm. The wool is now completely poofed, aligned, and vegetable-matter-free (not that there was really any VM to start with- coated fleeces are wonderful).
I clamped the comb to the table and slid the wool up the tines of the comb a bit to loosen it and facilitate the drawing-off process:
Drool, drool... Ahem. Time to diz. Now, I don't have an official diz but basically all you need for this process is a little doohicky with a hole in it. Something flat like a spice jar shaker top will work, but they tend to work better if they are concave, since that gathers the fibers together as you push it up. I have been dithering for the past couple weeks about how to make one, since I don't want to spend the money to buy one, but I wanted to start combing now now now! So I was casting about for what to use, and came up with a plastic spoon. Of course! We even have some in the cupboard, which I am compelled to wash and reuse every time since I hate to just throw them away. I cut off the handle, poked a hole with a heated nail, smoothed the hole with a knife tip, and voila, my diz. It has a 1/8" hole.
I used a crochet hook to grab some fiber through the hole, and started alternately pulling the wool out and sliding the diz up.
Pull and pull and pull, until all the good fiber is off the comb and all that's left is the short bits. What you get is gorgeous, fluffy, soft, even top. Mmmmmm.
I wound it up into a little nest, and it's ready to spin.
There is some waste left over, about 20% of the starting weight of fiber. In this case, I started with 10 grams of washed fiber, and ended up with 8g of top, 2g of waste.
That seems like a lot of waste, but when I looked at the leftovers, it really wasn't anything I wanted to spin, not for fine lace yarn anyway. Neppy bits, short fibers, dirt from the tips of the locks. I saved it and may try carding or felting it at some point, but even if I only use the part of this fleece that I draw off as top, I will have gotten my money's worth.
I combed 8 of these little nests last night, and one this morning, for a total of 66g (2.3 oz) of top. If I spin this like I spun the sample skein (10000 ypp, the skein is in the last link above), it should make enough yarn for almost half a shawl. I'm thinking a large square shawl, in the Shetland or Orenburg tradition.
So I have more combing to do, and lots of spinning, but I'm taking a break from combing for a day or so. My hands, they are wimpy, and I have blisters.
So worth it. And it's a great arm workout.