Classically, a hand spun sock yarn is made with a combed, rather than carded, preparation of fibres. I started out with my kilogram of Suffolk fleece, and divided it up. Some has been dyed with legacy unnatural dyes and some with plant dyes. I started in on combing some wool dyed in shades of blue and green. I dyed some tussah silk along with the wool (the silk did not take the dye well at all), and have local kid mohair that is plain natural white, and some that has been dyed with dyers’ chamomile, and some I bought dyed by the seller in shades of blue and purple. I am blending in the silk and mohair for strength and durability.
I have ‘English’ combs. I am not sure what makes them English (they were made here in Australia)–I am sure there is a historical reason for the name. But they are vicious looking things. When I take them to Guild, there are always onlookers commenting on the fiendish tines. Unfortunately, I am yet to find a Guildie who can offer me advice on better use. This seems to be a minority preoccupation at my Guild, or perhaps I’ve just been unlucky. So. Step 1 is ‘lashing on’, loading the stationary comb with fibres.
Step 2 involves combing the fibres off that comb and onto the other. Done!
Now, transferring the fibres back to the stationary comb. It could go on… but this is the extent of my patience at this point.
Then, pulling off ‘top’ through a diz. I do love spinning terminology! This produces a preparation in which the fibres are in alignment, ready to be spun into a dense, hard wearing yarn.
Some of my top shows that I tried to blend fibres of different lengths. This is a vice to be avoided in combing. Combing does a great job of removing short fibres (and burrs and grass seeds…) but if the fibres are of differing lengths, the top will have (in my case) all mohair–the longest fibre–at one end and wool predominating in the middle, with the shortest silk fibres predominating at the other end. I cut some of the kid mohair locks in half (another spinning crime!) to resolve this issue in some cases, and in others, spun top from both ends to blend the fibres as I spun them up.
And here is the finished skein. It is abut 5 ply (fingering), a little thicker than many sock yarns–but after my last effort, where I produced something thinner than sock yarn and have been too overcome to knit it up–I think that is OK. I have chain plied it, which is not strictly speaking recommended for durability–but this seems to be a much debated point and I chose colour happiness over potentially reduced durability on this occasion. So–I am not quite ready for the knitting to begin, but I am getting closer. One sock down to the toe on the current pair in progress…