day 3 of tour de fleece 2009
514 grams combed total
426 grams sliver (88 grams waste not pictured)
Yesterday I spent my Tour de Fleece time combing fleece (again), but this time on my new-to-me set of Valkyrie handheld 2-pitch Viking combs instead of the Craftsmith 4-pitch fine English set. I swapped for the Valkyries on the Ravelry Spin or Dye swapping board (along with a bunch of other stuff I should show you sometime, super awesome forum for spinners, dyers, and raw fleece junkies) for some of my unloved stash and I'm glad I did.
Don't get me wrong, I love my big combs! For a while now though, I've wanted to be able to sit and comb. It sounds silly, but the first day of TdF I stopped combing for the day not because of time or upper body fatigue, but because my legs were starting to hurt. I'm not used to standing in one place for a long time at this point in my life, and the time does take a toll when trying to comb for volume and not just the day's spinning.
So yesterday was all about the Valkyrie handhelds... their "mini" size. Valkyrie isn't making these anymore but sometimes you can find them used (their tines are not stainless, be sure to ask on their condition if you find a set.) They are great, solid tools. I also swapped for the "pad" that holds the combs so you can pull off the sliver with both hands, or I suppose use it more as a fixed station to swing at like a large set. The appeal for me with these was to be able to use them freehand so I use it to be able to pull sliver off more easily.
(sunlight's giving the fleece a gorgeous, not true color)
I've been weighing my waste fibers and finished sliver as I've gone along on the TdF challenge, more for curiosity than anything (I didn't plan on using the Valkyries for combing to compare.) It is worth noting though that yesterday I hit 13% waste using the handheld 2-pitch versus the ~20% when using the 4-pitch English. It makes sense, more tines catching more waste. The fleece is also a shorter staple than probably optimal for the English set (3").
I also was using one less pass on the Viking set than the English (3 vs 4)-- since I use the English as a "fixed comb" (the stationary comb never leaves its pad), I need to pass fiber by a multiple of two (taking off, putting on) before dizzing off. With the Vikings as handhelds, I keep the stationary comb in my left hand and the working comb in my right, transferring fiber from left to right. Once I'm ready, I just switch hands (the full fiber comb goes to the left, the empty/now-working comb to the right) so I can transfer fiber in any number of passes before I decide to diz off.
gvpencheff diz and one of my dining table chairs
It is nice, being able to comb anywhere I like. Here I'm set up on the couch, watching star wars with the kid and making sliver with the Valkyrie pad attached to a chair. Tonite I'm combing at my desk watching Hulu :) I think I'll be done with TdF combing tonite!!
I like both sets, English and Viking. (Really!) I think a truer test as far as waste production goes should be made using a slightly longer stapled fleece-- I think my numbers were higher than normal on the English because of the short staple. (I also did not plank on either set.) There is also the body tradeoff... I found standing for several (several!) hours with the English set to be tiring on my legs, but I never feel tired in arms or upper body since I let gravity do most of the work. With the handhelds I could feel my arms and hands get tired just from repetition and grip, not as much a strength issue. Keep in mind I'm also trying to power thru combing to get to spinning for the Tour; I'm not doing it to the point of exhaustion but it is probably more than I'd usually do any other time. I do get more volume off of the big combs with less effort (fewer passes for weight combed, etc.), but it becomes a cointoss with everything else considered.
The make of the handheld Valkyrie combs overall is very nice. Like I said the Valkyries are no longer in production, but the new sets designed by Robin Russo and manufactured by her husband Pat under the name "St. Blaise" are very similar and in several ways nicer (the pad can be used for storage/hackling across, finished cherry wood as opposed to unfinished, commercially available now etc.) You can order St. Blaise combs from your favorite fiber pusher; I just was drooling over a set at Verb (they'll ship if you're not local.)
Off to finish my tiny pile of locks and oil up the wheel for spinning tomorrow. Yay!