Cloud Prep? Peek Into the Carding Mill

The Winter 2019 Grassroots issue of Spin Off includes two articles on a less-common fiber preparation called cloud. This fluffy, no-rules prep can be created by hand (affiliate link) or by a commercial carding mill.

In this issue, author Debbie Held goes behind the scenes at Dakota Carding and Wool in South Dakota, and Andrea Mielke Schroer walks us through some strategies for spinning the beautiful carded clouds produced by Dakota Carding and Wool. Here is an excerpt of Andrea’s article, answering the common question, “what is a carded cloud?”

Plump rovings and tidy rolags usually come to mind as classic carded preparations, but what is carded cloud? The type of carded cloud I have been seeing for decades consists of washed, carded fibers that come in no particular form or order. To understand how fibers get into this so-called cloud form, we first need a little overview of how a carding mill prepares fibers for spinning. During commercial carding, fiber passes from one carding drum to another, a process that opens the fibers. These drums are usually several feet wide and arranged in a series of several large- and small-diameter drums. At the end of the carding machine, the fiber comes off the last drum in a thin web.

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Fibers are passed between a series of large and small drums. Photo by Kate Larson

The type of fiber preparation is determined by what happens next to the carded web. The fiber may be wrapped around a smooth drum to form a batt, bunched up widthwise to create roving, split into many strips in preparation for a spinning machine, or simply gathered up into what is called cloud, usually by just pushing the thin web of fibers into a bin or bag.

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Dakota Carding carded cloud ready for spinning. Photo by Kelly Knispel

Any type of fiber that can be carded can be made into carded cloud; it is not just for short-staple fibers. No additional preparation is necessary to spin it—just grab a chunk, attach to your leader, and start drafting.


Andrea Mielke Schroer lives in central Wisconsin and co-owns Mielke’s Fiber Arts. She has reached that awkward stage where admitting how long she has been spinning gives away more about her age than she would like to share publicly. Andrea has been spinning for 30 years and teaching for over 20 years. In short, she has had plenty of time to make mistakes and hopes to help save you from a few.

Find out more about cloud prep and the carding mill in Spin Off Winter 2019!

Featured Image: Carded cloud in the Rust Never Sleeps colorway from Dakota Carding and Wool. Photo by Kelly Knispel

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