Finding Bliss in the Teeth of a Drum Carder
When I started spinning in 1996, working with raw fiber wasn’t on the radar. “Oh, I’m not interested in processing wool; I’ll just use prepared top,” I told my first spinning teacher. He smiled indulgently but knowingly–once most of us open the fiber door, we can’t stop until we own our own sheep. Sure enough, within two years I’d bought my first raw fleece and struggled to process it at home. Hand carding didn’t suit me at all, and I couldn’t afford a drum carder, so I used a dog brush and wasted probably half of a gorgeous Merino/Rambouillet fleece.
Why was hand carding so problematic? First, I didn’t know how to do it properly, so I mashed the fleece into the cards instead of petting it gently. Second, hand carders could only deal with minuscule amounts of wool at a time. I’m appallingly lazy about certain aspects of handcrafting, and it felt like I’d be carding forever. Dog brushes became my tool of choice until about 2011, when I finally bought a drumcarder.
That purchase changed my life. Drumcarding (and later hand combing) became new obsessions. Where I’d still do anything to avoid hand carding, now half a day with the drumcarder and a good audiobook sounds heavenly. Blending fibers, painting with color, sampling with a large batt instead of a tiny rolag, processing a lot of fiber in a relatively short time–what’s not to love?
An artist friend tells me that all artists want complete control over their materials. That’s something a drum carder can deliver in terms of color, texture, and yarn design. My creative journey with raw fleece got a huge boost from the drum carder, despite my initial disinterest. When a friend began spinning a few years ago, she announced that she had no interest in fiber prep. I smiled knowingly, and we spent a few days with my drum carder. Now that she’s acquired her own carder, I can probably talk her into looking at some sheep sales.