Pick Picker? Of The Litter…

or maybe it should be “litterer”, given Dorothy’s  propensity for clearing desks, counters, and bookcases when she feels the urge (not to mention the little bits of mice, snakes, moles, and various unidentifiable detritus she leaves on the front deck)


Dorothy loves her cat sized cradle.. and it is a cradle .. a cradle style picker.  It is, however, securely fastened with a padlock so that this cradle does not rock when unattended.


The cradle is studded with long, very sharp, teeth…


and so is the base. The fiber is fed into the the front of the picker (this picture is from the back – Dorothy, always correct, is facing the front of the picker) while the cradle is  held toward the picker person. The cradle is then swung (is swung a word? swinged?) towards the back of the picker – catching the fiber from the tray, pulling it across the teeth, and out the back, where it falls neatly into a box. Sometimes. Sometimes the fiber just floats for awhile.  A picker works exceptionally well on the ‘traditional’ open,  loosely crimped Jacob fleece.  Although I confess to not being completely sure what the ‘traditional’ Jacob fleece is 🙂 My small band of ladies exhibit a variety of fleeces and they all assure me that their fleece is “Jacob”.  I tend to believe them.

In discussions on various internet  fiber groups about pickers, there always seems to be one person that rather haughtily (if you can apply the term haughtily to email), explains that a picker doesn’t clean – its only purpose is to open the fibers.  I don’t  think it shows in this photo, but there is  a bit over 1/2″ of  dirt and trash built up at the base of the teeth from two fleeces. It may not be the “purpose”, but it is a nice side effect 🙂 and I’d rather not have that make it to my carder. Pickers do not take out large pieces of hay, but do well for small bits of trash.  It will not take out cockleburs – it will smash the cocklebur into small prickly cockleburs bits that are near impossible to get out to the fleece.

It is best in most cases to feed a small amount of fiber, make sure the cradle clears both ends each pass, and get the fiber through the picker in one swing. With a loosely crimped fiber, this is not really necessary for a quality output, but does speed up the process. With a crimpier (more elastic) fiber, fiber left on the teeth after the forward swing can snap back around the teeth and form neps (little coiled knots of fiber) on the following backward and forward swings.  For more elastic, downy type fleeces, I raise the cradle almost as high as it will go and do a very light picking, sometimes doing a second pick.  A light picking also works well for tippy Jacob fleeces IF THE TIPS ARE STRONG. If the tips are weak, as they often are in hoggett (first shearing – usually as a yearling) fleece, picking will break the tips and leave noils (little bits of short fiber).

In a few short minutes this:


Becomes this…


I haven’t seen a bench picker in action, but cradle pickers are dangerous. The teeth are super sharp. Just touching the teeth can make you bleed. Picking demands your entire attention! Don’t watch watch a movie while picking, don’t visit with your friend, don’t try to photograph yourself picking….


Yes, I was wearing the shirt when the picker teeth caught it. Dumb.

It’s been a slow week for my fiber challenge.  I finally decided to see a doctor about my shoulder.  One day at the doctor and another day going for xrays  pretty much shot a big part of the week.  Did you know that one of the xrays for your cervical spine is shot from the front through your mouth? For some reason that really weirded me out, especially by the fourth time they had to reshoot.

I wasn’t totally lazy and did pick Jedd’s fleece, carded about 1 pound of it, washed five of the beautiful fleeces I purchased from Hillside Jacobs, spread another 200 lbs of lime (very carefully) and made a pair of socks.



About patchworkfibers

Registered Jacob Sheep
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4 Responses to Pick Picker? Of The Litter…

  1. FarmGirl says:

    I can’t thank you enough for this post with the pics and the detailed information. I’m wondering what brand your picker is and how I might acquire one. I’m also wondering what kind of a drum carder you have. I have an Ashford hand crank model. I need something much stronger as I have over 100 fleeces to work.

  2. Ooooh! I would love to have a picker like that. It would be so great to use before drum carding. Maybe someday…

  3. Your cat is hilarious! And I too have “picked” the front of my shirt – yikes!

  4. Shannon says:

    Your socks are beautiful! I love the color.

    That is an evil looking piece of machinery. It looks like Dorothy really enjoys it though.

    My Jacob girls agree with yours 🙂

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