How to Card Wool with Hand Cards

Is there such a thing as a confident carder?

how to card wool

Sarah gives me a lesson on proper use of hand carders. Photo by Jill Brooke

Like many spinners I know, I am a bit self-conscious about carding wool. It’s not just the prickly tines of the hand card that get me. I’m afraid that my quest for the perfect rolag will end in a lumpy mess of broken fibers, full of neps and noils and utterly unspinnable.

So when Sarah Anderson came to our studio to film Spinning Exotic Fiber Blends, I watched closely. Sarah was making punis from the most luxurious and precious fibers, including cashmere and silk, along with more common fibers such as wool and cotton. She made it look simple, and I even got a lesson myself. Here are three things I learned—and how I put it into practice with my last sample from the Wool Breeder’s Premium Spinning Collection, a gorgeous chocolate Corriedale.

1. A little bit goes a long way with a hand card.

carding wool

A little bit of wool and the tiniest pinch of silk! Photo by Anne Merrow

It’s tempting to put on fiber until I can’t fit another gram, but especially with fine, soft fibers, keep the amounts small. This has another benefit: it gives you more time to enjoy the feel of precious natural fiber.

2. Protect your wrists.

With a relatively small amount of fiber, poor form may not cause big pain, but if you’re carding a whole fleece, you’ll want to remember to keep your wrists straight and prop the bottom carder on your knee.

3. Don’t gnash your teeth.

I do know some excellent spinners who would dispute this point, but most advise that intermeshing the teeth of the hand cards and tugging isn’t the best idea for your fiber. Think gentle strokes, not wrenching scrapes.

So, do you want to see what I made?

carding wool rolags

Corriedale and silk—a luscious combination. Photo by Anne Merrow

I carded my 2 ounces of Corriedale locks with little multicolored specks of silk fiber and made a stack of poufy rolags. I’m going to spin them into a tweedy woolen yarn for a hat or a cowl or maybe mittens.

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