Carding removes tangles in wool fibers but does not fully align the fibers so they are all going in exactly the same direction. It is a process of brushing clean fibers over opposing sets of short wire teeth to open, straighten, and separate the fibers into a uniform mass. Spin woolen yarns from carded rolags for soft, lofty yarns. Combing separates out the short fibers using long, metal tines to draw the fibers through. The remaining long fibers are aligned and kept parallel as the top is pulled off the combs. Spin worsted yarn from combed top for smooth, long-wearing garments. Here at Interweave we appreciate all that handspinning brings to the yarn world, and want to share our discoveries. To help you find the best in fiber preparation and spinning techniques here are some recommended resources for carding and combing.
Handspinners usually explain their craft to others, starting with showing off some examples of wool they’ve spun, explaining the basics of carding, and demonstrating the actual spinning process. Not everyone, however, explains how to handcard wool. While some prefer to spin from the lock using a flicker or from a batt made on a drumcarder, others buy their fibers prepared commercially. Handcarding fiber does take a long time, making it easy to understand why not all spinners handcard fiber before they spin it. Carding fiber doesn’t always have to be a burden, and in fact it can be fast and easy, and can be the key to quickly spun and controlled woolen yarns.
Quick, efficient carding starts with clean carders and fibers. Make sure your carders are rust-free and that all the teeth are in the correct position. Adjust any misaligned teeth. Remove any fibers caught in the carders. If there are fibers left on the carders, especially greasy ones, they simply invite more to bed down with them and the process becomes even more difficult. At every step of the carding process, from selecting your fibers, to cleaning, carding, and spinning them, think light, think airy.