When Sal and I first started spinning and using raw fleece we spent a lot of time–and I mean a lot–talking about fiber prep. A lot of this conversation revolved around la technique and getting the best results we could with the tools we had.
Recently I had the privilege to borrow my guild’s brand new wool picker. I was excited to use the picker and once I got going with it, I started thinking on the whole process of prepping fiber at home.
The wool picker is a new tool to me. It has big sharp spikes which tease apart the fiber. Push in a little bit of washed fleece in at the front and then push away the boat (that big swinging part with spikes on it). In a few seconds light bits of fluff comes out the other side.
Sometimes fleece can be quite tough to open up after its been washed. The picker gets out a lot of the dirt and VM and pries apart the locks making it ready to card. If you get a chance to use a picker, do it. The effect is truly incredible. If you’re used to prising locks apart with combs or hand cards the wool picker is faster, easier and doesn’t leave you with sore wrists.
Pick, comb, card
I put through a shetland fleece and the picker did a great job opening up the fleece and releasing dirt. Seriously this was one dirty fleece! It is also a quite fine fleece and once the picker did its stuff there were tons of nepps.
At first glance getting out the nepps (unless you want them) looks a daunting task. Out came my wool combs which helped me get out most of the nepps, but not all. I put the combed fleece through the drum carder. There were still nepps, but my light and fluffy batts were lovely to spin.
I also put some Suri alpaca fleece through the picker and the results were great. Suri is tough to process by hand and the picker made easy work of it. I can’t wait to spin a test skein.
Processing raw fleece by hand is time consuming. I haven’t done a lot of big batches of fleece in awhile and had forgotten exactly how long it takes. It also can be a little intimidating when you see a massive pile of fluff that you then may need to go through several times–depending on how fine you want your yarn.
Bear in mind you are not a robot (obviously). Your two hands and some tools are not going to be able to replicate mill-made roving. There will be nepps. There will be a little VM. That’s all fine.
I carded some of the picked fleece into rolags, picked out some of the nepps and it spun nicely into a fat, fluffy yarn. You don’t need go crazy with fiber prep to get a nice, slow yarn.