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Using combs to prepare alpaca fiber

The smaller set of combs pictured below are Louet Mini Combs. The larger pair are Valkyrie Mini Combs. Obviously, not all manufacturers agree on the proper size for "mini" combs. Full sized combs are much larger and heavier, and I find they don't suit people like me who have small hands.


hand combs


Combs are usually used for 2 purposes. The first is to make a "worsted" type yarn. Worsted yarns are more compact than woolen type yarns. The combs make all of the alpaca fibers align themselves in the same direction. This has the effect of making the yarn softer to the touch but also less lofty and springy. Worsted yarns are often used for luxury items such as shawls and suits. A true worsted yarn must not only be combed instead of carded; it must also be drawn off the combs in a special way, through a small device called a diz.   It's not my intention to describe every aspect of this complex process, only to give a general overview. I, myself, do not use a diz even when I comb my alpaca fiber. I don't care for true worsted yarns and prefer what is called "semi-worsted."

The other reason to use combs rather than a drum carder or hand cards is to prepare an alpaca fleece that has some burnt tips or too much VM (vegetable matter such as small burrs, seeds or pieces of hay) in it. You may be tempted to throw out fleeces with too much VM in them but what if the fleece is very special to you or a very special color or fineness? Then you may resort to the combs to save that fleece and render it usuable for handspinning. Burnt tips are usually the ends of a baby's fleece where the neonatal portion of the fleece has been sunburned and becomes discolored and a little dried out. These tips will break off easily when the alpaca fiber is combed and can then be discarded before spinning.


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