The purpose of carding fiber is to open the fibers and get them in a manageable bundle so they can easily be drafted when spinning.
This is only one of many ways to hand card (I mention another method at the end of this article). If this method just does not work for you, donít become discouraged. Just experiment and observe how other spinners card to find what works for you. The main thing to remember is that the object of carding and the carding motions is to open the fibers; and to do a good job, the fiber has to be flipped or transferred from card to card until all the fiber has been thoroughly opened.
We will name the cards Bottom Card and Top Card. This position is more important than whether the card is in the right hand or left hand, though I will say that most right-handed people hold the top card in their right hand.
To start, "charge" the Bottom Card with fiber. To do this, brush a handful of the fiber against the teeth of the card, so the fiber catches on the teeth of the handcard. You need to brush the fiber against the card starting from the handle end and then downward. Donít put too much fiber on the card at one time. Too much fiber at once makes the job slower, not faster.
TOP VIEW SIDE VIEW
3. Now bring the top card down across the bottom card in a wiping motion. This transfers the fiber from the Bottom Card to the Top Card.
TOP VIEW SIDE VIEW
4. Repeat the wiping motion, but this time wipe away from you, transferring the fiber to the Bottom Card.
Repeat steps 1-4 again as many times as necessary. I usually do it two or three times.
Now to make the fiber into a rolag, the little bundle of fiber that you will spin. Transfer all the fiber to the Top Card, as you did in step three. Brush it quickly once or twice against the Bottom Card, as in step two, to smooth all the fiber on the Top Card (sometimes it is necessary to repeat step three after doing this).
Position the cards like this. Begin to catch the fiber on the Top Card on the teeth of the Bottom Card, and make about a 1" fringe of fiber that is pushed off the Top Card.
Back the Top Card up again, so the fringe of fiber is at the edge of the Bottom Card.
Now begin to wipe the Top Card on the Bottom Card, leaving a "V" for the rolag to form in as the fiber rolls up.
You are now the proud owner of a hand-carded rolag.
Practice makes perfect.
Some people like to work with wool that is still in the grease, or only washed in cold water, so that all the lanolin is still in it. This is too much lanolin in my opinion, so I wash my wool in hot water and use lots of soap (ask for directions if you want to wash your wool this way). I have never had a problem carding wool washed in hot water with soap, but occasionally you may find a wool that is too static-y or just seems to be difficult to card, as though it is grabbing the cards, rather than sliding (of course, wool with too much lanolin has the same symptom, only in that case, the lanolin has become tacky from age, and is sticking to the card). If you think your wool is lacking moisture or lanolin, you can "lubricate" it. Mix a little olive oil or hair conditioner in water and place the mixture in a spray bottle. Spray a little on the wool, and let it sit in a warm place, in the sun, for example, for a while before you card it. Only spray as much wool as you are going to work with at one sitting, and I recommend spinning it within a short time, as well, while the "lubrication" is still at itís peak.
If you simply cannot master the carding motions I walked you through earlier, here is another way to card. It often seems easier when you are learning, but I find the extra motions slow me down. I find the first method more efficient. But Iíll let you choose.
Here is the "Primitive" carding method.
1. "Charge" the bottom card with fiber. Brush a handful of the fiber against the teeth of the card, so they catch. You need to brush the fiber against the card starting from the handle end and then downward. Donít put too much fiber on the card at one time. Too much fiber at once makes the job slower, not faster.
2. Card the fiber, brushing it with the top card. Start by overlapping the cards only an inch, and increase the overlap each time until the cards are completely overlapping each time. The carding motion is kind of like a gentle sweeping arc. Do not mesh the teeth of the cards. That only makes more exercise for you, it doesnít card the fiber any better. Remember to brace your bottom hand on your knee for support as you card.
3. When the cards have equal amounts of fiber on them, peel the little batts of fiber off each one, leaving them in one piece, and lay both of them on the bottom card again. Sometimes it is helpful to gently push the batts into the teeth.
Repeat steps two and three until the fiber is open and thoroughly carded.
Now repeat step two once more, then, beginning at one long edge of the handcard, roll the fiber into a neat roll, kind of like rolling up a jelly roll.
A rolag! Letís start spinning.
© 2000 Andrea Mielke
Mielkeís Fiber Arts, LLC P.O. Box 28, Necedah, WI 54646 (715) 435-4494 www.mielkesfiberarts.com
prices subject to change without notice, due to manufacturer's
Mielke's Fiber Arts, LLC
P.O. Box 28, Necedah, WI 54646 (608) 564-1213