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Power and Art

Edward Scissorhands, eat your heart out. 

I have been spinning for almost 14 years; combing my own wool for at least 7. It wasn’t until last week, though, that I tried using English combs. 

An explanation might be helpful here. Wool combs aren’t anything like hair combs, though the principles are similar. Imagine a handle with sleek, sharp spikes sticking up at a 90 degree angle. Now imagine five rows of said spikes, longer and spikier than anything you’ve ever seen, and those are English combs.

I’d never tried English combs before. I’d always used 2-pitch combs (a pitch is a row of spikes) and thought they were fine. The 2-pitchers always cleaned my wool and left it soft with all the fibers parallel. That’s a good thing. I didn’t know what I was missing. Last week I borrowed a set of English combs from my guild … And loved them so much I immediately rushed out and purchased my own set. 

Now for the unveiling. 


I won’t bore you with the details of how to comb. There are plenty of videos on YouTube. Suffice it to say, these deadly critters turn this

 Into this: 

Those little nests of fiber are a joy to spin. And the work goes a whole lot quicker than with my old 2-pitch combs. 

The combs are wicked scary. Don’t even think of taking English combs on an airplane. The TSA will come to your house and arrest you. St. Kilda, the patron saint of wool combers, was tortured to death with her own combs. If you were an English wool comber, though, and had to make your living combing your way through mounds of fleeces, you would want mega-spikes, too. 

It feels odd to own such lethal items. I’m a nice person. I won’t let my husband own a gun. It probably took me 7 years to even try these things out because they were too incongruous with my self-image as a nice person.

Power isn’t nice. It isn’t hostile, either. Power just is, with no deference and no apologies. Powerful art also makes no apologies.

It’s something to think about. 

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