Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wooly Word of the Week: Carding

The new tradition continues!  Last Wednesday I posted my first Wooly Word(s) of the Week, and they have now been moved to the new Glossary page located on the blog's sidebar. 

As I continue to prepare Pixie Girl's fleece for spinning, I know that I will be spending plenty of time carding wool.  It seemed appropriate to make this process the week's wooly words.

Carding: a method of preparing fibers using carding cloth that separates fibers from each other and aligns them randomly.  Carding does not eliminate fibers, but blends all fibers together that are introduced to the carding cloth.  The results of carding are rolags (using handcards), batts (drum carder), or roving (batts that have been made into strips).

Carding cloth:  Carding cloth is a grid of small wire teeth set into a background material such as leather or rubber.  The density of the wire teeth per square inch determines the kind of fibers that can be carded on it.  For example, cotton carders typically have 250 or more teeth per square inch, while general purpose handcards can range from 75 - 120 teeth per square inch.

Rolag: a cylinder of carded fiber produced by using handcards

Batt:  a rectangle of carded fiber produced by using a drum carder

Roving:  a strip of carded fiber

Pros of carding:  Carding is an excellent method of blending fibers together.  This can mean everything from homogenizing a single fleece to creating blends of different kinds of fibers (ie. wool and silk) to creating color blends of fibers.  Carding is also the method used to prepare fibers for woolen spinning.  Carding is especially well-suited for preparing short fibers, such as cotton, animal downs (ie. cashmere), and shorter wools with springy crimp.

Cons of carding:  Carding does not eliminate any kind of fiber, which means that anything included in the original fiber will show up in the end result.  You will not be getting rid of any weaker, tender fibers or any neps/noils when using carding as your preparation.  Carding is also not intended as a method of getting rid of grit or vegetable matter in the fiber.  Carding very long fibers can be tricky and is usually best done on a drum carder, rather than handcards.

Tools of carding: For the handspinner, the two primary methods of carding are using handcards or a drum carder.  Commercial mills more or less use giant, motorized drum carders to create extra-large batts, which can be left as is or divided into strips of roving.

In case you haven't seen them before, here are photos of handcards & a drum carder.  I have chosen to show photos of tools that I own, which I suppose is an endorsement of these particular products, but there are certainly several excellent tools made by other companies, too:

Schacht curved handcards (112 teeth/inch):

Strauch "Finest" drum carder:

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