Spinning for a Purpose: workshop 1

Spinning for a Purpose: workshop 1

Spinning for a Purpose: workshop 1

One of the advantages of being in a local Guild is definitely the people. We are very lucky to have quite a few who have taken the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners (OHS) Master Weaver or Master Spinner programs. It’s a multi-year, very challenging course. If you’re curious, an overview of the spinning program can be found here: https://ohs.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/SPINNING_CERTIFICATE_PROGRAM_OVERVIEW_1.pdf .  The master weavers description is outlined here https://ohs.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2018-03-29-Weaving_Certificate_Course_Outline-1-1.pdf

Cindy O’Gorman is one of the guild members that has made it through the master spinners program and is an amazing teacher. She has been very busy at work and has not been teaching too often the last few years but was talked into doing a series of evening practical spinning workshops this year. The concept is to take a type of fleece, add a particular processing technique and spinning technique to form a yarn appropriate to a specific end use.

1 1 Cindy O’Gorman our teacher

Before the Guild shut down due to the virus I was able to attend her first workshop in this series and wanted to share the fun I had taking her evening fibre prep/spinning workshop.

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For the first in this series, she chose a fine wool with an amazing crimp (that’s the springy kinkiness you see in the fibre) it was a Rambouillet / Merino cross. She used small mesh bags to wash some of the fleece (which kept the lock structure intact) and had washed some in a clump which did not clean the tips as well. The small baggies show the colour the fleece was before washing.

67 6-7

For the OHS program, she had made a chart of various different ways to classify wool and sample of some of the many types. She also had a yarn size and twist angle gauge. This would be useful shortly as we tried to match the yarn she had used as warp on the rigid heddle loom she had brought for us to sample with.

Next was how to process the wool to prepare it for spinning. We used small fine combs. I had brought my 2 pitch Alvin Ramer Combs, single pitch Viking combs (from Indigo Hound), a few of my Bee combs (Decapping Combs) and a wooden handled dog comb.

88 My combing options.

99 Alvin Ramer 2 pitch combs. I use the blue clamps with them since the original C-clamps stayed with one of the previous owners.

101110-11  Viking single pitch combs (with diz on the green gardening wire). They were a Christmas present from Glenn quite a few years ago.

1212 Bee Decapping combs (Bee combs) these were from Princess Auto but you can find them online. The handle angle is not the best for using as a pair the way normal combs work but can be used singly to tease open a lock.

1313 Dog comb. Again, this was ok to tease locks open but didn’t work as a comb.

Unfortunately, my selection was not fine enough so we used the Roger Hawkins combs.

14         14

I went looking for a good picture of them online and stumbled across this really nice shot.  Then I thought it looked rather familiar. Yes, that is my picture of a bunch of Roger Hawkins combs! It’s odd to see your own photos show up in an online photo search.


Cindy had two pair of Hawkins combs and had the guilds’ pair of the Louet Mini Combs. Unfortunately, the Louet combs have not stood up well to guild use. The tines have become loose. (watch for the picture of dizing from the comb)



She had us load the combs with the butt end in the tines and the tips exposed to the tines of the second comb. Stressing that it was important to only comb enough to make the fibres parallel and get rid of neps and vegetable matter. We did this by transferring the fibre from one comb to the other and back again.  One comb was held tines up and the other with tines horizontal. Working from the outer tips slowly transferring fibres until we had as much fibre as possible migrate. (Don’t throw away your combing waste that remains on the comb!! Keep it for core felting something later!)

We spun off the last comb, remembering to space the fibre up the comb so it would draft more easily.


She had us try both short forward and backward drafting directly from the comb.



We had quite the selection of wheels; an Ashford Traditional, the Matchless, a Louet and a Rook by Lendrum.

Next was on to Dizzing!  What a cool word Diz, to Diz, we Diz, we are Dizzing and we have Dizzed. It may just be the sound of the word or maybe having a plethora of z opportunities is what makes it a great word? Anyways, on to the dizzing. Using a button, shell, or a piece of curved plastic will work as a diz. The size of the hole will change the amount of fibre that is pulled through to make the sliver. A small crochet hook or loop of fishing line will help start the fibre through the hole. For best results, it is important to get the concave curve towards the fibre. (Like this;  spinner —-(===== fibre source)  You can diz from a drum carder too if you were curious.


Again reposition the fibres upwards in the tines if the drafting feels resistant.



3131 I need a button with a slightly smaller hole and I should pick up a tiny crochet hook!

All this work is worth it.  Look at the lovely fluffy clouds waiting to be spun!


Spinning from the slivers was much easier than from the comb (which was actually a lot of fun). We quickly spun up singles with which we could then try weaving.  We wound off the spinning bobbin and directly onto a weaving bobbin using a bobbin winder. A single, being an energized yarn, I put my wheel back away from the bobbin winder to give the twist a bit more space to even out before winding on to the weaving bobbin.

Cindy gave us a quick rundown on how to use the rigid heddle loom (where to find the up, down and neutral position sheds). You can also see the small peg looms to the right on the table. The warp on the loom is Polwarth from Shirley Browsky’s sheep. We had been given a sample of the two-ply and were spinning to match the diameter but in a one ply.



