Bowmont spinning: carded wool

I used a pair of Ashford fine tooth hand carders to prep my Bowmont.  I’m not going to talk about hand carding, because others have done it far better than I could already, but suffice it to say that the wool is ‘brushed’ between the two spiky, bristly cards.  The fibres are kept somewhat aligned by the brushing, and then the fibre mat is rolled off the cards or gently lifted off them, depending on whether you want woollen or semi-worsted prep.

If you roll the fibre off into a rolag (the correct name for what is otherwise known as a ‘fluff sausage’ – try that, Google!), and spin from the end of your ‘sausage’, you are pulling fibres into the nascent yarn at right-angles to the direction you aligned them in during carding.  This means that the fibres in the yarn are all jumbled up, which means lots of air is trapped in there and results in a yarn that is light, fluffy, squishy and insulating.

If you split the mat into strips in the same direction as the carding, you will pull fibres into the yarn in the same direction as their original spin.  That means the fibres will lie straighter and more parallel to each other; they will pack together better, and give a yarn that has less trapped air, and which is therefore denser, harder, smoother and less insulating than its woollen-spun cousin.  This particular method – using carded wool – is sometimes referred to as ‘semi-worsted’.  True worsted yarn is produced from combed, not carded, fibre and I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

I produced both woollen and semi-worsted yarn in this workshop, though it seems that even my fine cloth carders were not fine enough to avoid ‘neps’ forming in this ultra-fine wool.  Neps are small, knotted tangles that form when you card wool; it seems that they are so tighly knotted that they cannot be removed by more carding.  In fact, the more you card, the more neps you seem to get!

I found that I still had too much grease in my fleece for the semi-worsted prep to draft smoothly for long; I got the best results when I split the mat into very narrow segments, or pre-drafted my segments so I didn’t have to draft while spinning.  Spinning woollen-style from the rolag was much easier, and a lot of fun!  I realised doing this that I haven’t done much woollen or long-draw spinning before, as I have mostly worked with commercial combed top, but I definitely need to do more of this.  The process is quick and infinitely amusing, and the yarn produced has bounce and character galore!

Semi-worsted yarn:

Woollen yarn:

I allowed the ‘neps’ in the woollen prep to enter the yarn, without fighting them or trying to tease them out.   The woollen yarn is noticeably fluffier and has much less lustre than the semi-worsted; the semi-worsted has some lovely sections but is definitely erratic, showing the occasional lump, bump or  
fuzz that I wasn’t able to tease out of the fibre during the spinning process!

Come back tomorrow for the final installment in this Bowmont series, and an account of what certain snobby fibre-ists consider the only ‘real’ method of fibre prep: combing!  (NB – I don’t agree with them…)

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