Category Archives: Fiber

Playing with the fiber our sheep give us.

Hand Woolcombing

I highly recommend the book Hand Woolcombing and Spinning by Peter Teal.  I’m still reading it, but even the introduction section is very interesting.  Mr. Teal believes that when spinning was revived as a leisure art in the mid 1800, it was believed that  women were too fragile to handle wool combing, and therefore worsted spinning never revived the way woolen spinning did.  He expounds on the virtues of worsted spinning, and the ability of a highly skilled spinner to produce customized threads for a task.

I will soon be referring to the directions in chapter 1 to build a comb set in the lighter range.

Long Wool Project

As mentioned in my earlier post, I’ve been contemplating that the path the textile industry took during the industrial revolution may be responsible for the downfall of the Cotswold. I think we can change that with new technologies that help all the long wool breeds.

I’m no genius, I’m not smarter than the 250 years of engineers who have worked on the problem of wool processing before me, but I have a different focus, a different goal, and therefore may come to very different results.

I’ve since been doing my reading. It seems that there are not enough Cotswolds in the world to keep a single industrial sized carding machine busy, so even if we revolutionized the technology there would likely be no large commercial buyer of our machine. I have since turned to look at small hobby scale machines, something that would work for the same market that buys motorized drum carders, but is better suited to processing long wool.

I attended the Rochester Makerspace open community night (every Thursday night) and brought my wool processing tools. The interested parties were quite taken with the manual processes, and we had an impromptu combing/flicking/spinning class. No engineering was performed.

I got a chance to spend an afternoon with an interested engineer, and we played with some sketches, but I’d not brought the manual tools which might have been helpful in demonstrating the combing concept.

Simple tools I’m considering making:

  • An extra long blending board
  • 2 and 4 rank comb sets
  • Blending hackle

More complex tools I’m considering inventing:

  • Motorized flicker
  • Automated combs

I still have a lot of reading to do, I have to study up on the wool, cotton, and flax industries, and the machines that run them.  I’m hoping the long fiber problem has already been solved for flax and we don’t need to re-invent the wheel.

If you like to tinker or design, we could use your help. Give me a buz and I’ll keep you updated on which nights we will be at the Makerspace.  If you like to tinker or design but don’t want to help, I might recommend the Makerspace anyway.

Did the Industrial Revolution Bring Down the Cotswold?

The Industrial Revolution was in the early 1800s, right around the time that the Cotswold began to loose favor in the sheep market. What was one of the chief industries of the early industrial revolution? Textiles. What is the maximum staple length that modern mill machines can spin? 11″. What is the ideal length for a year of Cotswold wool growth? 10-12″. Old pictures of Cotswolds even show a couple years of growth on an animal, although this could be exaggeration for show rather than standard practice.
Sheep Success Cover with Old Cotswold Drawing
Could it be that the wool while highly valued during the hand spinning era saw a sudden drop-off in demand when fiber began to be processed through machines? What was the maximum staple length those older machines could handle? Could a better wool mill save the breed through increased demand?