Combing your own top just got easier

Change how you look at fiber

Robin demonstrates how to keep fiber in order with the tips facing down for a true worsted preparation in the English style.

Robin uses a diz to create sliver from a blend she created of mohair and wool.

Robin spinning directly from a paddle comb.

A sentiment I often hear, and one repeated by Robin Russo in her new workshop DVD Combing Fiber, is that once you start preparing your own fiber it is hard to ever buy prepared fiber again. There is something truly wonderful about having fiber (be it wool or down) and to be able to customize its preparation for the project you have in mind.

There is also that lively bouncy feeling in wool that is really present in freshly prepared fiber. I must admit, while fascinated by the strong lustrous yarn that worsted spinning creates, I've never prepared my own top. I learned to card when I learned to spin on a wheel, and that has been adequate for me. However, since watching Robin's video, I think I am ready to pick up the combs.

In the DVD, Robin gives so many great reasons to try them out (the least of which, is that unlike carding, combing removes hair, noils, and dirt). She also demonstrates many different types of combs, from English to Viking (in many different sizes) to paddle. She points out what types of combs are best for different fibers and demonstrates how to use each, as well as how to use a diz with each. She shows blending of different types of fiber as well as color blending. It is amazing how quickly the combing goes.

It was fascinating to see the different techniques used with the different combs and how structured English combing is, especially to the peasant combs, which don't actually create a worsted preparation. Also, the variety of Viking combs was shocking. I could definitely see a pair of bread-and-butter medium Viking combs in my future (as well as mini combs for fine fibers).

One use of combs that I hadn't even considered was how easily they can dehair dual-coated fleeces. Because combing separates out fibers by length, it is easy to remove the hairs, which are often much longer than the down. In the DVD, Robin demonstrates separating coats on both Navajo Churro and llama fiber. If I take to combing, it will be a great way to process wool from more primitive breeds of sheep whose dual coats have intimidated me in the past.

As with many of our workshop DVDs, I am amazed by how much I was able to learn by spending a little time with Robin in my living room. What is the most surprising thing you have learned in a workshop (either live or on a DVD)? Please share your experiences here.

Spin on,

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