Carding Wool by Hand and Making Perfect Rolags

Learn how easy carding wool by hand can be with these step-by-step instructions.

| June 28, 2013

Wool Combing and Carding

Find detailed instructions and photos on carding wool in “Wool Combing and Carding.”

Cover Courtesy Interweave Press

Carding wool shouldn’t be hard. Revisit fiber processing tips in Wool Combing and Carding (Interweave Press, 2013). In this excerpt, author Carol Huebscher Rhoades shows you how carding wool is simplified with the right body position and technique, and she shows how to make the perfect rolag.

When hand spinners explain their craft to others, they often start by showing some wool and explaining the basics of carding; then they demonstrate spinning a yarn. However, I’ve noticed that many spinners don’t hand card their wool. Some prefer to spin from the locks, to flick or drum card, or to comb their fibers, while others have their fibers prepared commercially. It’s easy to see why many spinners aren’t hand carders. It seems to take a long time; it doesn’t always give easy-to-spin results; and it can be stressful on muscles and joints in the arms and hands. However, carding doesn’t have to be that way. It can be fast and easy on the body, and it’s the key to quickly-spun and controlled woolen yarns.

Before You Start

Quick, efficient carding starts with clean carders and fibers. Make sure your carders are rust-free and that all the teeth are in the correct position. Adjust any misaligned teeth. Remove any fibers caught in the carders. If there are fibers left on the carders, especially greasy ones, they simply invite more to bed down with them and carding wool becomes even more difficult.

My secret weapon for cleaning the carders is a roller pick. Your hairdresser will probably give you a couple or you can purchase them at a beauty supply store. The plastic picks slide easily between the teeth without damaging the teeth or backing.

The most important idea to keep in mind is that you want your carding to produce a rolag that will be spun into a light and airy woolen yarn. Woolen yarn can be up to 60 percent air, and the air pockets between the fibers produce a lightweight yet warm yarn and garment. At every step of the carding process, from selecting your fibers, to cleaning, carding, and spinning them, think light, think airy.

Choose fibers that are open and easy to card, that is, choose a fleece with no matted or felted sections and little or no vegetable matter. Open the fibers by hand if the cut or tip ends are at all matted.

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