Combing with oil

Last time I combed mohair locks (again, for embroidery thread) I was frustrated with the how static made the slick fibres fly all over the place.  It was a little difficult to control, both in the combing and spinning, so for the next batch I decided to use combing oil.

There’s no one type of ‘combing oil,’ in fact I could find very little in the way of recipes or even descriptions of what it might be.  With the help of Ravelry, however, I came up with a spray bottle filled with a cup or two of water, a few tablespoons of olive oil, and a few drops of lavender oil.  Shake well, spray, comb.  This does add an extra step–washing the finished yarn–to the process, because the remaining oil on the fibres will eventually go rancid.  Mineral oil doesn’t go rancid and I believe some people use that, but I’d rather not use a petroleum product if I don’t have to. Also, some spinners wash all their yarns anyway, so it may not even be more labor-intensive than usual.  I took some photos of the process, starting with the raw locks loaded on the comb:

After a good spray with the combing oil and the first pass on the combs, the locks look pretty fluffy:

I sprayed them down quite a bit more before the next pass, which yielded much tamer fibres.  The oil helped a lot with keeping them under control:

Yet another spray down before pulling the finished top through the diz (in this case, a button):

And finally, a nice tidy bird’s nest of 100% mohair top:

There was a lot of waste afterwards, probably around 50% of the total fibre.  I’ll use this for carding, probably blended in batts, or it would likely do fine spun on its own from a cloud:

For comparison, here’s a pile of top from my earlier, no-oil combing session next to the batch combed with oil.  There is slightly more of the magenta stuff there, but even so you can see the difference the oil made:

Overall, I’m really happy with the results and will use the combing oil again, perhaps even for less slippery fibres.  It’s now spun up and washed, and ready to be used for its intended purpose.  That’ll be another post!

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6 Responses to Combing with oil

  1. Autumn says:

    Wow! Was there a noticeable difference in the spinning experience because of the oil on the fibre?

  2. Slipstream says:

    Definitely–it was a lot easier to control while spinning. The first batch of mohair top was so fluffy that it was very wide and hard to draft a narrow single from, while this stuff stayed nice and compact and thin.

  3. Rachel says:

    Wow, this process is beautiful! LOVE the pics!

  4. Moz says:

    That combing is just lovely! I like that color.

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