Six Steps to Hand Carding Wool

Learn to use hand carders or how to use a drum carder to expand the types of yarn you can spin by giving you more control over fiber preparation.

Whether you are an experienced crafter chasing the perfect yarn or a beginner looking for an outlet for your creative talents, The Complete Guide to Spinning Yarn (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012) by Brenda Gibson will inspire you to get spinning. Beginners can learn basic techniques, from preparing and dyeing fiber to drop spindle spinning and wheel spinning, while more advanced spinners can explore recipes for a range of textured and colorful yarns.

Carding more thoroughly opens up the fibers and frees them of tangles and debris than teasing alone.

Carding may also be used as a blending process for different fibers or colors, and the end preparation will tend to contain some variety of fiber length (consequently, a different preparation is used for worsted spinning). Carding may be done using a pair of hand carders or using a drum carder (visit the link below to learn how to use a drum carder).

How to Use Hand Carders

Carding wool by hand involves removing tangles from the fiber and creating an evenly prepared sheet of fiber known as a batt.

1. Rest the carder flat on your lap with the teeth facing upward and the handle facing toward your left side. Notice that the teeth are hooked. Lay a small amount of fiber across the carder, pulling gently against the teeth. Do not overload the carder.

person laying wool fiber across a red carder

2. With the filled carder still resting in your lap, grip the handle of the filled carder and hold the empty carder, teeth downward, in your right hand.

person holding two carders with wool on one side and the other facing down

3. Begin stroking the right carder gently across the left, starting at the free edge where the fiber protrudes and gradually working across. You are aiming to enable the fiber to be brushed out smoothly without embedding the two sets of teeth together. After several strokes, a lot of the fiber will have transferred to the right carder.

person stroking empty carder against filled carder

4. Transfer the fiber on the right carder onto the left carder. Turn the right carder so that the handle is upward and the teeth face left. Hook the fiber onto the left carder starting at the handle edge and, with a sweeping action, release the fiber from the right. Repeat Steps 3-4.

person transferring fiber between carders

5. Now transfer any fiber remaining on the left carder to the right carder in a similar way and repeat Steps 3 and 4 again. Continue to repeat these steps until the fiber is sufficiently uniform for your purpose, and pick out any reluctant tangles and foreign matter by hand as you do so. Finish with all of the fiber transferred back onto the left carder.

6. Flip over the right carder and use its tines to lift the carded layer of fiber (known as a batt) free. Turn the left carder over and lay the batt flat onto the back ready to make a rolag for woolen spinning.

person pulling carded layer off a carder

More from The Complete Guide to Spinning Yarn:

Drop Spindle Spinning Made Easy

How to Use a Drum Carder in Three Steps

book cover with coiled yarn on it

From The Complete Guide to Spinning Yarn: Techniques, Projects and Recipes © 2012 by Brenda Gibson. Reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press. All rights reserved.

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