Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day Blend

This is a quick tutorial on how to blend a colorful roving from a variety of fiber types. Today I brought out the Xtra-fine combs along with the mini holder. I brought out the following fibers to blend together.

  • Fine merino top
  • Mohair locks
  • Silk
  • Angelina

I started with the merino top and loaded it on the comb. When loading commercially prepared top it's usually best to drag it across the top tines and down and out towards yourself. as it pulls free naturally at the edge of it's staple length. It becomes important as you bring all the fibers together. For best results the staple lengths of all the blended fibers should be of similar length.

Next I loaded some gorgeous mohair locks. When loading locks take notice of the cut side and load them along the tines and leave the tips facing out to be combed. This makes it a lot easier to work with this type of fiber. I really like adding mohair as well as teeswater and other fibers with a beautiful lock structure. I does make it more chunky but it's amazing how the texture adds depth and character to the blend.

Next I add the silk. This is one of my favorite fiber types to add to a blend. It brings softness and beauty with a sheen that compliments the other fibers.

Now comes the bling. This is the fun part. I add Angelina strands. I don't add a lot because it can be a bit stringy and can interfere with a smooth blend, but just a little bit can really add a delightful look and feel to the roving.

Lastly, I like to add a bit more of the merino top. it will cover the Angelina and balance the blend together. When it's complete, from the back draw the fibers up a bit to fluff them out and make it easier to blend with a comb or diz off.

Now it's time to make a couple of choices. If you want a smooth blend of fibers that is a bit more uniform with fewer chunks I recommend using a second comb to straighten and transfer the fiber to it. This process can be done 1 or 2 times in order to get and partially blended roving or a more fully homogeneous roving which will also have less color definition as a result. And you could also stop here and simply diz it off and you would have a wonderfully chunky art roving for a nice core-spun yarn. I choose to do one transfer to the comb then exchange combs on the holder and diz it off.

Now that I am happy with blend I can use my cherry diz to pull the roving. This technique takes some practice to diz off a roving efficiently. the first few times it may end up thinning out in places but after a few tries it's becomes easier to guage how much pressure to use to get the best result.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Processing Icelandic fiber

I've been curious about Icelandic sheep and the dual coated fleece they sport. I have heard many comments concerning how it is processed as well as some confusion concerning how to prep it using combs as opposed to doing it by hand. I recently received some lovely Icelandic fiber from Judy L. Brown and thought I would use combs to prep the fiber and discover how to process Icelandic fleece from start to finish.

The Icelandic fleece is dual coated, meaning that it has a long outer coat called tog and a fine inner coat called thel. The tog, while coarser and longer certainly can be used for a variety of purposes. It can be processed into a thread, rug yarn or even used as fly-tying material.

The thel is much finer and quite lofty and open. It is similar to fine Merino fiber. the staple length is much shorter than the tog. It's around 2-3 inches, while the Tog is 4-6 inches. I spent a little time in the beginning separating it into locks and aligning them with the cut end up so I could easily load it on the comb with the cut end in and the tog out.

You can see how the thel end holds the loft and density while the tog is long and spindly at the end.  Tog grows from the primary hair follicles and the thel from the secondary follicles.
I loaded the comb carefully without overloading it.

The tog. It's long and stringy. I tried pulling it and it easily separates from the body of the thel.

I started using the other comb to pull the tog from the thel. It's somewhat delicate so I started at the tips and pulled it away until there were no more visible strands of tog. The tog is a true wool although it bears some similarity to guard hair in a llama or alpaca.

This is the Tog after I processed it off of the comb. I could also load this on the comb and process it and diz it off as well after I finish with the thel.

The thel. It's very lofty and soft. It is an extremely versatile fiber. It's good for blending with other fibers as well as spinning alone and since it felts easily it as great for felting projects.
After removing the tog I began using the other comb to align and straighten the thel. I did about 3 runs passing it from one comb to the other until it looked clean, aligned and ready to diz off.

Next, I used a diz and dizzed the fiber off the comb.

I ended up with a beautiful top ready for spinning or felting or blending with other fibers. Admittedly it is a more time consuming process than single coated breeds, however the results is some very clean, lofty fiber that retains warms and resists weather.

Visit us at to learn more about our fiber processing tools.