We were getting close to the end of the workshop and were going to take turns weaving off our samples at the next social (which was cancelled due to the virus). So we will have singles that have sat on a bobbin for a bit and that will make them a bit more cooperative (less energized).


Cindy showed us a different way to wind over your hand to make a double-ended ball to spin from. She was winding pretty quickly so I’m afraid the pictures are a bit more “Action shot” than I had anticipated.


I used to snitch Glenn’s paperbacks (usually the one he was reading) to wind a double ended ball. He eventually made me a metal winding tool with his blacksmithing skills so he could keep his books.

I am looking forward to eventually getting back to the guild socials and taking more of Cindy’s workshop series. This first one was called  Spinning in a New Direction – Fine Wool from Comb to Woven Scarf.

The next ones are Spinning in a New Direction – Medium/Fine Wool from Comb to Crochet Vest (Novice), Spinning in a New Direction – Medium/Strong Wool in Two Colours from Comb to Marled Coil Basket (Novice), Spinning in a New Direction – Strong Wool from Comb to Worsted 3 Ply for Rug Hooking (Beginner), Spinning in a New Direction – Angora Blend from Drum Carder to Woolen Style for Knitted Mittens (Novice).

She will also be teaching a fibre prep workshop; From the Beginning Starting with a Fleece.

Since this workshop, I am now watching for 2 more sets of combs, the Viking 2 pitch fine combs and a set of the Roger Hawkins combs. I have 2 fleeces that could use their attention! Oh, the Humanity! My poor fleeces will have to wait until I have the right equipment to really show off their loveliness! I wonder if the Wool Growers Co-Op in Carlton Place has any new fleeces yet? I wonder if anyone other than I would consider wool an essential item to daily life?

Take care, stay healthy, keep your hands in warm soapy water as much as possible!! (I am not implying you should do any dishwashing)

8 thoughts on “Spinning for a Purpose: workshop 1

  1. What a fabulously entertaining pictorial post Jan – thank you. Never heard of a double ended ball – very interesting.
    Cindy is a very talented lady!

    1. thanks Annielynrosie, most of my spinning friends ply from 2 or more bobbins. but that means you will likely have one run out first. if you spin from a ball working from the inside and the outside you always reach the middle at the same time! its brilliant for not having leftover yarn.
      Cindy is an amazing and vary patent teacher. we are vary lucky to have her when she can teach!

  2. Looks like you learned a lot in a short time. When I read these posts, I sometimes think you are speaking in a foreign language because I don’t speak spinners/weavers. But always an interesting read. Stay safe!

    1. i am glad you are enjoying them Ruth! i think a lot of people are totally confused by me even when they understand the topic im chatting about!

      it was an amazing class and im looking foreword to learning more when her workshops recommence. maybe you will get curious and have a bit of spare wool and a stick with a hook or notch and kind of twist it a bit. maybe add a wate to the bottom, and then you will be off on a tangent spinning away happily between felting expeditions.

      Keep your hands in warm soapy water! im sure that will keep us all extra safe from the virus!

  3. I heard lots of great things about the class I hope we can all get back to teaching and learning in person soon. This is a good time for you to felt Jan, you have to have your hands wet anyway.

  4. Thanks Ann it was a really good short workshop and i am really looking foreword to the rest of them!
    Ann, You know i am trying to perfect Wet felting by keeping dry!
    i have not figured out how to wash fleece without getting wet. I have 2 more fleces to wash shortly but first, rack the tiny bit of front grass, re-sweep the drive way and supervise the migration of the potted forest back to the side yard. the Fun of Spring!!

  5. This was so much fun to read! Now I can’t stop saying “dizzying” in my head 😀

    (Also, I feel I need combs now. Not that I need any encouragement to spend money, but thanks for the enabling, Jan!)

    1. Thanks Leonor! Ann says i am an enabler of fiber related aquisitions. why you would never want to have only one wheel it would be loanly!!! and if you had only 2 when you were useing one the other would be lonly or feels neglected. wheels should be optomly kept in groups of 3 or more of cours! And wool it squishes so im shure you could hid a bit more under the funiture? no one will notice that the couch is higher than it usse to be! and for combs there are difent types for difernt fleces so you may want to get both the long deadly viking type (also suposubly good with burglers) and the less pointy ones you can use in public! but have you seen hackles yet? My furry dog-son got me hakels for Mothers day years ago. he was such a good boy, a bit confused since he tryed so hard to be a good cat. but he did give the best mothers day presents. he got me a boukay of cinder blocks for my garden one year. what a good dog!

      Definatlly look into the combs, see if any one near you has a set, try out a few difernt kinds. the big ones i have are Alvin Ramer’s and are much heavyer than the mini combs or even the Valkerie combs. i have seen bigger English combs at colonial wiliamsberg that looked hevery (the interperater was not intersted in letting anyone hold them). the Bee decapping combs are cheep, light but not usefull as a pair unless i can rebend the handles. the set of the teeth differ, the wate, and even the handles so its worth it to try them out befor you by them. the Hawkins combs were comfortable in my hand and were not too heavy for an eveing combing. so if you can track a pair down near you check them out for shure.
      Stay healthy and have fun!!
      Good luck on your quest and think of all the fun you will have with more fiber preperation options!!!

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