Saturday, January 2, 2010

Learning to Spin? Part One

Today, after receiving an encouraging message from one of my readers that she is learning how to spin after reading my post about my new spindle, I hauled out the wool I bought recently on EBay and looked up the URLs to the tutorial videos I had previously found about spinning with a drop spindle.

At that point, I hit my first snag (pun intended).  The videos I had found presume that the student will begin by obtaining carded (i.e., combed so that all the fibers run straight and in the same direction) wool that has been formed into rolags (i.e., long strands of carded wool arranged for easy spinning).  The wool I purchased very cheaply on EBay ($2.50 USD) appears to be clean, but uncarded, wool fleece in an assortment of natural colors.  The picture on the left shows all 103 grams of my tiny fleece-hoard.

So I went back to the Internet. After a quick search, I found this video on how to card wool, and then this video on how to both card it and form it into rolags.  Neither process looked difficult, so I started browsing for a pair of hand cards, which are a kind of specialized comb for carding wool.  They can be expensive--the cheapest ones I've found so far, on this site, are $18.00 USD apiece, and the most common price is about $50 USD for a pair.  Somehow, I have a hard time bringing myself to spend $36.00 plus shipping to prepare $2.50 worth of wool.  (I'm beginning to think I should have spent the extra money for pre-carded rolags.)  

While I was thinking about the carding issue, I took some pieces of fleece that matched in color and texture and seemed to be almost the right shape as a rolag and began stretching and shaping them together.  My crudely-improvised rolag is shown on the right.

Then I found this forum thread about the pros and cons of using pet slickers (small wire brushes used to groom certain breeds of dogs and cats) for carding.  The gist of the discussion was that proper carders last longer and are more efficient, but that slicker brushes work well enough and are better for a beginner than the so-called "student" carders sold by some companies.  (They even have the same shape as wool carding combs!) That was good news to me.  I've seen slicker brushes at my local pet supply store for about $8 USD apiece.  (I don't own any, despite having a very generously furred cat, because it's more efficient to use a metal comb to groom her.  However, I have saved a quantity of her fur combings--maybe I will be able to spin some of them into yarn once I learn the spinning process!)

So now I should probably buy a pair of slickers, card and form a quantity of the wool into rolags, and see what I can learn about spinning.


  1. You can also spin with the fibres without buying carding tools - the yarn won't be so smooth and even, but if you just want to get started...
    Take one fleece lock (it looks like samples from different fleeces in the bag, and I'd try not to mix locks from different fleeces with that method) and gently tease the lock open (wider) with your fingers. Your goal is to loosen up the hold of the fibres on each other without completely destroying the lock. Once it feels all fluffy, you can gently stretch the widened fluffy lock into a pseudo-top or roll the very wide lock into a pseudo-rolag by rolling horizontally (you start rolling in all the tips of the lock). And then you can try spinning! There is of course a difference between fibres prepared in that way and properly carded or carded-and-combed fibres, but as long as you only want to try the general process, it should be a workable alternative.

  2. I think I'll try what you suggest, Katrin. That's sort of what I was groping towards doing when I formed my faux rolag (the one shown in the second picture). It's really 3 separate locks; I'll separate them to try spinning. Thanks for the advice!