Handcarding Helpdesk

Have you tried handcarding wool? Each spinner has his or her own method and practice for producing light, airy rolags for woolen spinning. Here are some of my favorite nuggets of advice from the video How to Card Wool.

Fiber

Rita Buchanan cuts her fibers.

Rita Buchanan cuts her fibers.

Carol Huebscher Rhoades recommends handcarding fibers with a staple length of no longer than 3½ inches. Rita Buchanan suggests that your fiber be no longer than the width of your handcards. Fiber too long? Rita encourages you to cut the fibers in half. Voilà—you now have shorter fibers!

Picking

Norman Kennedy massages baby oil into wool.

Norman Kennedy massages baby oil into wool.

Opening up your wool fibers by picking is an essential step when carding. Maggie Casey likes to sit with a bag of fiber one side, newspaper spread out on the floor, and an empty bag on the other. She then proceeds to tease open handful after handful of wool, veggie matter and undesirable fleece falling to the floor. Norman Kennedy nestles a bit of clean wool between his lap and left forearm, then uses both hands to deftly open up clumps of wool. After he has picked the locks open, he massages baby oil on the fiber before carding.

Loading

Maggie Casey loads her handcard.

Maggie Casey loads her handcard.

How much fiber do you load onto the handcard? Carol attaches her fiber in a uniform rectangle and tries to load a consistent amount. Maggie grabs a handful and swipes it downward so the fibers attach to the card’s teeth. Most agree that loading less is more, for the wool blooms on the handcards. But Norman applies a bit more fiber and demonstrates how to get not one but three rolags from a carding session.

Carding

Carol Huebscher Rhoades demonstrates how to hold handcards.

Carol Huebscher Rhoades demonstrates how to hold handcards.

Carding while sitting in a relaxed position, with one stationary carder on your leg and an active carder in your opposite hand, is a popular method. Proving nothing is universal, Rita prefers to stand. She cards in a well-choreographed dance, transferring fiber from card to card, and chooses to spin her prepared fibers without rolling them.

“Good carding—your stuff’s half spun,” says Norman Kennedy. With Spin Off’s How to Handcard and Spin Woolen Kit you receive: a pair of Schacht handcards, 3 video downloads, and an eBook. Ultimately, the best method for handcarding and spinning woolen is the one that produces the yarn you desire.

Happy Spinning!
Elizabeth


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