Cutting the Staple – Do-or-Die or Do-and-Die

Ding! Ding! Ding! 

Are you ready for another hot button topic?  Let’s talk about cutting the staple.  You’ll hear some people say its okay to cut the staple length of your fiber to shorten it and you’ll hear some people argue vehemently against it. On either side of the fence, you might hear gasps and the gnashing of teeth.

This is another one of those grey spaces where there’s not really one right or wrong answer, as long as you consider the outcome.

Why Might You Cut the Staple?

If you plan to card instead of comb a longer fiber, you may consider cutting your staple.  Carding works best for fibers three inches and shorter.  If you’ve ever made rolags with longer fibers, you probably have experienced that longer fibers don’t draft as nicely from a woolen preparation.

You may also have a difficult fleece which has weak tips or patches of vegetable matter that you are include to remove.  Sometimes, you might snip the tips if they’ve been sun bleached or otherwise damaged.

Why Shouldn’t You Cut the Staple?

Cutting the staple in the middle leaves you with tips and butts.  Tips are almost always thinner than the butts of the fiber and have had different exposure to the elements.  When you cut and then blend the fiber, you end up with different diameter of fibers laying next to each other.  This will contribute to pilling in the final project.

Cutting a long, lustrous fiber doesn’t do the fiber justice.  It reduces the qualities that you probably selected the fleece for.  Cutting the staple makes a weaker, less lustrous yarn.

My Thoughts:

While I don’t have any real power over what you do, I give you special Luthvarian permission to cut your staple if three conditions are met.

  1. You will spin a woolen yarn.
  2. You must carefully consider if this is the right fleece for the project you have in mind or if it might be a better fit for a different project.
  3. You must acknowledge that you will lose certain qualities in the fleece, like strength and luster, and decide that you are comfortable defending that outcome.

If you can come to terms with these three points, rock and roll.

Woolen (top) and worsted yarns made from Glacier’s fleece

For example, take the fleece pictured.  This is Glacier the Corriedale ram.  Glacier has a beautiful, five to six inch, super lustrous fleece.  It would be a shame to lose that luster!  However, when I sample, I like to spin both a woolen and worsted sample for comparison.  I chopped an ounce up to card into rolags.  It is amazing how much easier these rolags spin up once the fiber is shorter.  I knew I would get a fuzzy, matte yarn.  I also knew that I’d choose to comb the rest of this fleece.  At one point, I had some 12″ staple Cormo (long story).  I spun it long, but it would have been just as happy to be chopped into thirds.

Cutting your fiber is a personal choice.  When someone looks at the shawl or sweater you made, they’re not going to swing their nose in the air and proclaim, “You cut your fiber!”  No, they’re going to compliment you on your beautiful work!





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