This weekend we hosted a two-day Spin-In at Neilson Park Creative Centre. Spinners and non-spinners alike came out to help us prep our fibres and get started on the 2500+ yards we need to weave The 50 Mile Coat.
Fibre prep refers to the process of getting a fleece (or blanket when referring to an alpaca or llama) ready for hand spinning on a spinning wheel. There are many different ways to prep fibre but they all work towards cleaning and opening up the fibres. We used different methods to prepare our fibres depending on a fleece’s characteristics.
Not sure what this looks like? Scroll down to see pictures and explanations of the entire process.
To keep our fibre prep organized, each fleece was placed in a bin with the sheep’s photo and name. Rose, the ewe that gave us this fleece, is from Linc Farm, one of The 50 Mile Coat sponsors. Rose is a Newfoundland sheep, which means she has characteristics of a down breed and has a very hardy fleece.
A Little Bit of “Barnyard”
A fleece usually comes with a little bit of “barnyard” or pieces of grass and hay caught in the wool. For hand spinning this vegetable matter (VM) needs to be removed. The ladies in this photo are working on hand picking and drum carding. Hand picking literally means using your fingers to pull apart the fibres and remove as much VM as possible.
Hand-propelled Machines: The Picker
A picker on the other hand, is a hand-propelled machine that moves sharp tines through the fibres, pulling them apart and allowing any VM to fall out of the fleece. This photo shows Veronica, the shepherdess from Dover Farm and one of our sponsors, working the picker. The fleece she is working on is from her Gotland ewe, Brandy. Gotlands are known for long, lusterous wool and Dover Farm is known for exceptionally clean fleece.
Hand-propelled Machines: The Drum Carder
After picking the fibres they are further opened up by either combing or carding. Combing, which is very similar to brushing your hair, is very time consuming. In order to keep up with our spinners, we decided to card all three fleeces with drum carders. Drum carders are another hand-propelled machine that uses tines to put the fibres into airy batts. This photo shows our Guild member Helen working the hand-cranked drum carder.