Using the hand carders

It is raining here today, otherwise I would be out in the yard trying to move the garden ahead somehow.

I thought today would be a good day to talk about the drum carder.  But I realized that in order to introduce the drum carder, we really need to start with the hand cards.

Hand cards are a really old method for processing wool prior to spinning.  Hundreds of years old, and just the same then as they are today.  These are mine and they came with my Ashford spinning wheel (second hand from Margie Paige.  Thanks Margie!)  New hand cards today cost around $67.  This is from this web site that sells these same carders:  I think that price is about average from what I have seen.  Remember if you will that I bought that Ashford spinning wheel used for $50.  Which, with the more that I learn about spinning tools and equipment, really means that she gave it to me.  I appreciate that more and more as time goes by.   I know that I could not easily replace either of my spinning wheels at today’s prices, and that I must maintain them well if I am to use them for years to come.

The other side of the cards:

The colored fluffs are the remnants of whatever I did last.  Hundreds of little teeth that pass by each other aligning the fibers to make for easier spinning.

Picture these carders in your hands, one in each and they pull apart from each other when loaded with wool.

To use these, load one with a bit of fiber.  This is a naturally fawn colored alpaca.  It has been washed and dried, but is still clumpy.  I pull it apart a bit with my hands before loading the card.  You don’t want to overload the card, but enough to make a few passes.  The cards can be loaded again if that was not enough fiber the first time.  We will only do it once here for illustration purposes.

The second carder is raked across the top of the loaded bottom one.

This pulling apart movement is done a few times.  There will be fiber on both cards.  See how it is all aligned?  No more clumpy bumpy fiber.  Wispy and in line.

Then they are put together again in such a way that the fiber from one is loaded onto the other.  One is now empty and one is fully loaded.

A different motion gets all of the fiber off the cards.  Then it is rolled up loosely into a bundle to spin from.  You can spin directly from this, or you can pre-draft it into a roving shape.

Pre-drafted; one long continuous length of roving to spin from:

A quarter for comparison as to how much fiber we got from those combs for one time.  Not much.

This is a slow process.  It makes spinning much easier than if you did not have cards.  You can still spin directly from the lumpy bumps way back in the beginning, but there would be a lot of stopping and starting to get the neps (little knotty bumps) worked out.  This makes one long piece of fiber to spin from.  But the cost for these things is pretty high.  You can’t productively spin without some sort of carding, but this is slow going.  The drum carder makes this process look positively primitive.  But the things that you can do with a drum carder vs. hand cards in terms of blending fibers are just endless.  We will talk about the drum carder later in the day.

Just a side note; this fiber has been washed very well.  When you look at it there is no VM at all, but after just a few passes with the hand carders, you can see the dirt that falls out:

I don’t think this is “dirty” dirt.  I mean, its dirt, but not bugs or anything sinister like that.  While spinning this more dirt will come out too.  But the yarn is washed again once it is spun and between what falls out when spinning and what comes out in the last wash, it is really pretty clean by the time you are knitting with it.  Lets call it “organic matter”, not “dirty”.

See you this afternoon with the drum carder.

One thought on “Using the hand carders

  1. This process never ceases to amaze me and makes me so much more appreciative of the final product. Waiting to see how the drum carder works.

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