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 Need Clarification on which tool to use for what

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
AtYarnsEnd Posted - 10/15/2008 : 08:38:03 AM
I apologize if this has been covered but I couldn't find it on the forums while I was searchign this morning.

I'm pretty new to fiber prep but would like to expand my equipment beyond that of a DIY hackle made out of metal combs and some dog brushes. My hubby and I are thinking of buying a carder and a set of combs, but I am confused as to which tool to use for what.

When do you use the comb, and when do you use the carder? Is there an order in which to use them, i.e., carder first, then combing?

We are currently playing around with a box of mill ends that I bought from the Sheep Shed and realize that we do need more than just a DIY hackle to blend or prep it.
8   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
stseraphina Posted - 11/15/2008 : 4:43:18 PM
One of the most useful and inexpensive tools I have is a flick carder. I love that thing! I flick locks against my leg (on a heavy apron) while I watch Star Trek reruns and can do quite a bagful at once. It is not too hard to spin a flicked lock and the fibers are open, parallel, and ready to go. I think I paid under $20 for mine. AND if you get a drum carder later on, the flick carder can be used to clean the drum!

What came out of my dyepot this week? Sock yarn? Laceweight? Silk? Come and see my yarn!
azblueskies Posted - 10/17/2008 : 12:14:38 PM
Hackles can be used to blend fibers, too.

So much to learn, so little time.
davidrv Posted - 10/17/2008 : 11:56:09 AM
Hackles are only used in preparing bast fiber (flax, hemp, ramie). It is the last step in a long sequence of processing that is more complex than most hobbyists are willing to suffer through. The Wikipedia article on flax describes it some detail.

Other fibers (animal, cotton, man-made, synthetic) might use EITHER combs or cards, but generally not both. For certain double (or more) coated animal fibers (llama, buffalo, camel, etc.) combs can be used to de-hair. The down that is left on the comb is then collected and carded into rolags, batts or roving. Two-pitch combs will work pretty well for de-hairing, but larger combs will be faster.

Short and medium wools are carded into rolags, batts or roving. Carding separates the locks and incorporates a lot of air into the fiber prep. Purists will say that true woolen long draw can only be done using hand carded rolags, but I can't tell the difference and mostly use commercially prepared roving or drum-carded batts.

Long staple wools (at least 3 inches, some people say 4) can be combed into top. Combing separates the fiber by length gives it a parallel structure. The longer fibers are pulled from the comb through a diz to make top. The short fibers left on the combs can then be carded for felting, or blending into other short or medium wools. Highly crimped fine wool (Merino) is almost impossible to comb without commercial equipment which uses steam or other heat to smooth out the crimp.

Combs are expensive (and dangerous looking). Two-pitch combs are the place to start, but they have limitations. They generally hold only very small amounts of fiber, and it takes a lot of passes to do a good job. They are less expensive and much lighter and easier to use.

Traditional English combs are usually 4- or 5-pitch and can be wider than most 2-pitch combs. They hold much more fiber and are more efficient - fewer passes are needed. They are much heavier (you can skip circuit training that day) and pretty pricy. Forsyth combs are the "gold standard" and no longer made, but there is somebody in England making a good facsimile of Forsyth's. At current exchange rates they are probably around US$600 for a set. If I run across the name in the near future I'll post it.


(Spin, knit, crochet, tat, bobbin lace)
AtYarnsEnd Posted - 10/15/2008 : 7:41:41 PM
Thanks for all your replies! They are all so helpful and now that I've also been around the site quite a bit, it's a steep learning curve that I'm having fun navigating!

At Yarns End
eepster Posted - 10/15/2008 : 6:19:44 PM
What kind of yarn do you want to spin? How much do you spin per week? Combs, hand carders, and drum carders (not to mention pickers) all serve different purposes.

Combs are what you need if you want to make lace weight, worsted sock yarn etc. They can be used to blend longer fibers of different colors, but will not blend two fibers of different staple lengths. Though they are more expensive than hand carders, they are cheaper than a drum carder.

Hand carders are a very versatile fiber prep tool. With them you can make rolags for true woolen spinning. They are good for blending. They can be used to flick open locks. One can even do an almost worsted preparation with them. Since they are the least expensive option, and so versatile you really can't go wrong with owning some.

Drum carders make bats and blend fibers into bats. It is all they do. One can spin a mostly woolen yarn or a semi worsted. It is, of course, very fast and very easy to use compared to the labor of combs or hand carders. They are also quite expensive.

.." "
Shelia Posted - 10/15/2008 : 4:23:11 PM
I think that the reason that you haven't heard much about Clemes and Clemes carders is because they weren't being manufactured for a few years, now that they are back in production they will become more common.

both Louet and Ashford make good drum carders, though I do prefer the Ashford fine-cloth carder. It is easy to use and has good resale value if you move on to a bigger or motorized carder in the future (ask me how I know this). For almost the same price, though, you might want to consider the Strauch Petite. It's a workhorse, and is wider than some of the Louets. It can also be fitted with a burnishing brush, which will greatly increase the size and enhance the quality of your batts.

I love my combs, but they are a major investment and you really must like combing and do it quite a bit to justify the expense, IMHO. If you do decide to go ahead with combs, I'd recommend 2-pitch for your first set. These are good all around combs and can be used for both fine and medium fibers. As to brand, I like the St. Blaise combs and the Lani combs. (my previous favorites, Valkyrie combs and Forsyth combs, are no longer available retail, just used when you can find them)

ravelry name - sheliaknits
AtYarnsEnd Posted - 10/15/2008 : 1:36:47 PM
Thank you for your response, as well as that link. I remember reading that before but I think I ended up with info overload with everything so that now that we're ready to invest in either a drum carder or a hackle or wool combs, we don't know what to do next!

My local seller sells drum carders and she has Clemmes & Clemmes which I haven't heard much about on the forums (unless I've missed it) as well as louets. Someone I know can get me an Ashford carder at wholesale + shipping as well, so with all these choices, it gets pretty overwhelming. Then, of course, I hear all about wool combs.

My neighbor has hand carders that he is loaning me but I already know that I have to upgrade to something else.
azblueskies Posted - 10/15/2008 : 12:18:04 PM
Here's some info for you:

"The combing process aligns fiber in a parallel fashion and removes the shorter bits. You should use combed fiber when you want to make a true worsted yarn. In contrast, the carding process retains both the longer and shorter fibers together, and aligns the fibers somewhat, but in a less parallel, more jumbled fashion than you’ll find in a combed preparation. Carded fiber is used to make a woolen yarn, and is also often used for needle felting or wet felting. Woolen yarn is fluffier and has trapped air in it, which will result in a warmer finished garment. Worsted yarn is smoother, more dense, and more lustrous."

I found it here. More info on her page.

So much to learn, so little time.

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