Friday, March 14, 2014

Fiber prep for high speed woolen

Good spinning requires good fiber preparation.  Spinning very fine and very fast requires near perfect fiber preparation.

My first fines were all worsted, so early on, I climbed the learning curve for combing wool.

Now that I need fine woolen spun singles for weaving, I am climbing the woolen prep learning curve.  It is just as long and steep, as the worsted combing learning curve.  For a long time, I would divide a batt from a drum carder length-wise, and call  what I spun from that "woolen".    Well, it was more woolen than the worsted singles I spun for ganseys.  It was/is  really semi-woolen.  Spun slowly, it could be mostly woolen and that was good enough for my needs.  And, in fact I preferred that semi-woolen yarn because it was denser, warmer, more durable.  It was/is a very nice knitting yarn that I still like.

Now, I am thinking bout woven fabrics that are "fulled".  And, fulling requires true woolen spun weft. A lot of it, so to get enough of it to be useful, I have to spin very fast.

To spin true woolen, the fiber prep must be carded and then rolled up into a rolag. Spinning fine and fast requires a uniformity in the fiber prep that one is not going to get with hand cards. If you are spinning fast, you need high uniformity from throughout the rolag and from rolag to rolag.  This kind of uniformity requires blending with drum carder.  If you try to spin rolags from hand cards fast and fine, there will be break-offs that will slow you down, until net productivity is higher simply by spinning much slower so that one has some time to adapt so that there are fewer break-offs.

If you must spin fine and fast, you will need the uniformity in you rolags that comes only from very good fiber prep tools. Details matter.  I had been rolling rolags on 3/8" acrylic cores.  Henry Clems suggested that I use use  a 1/2" birch core. That 1/8 inch in diameter, and difference in texture matters.  Half-inch birch is better than half-inch acrylic.  Half-inch birch is better than 3/8" birch. And, 3/4" is too big.  And, if the cores make that much difference, the quality of the carding cloth makes more difference.  Anyway, it turns out that making rolags is a major art from.

These days, Henry and Roy (Clems and  Clems) are the smartest guys on woolen fiber preparation, and they make the best tools for fiber preparation.  (This does not mean that I think 1/2" birch dowel is the very best possible rolag form in the world, but I would agree that it is likely the most cost effective.) These days, their drum carders and blending boards are without equal.   At this point they have hit a nice compromise between the makers of the tools using the tools on a daily basis, and industrial production techniques to achieve outstanding uniformity and quality control at a reasonable price point.   They have gotten to the point where they are starting to have a waiting list.  At this point the waiting list is only a few days, but if you are going to need fiber prep tools this summer, order now.

If you know that you only want to spin one kind of fleece, then one of the drum carders with changeable drums makes sense.  However, I spin about equal parts long wool and fine wool, and I like being able to card both of them on the same carder.

A bit off topic, true woolen requires more twist per inch  than worsted.  The difference is small at low grist, but at  higher grist, the difference is about 50%.  If you want to spin fine, and have a slow (low ratio) wheel, then spin worsted.  I find spinning worsted fines to be reasonable on a slower wheel, but spinning woolen fines on a low ratio wheel is always a long, slow, slog.  Spinning fine is made much easier with a very fast wheel.  Fine yarns that were very difficult on a slow wheel become easy on a fast flyer.  Fine yarns that are easy on a fast flyer are much more difficult on a slow flyer.  This is true at, and well beyond, the spin count.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post Aaron! I agree with you wholeheartedly on all of this!