Last time was washing, this time it’s combing. There are two basic kinds of preparing clean fleece to spin, combing and carding. Sure there are sub categories of those, like drum carding or flicking, but everything really boils down to those two methods. So what are the differences and which one should you use?
Carding: For making woolen yarns
Carding is really good for making fluffy, airy, soft yarns. It basically brushes the fibers so they’re going every which way, trapping air, and giving the yarn it’s fluffy look. This is what you want to do for knitting/crochet yarns where you want that warm, soft, fluff. Like sweaters, hats, scarves, or blankets. Yarn made from fiber prepped this way tends to be more prone to pilling and not quite as strong. It also tends to have more of a halo (tiny fuzzy aura around the yarn) than yarn prepped by combing. So skip it if crisp stitch definition is something you 100% need. This is also a lot better for short staple fibers.
Combing: For making worsted yarns
Let me get one thing clear: worsted yarns do not mean worsted weight yarns. Yeah, I know, I wish they’d picked a different term for the weight but there you have it. Combing aligns all the fibers in one direction, making them spin into a smoother, harder, yarn with less trapped air. This makes them less fluffy and warm, but stronger. Use combing if you need to make yarn for a warp, or anywhere that strength is a major concern. Also because it’s smoother yarns made from combing lend themselves really well to lace. This is your best bet for long staple fibers.
Let me let you in on a secret: the vast majority of hand spinners make some kind of half woolen half worsted hybrid yarn. It’s just the nature of the game. It’s easier to make a straight woolen than a straight worsted. So if you comb your fleece and in the process of spinning you make little bubbles of folded ends and fluffy bits? Don’t sweat it. That happened in period too far as anyone can tell.
That’s enough background. For this project I’m combing the warp and carding the weft.
I’m doing both to take advantage of the pros of both types of fiber prep. The warp needs a very strong, very smooth, yarn in order to withstand the stress of weaving without snapping. However if I did the entire belt like this it’d be a very stiff, scratchy, and not very pleasant to touch finished product. So for the weft I’m going to use the softer, airier, yarn produced by woolen preparation in order to make the whole thing easier to use and much nicer to wear.
The fleece I chose (icelandic) is a double coated breed, which means it lends itself very nicely to this kind of mixed preparation. It has a long overcoat with very little crimp (perfect for combed/worsted spinning) and a short, fluffy undercoat with lots of crimp (perfect for carded/woolen spinning).