A Spinning Tip for Getting to Know Your Commercial Fiber

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Here's something I like to do to get to know my commercial top a little better before spinning it.

I do this if I get something called 'wool', or if a fiber is listed as a particular breed and I think it's a mistake, or if I've lost the label (most likely), or just for fun (also likely).

Like smelling salts to a swooning Victorian maiden, I steam my fiber to revive it. A little steam revives the crimp in fiber.

Sometimes I steam just a little to see what the crimp is like without the combing. Sometimes I steam all of the fiber I plan to spin, if I really want my yarn to be airy.

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Here's some Corriedale (left) Southdown (right), in each photo the fiber strip on the left is top before steaming and the fiber on the right is the same top steamed.

My hair did the same thing in Dallas last month.

HUGE difference, and quite a peek into what the fiber is really like. 

The Corriedale snaps to it's famous medium crimp, zig zaggy with some spring and loft. The Southdown went sproing like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the crimp spiraled and it feels spongy and dense.

These steamed fibers would make for different spinning experiences and a different yarn than they would when they were still neatly combed top. It's fun to compare.

If I was going to steam ounces of fiber at a time, I would use a handheld steamer or a steamer basket on the stove (be careful of felting). For small samples like these I use my electric kettle. Here's quick video where you can see the crimp bloom.