Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a pair of English wool combs. They were sold out at the time but the people in the shop were kind enough to allow me to backorder. Now all I had to do was wait a few days and let the spiky goodness arrive at my doorstep!

Finally, they were here.


Leonor of Eleanor Shadow holds a pair of English combs and looks chuffed


It occurs to me that these would make great Wolverine claws for Halloween, were I in the mood to risk self-injury… Seriously, despite knowing these are pointy, sharp objects, it still surprised me to find out exactly how sharp they were in a slight moment of distraction. Note to self: don’t daydream when handling wool combs.

If you’re not sure what wool combs are for, these brilliant tools are used to process fleeces for spinning. They work by separating, aligning and combing the wool locks, whilst also getting rid of any vegetable matter (VM). The end result is a fluffy and lovely cloud that you’re supposed to carefully diz off the combs, ending up with a longish sort of roving.


Texel cross wool locks on English combs, ready for processing


Ideally, you’ll place the locks facing the same direction, which in my case was cut side nearest the tines, ends on the outside.
These are lovely locks from a Texel cross lamb’s first shear’s fleece. I washed it myself. They’re so soft and all I want to do is bury my face in them.. (which I definitely have. Don’t judge.)


Eleanor Shadow uses English wool combs to process some wool locks


Next, you carefully start teasing the tips of the locks apart with the other comb, which will transfer a bit of fibre to said comb at each pass. As you keep doing this, the longer staples of wool will move and the shortest bits will remain on the clamped comb. You’re meant to discard these short bits, but I keep them to make dryer balls.


English wool combs processing wool on a table

A hand showing wool waste after using English wool combs


You can see above that the fibre left behind retains some VM. I don’t mind it because it’s clean, and won’t be seen once the dryer balls are covered in commercially processed wool top. Waste not, want not.

You will do this transferring of fibre from one comb to the other until you’re happy with how the wool looks. The one below was on the third pass.


Side view of wool on English wool combs, after processing


There was still a tiny bit of VM but I don’t mind.

Since I wasn’t planning on spinning this wool, I didn’t diz it off the comb, I simply pulled it all off  together very gently, so it all came off at the same time.
After 30 minutes I had a few clouds.


A few soft clouds of processed wool on a table


I’ll be gathering a lot of this fluff into a bag and, once I have enough, I’ll card it on my drum carder and make batts to sell to spinners and felters. Lamb wool really is like a cloud and I’m loving playing with it.

To end this post in my usual tradition, here’s a completely unrelated photo I took a few days ago that I find amusing. This was on a building I happened to pass by here in Edinburgh.

Plaque on a wall saying On This Site in 1897 Nothing Happened

So, what’s your current favourite fibre utensil?

12 thoughts on “Playing with my new toy: English wool combs

    1. Isn’t that sign brilliant? I laughed so much when I saw it 😀

      Thanks! I’ve been making lots of fluffy clouds in the meantime and have some rather lovely batts 🙂

  1. I have tried using those type of combs before. You are correct that you need to be paying attention while using them. But they really do a good job in creating fluff. Thanks for the demo!

    1. I’ll be honest, the first time I tried them (a few years ago) they didn’t impress me too much, other than to note how spiky and dangerous they could be! Now I’m older and wiser, I really love them and keep asking why I didn’t buy a pair earlier…

  2. Very cool now toy. I have never used any but I have watch other so it. It is fascinating how it leave all the short and neppy bits behind. have some careful fun and do practice acupuncture on yourself.

    1. I’m loving how the resulting fluff is just so lovely and easy to work with. I’ve since practiced a little acupuncture on myself, I even bled! Very artful of me, haha 😀

  3. I can well see why you had to put your face into the clouds of fluff – fluff fetish sounds much nicer than fibre fetish!
    What are the dryer balls you make for? I know about those horrid plastic things that years ago were there to help the clothes dry more quickly – though I couldn’t work out how. How about a post on how you make them?

    1. I’m seriously into the fluff fetish 😀 I’ve got a few new batts made and I can’t stop myself from squishing them slightly every time I pass them by!

      The dryer balls work the same way those horrid plastic things, except they’re eco-friendly and last much longer 🙂 They also supposedly reduce static electricity, which is nice.
      I’m not 100% sure but I think there’s a post here on them already? Or did I dream?…

  4. Leonor your photos are great and I can just see you gleefully burying your fingers & face into those gorgeous soft clouds.

    I have used grooming combs for the same purpose & know about the need to concentrate. Please don’t be tempted to create a new ‘line of dots’ tat 🤪 & hope M is wise to stay at a distance! 😂

    1. I’ve been flying through my fleeces with these! Every time I pick my combs up I ask myself, why on Earth didn’t I buy these many years ago?

      As for the tattoo idea… you know you’ve now put that in my head, right? :p

    1. I’m always surprised how sharp they are! Guess when the surprise hits: yep, when I get slightly distracted and touch them mid-processing… ouch!

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