When the task of preparing lofty rolags and blending shorter fibers comes to mind, the mighty handcards are one of my top tools. In comparison to some of the other fiber-preparation tools, they are portable and compact, so my pair of handcards get used quite often. To keep them free of leftover fiber, dirt, and dust, a simple, routine cleaning is in order.
Note: Always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper maintenance for your handcards before proceeding with the cleaning tips below.
Use a brush cleaner, such as the ones normally used for cleaning hairbrushes. They are perfect for removing leftover fibers. Brush cleaners have flexible wires whose blunt tips make it easy to reach in between the teeth no matter the teeth-per-inch of your carding cloth. Plus, the curved handle helps to keep your hands away from the teeth.
The strong suction of a handheld vacuum or vacuum with a hose attachment can help remove remaining debris and dirt nestled into the carding cloth. Some spinners prefer to use compressed air from a can or compressor to blast the dust from the carding cloth. This is especially helpful for hard to reach areas.
In the Grease
While my personal preference is not to card greasy fibers with my handcards, my favorite pair just so happen to have had lanolin on the carding cloth and were used to card greasy fleece by the previous owner. Fortunately, greasy handcards can be cleaned. If the teeth on the handcards are spaced apart enough, use rubbing alcohol applied to a cotton ball or cotton swab and then carefully apply to the teeth.
Next, using clean scrap wool, lay down a thin layer of wool on one of the handcards and begin carding. This will help remove any excess rubbing alcohol residue from the handcards. Repeat this step if needed.
For finer carding cloth, use a spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol to mist the handcards. This technique can be quite effective, but take great care to quickly card with scrap wool and remove all of the residue. Alternately, spray the rubbing alcohol directly on clean wool and card it with the handcards. A small amount of rubbing alcohol goes a long way. After carding, discard the carded fiber, and then card again using clean and dry scrap wool. Place handcards on a towel, being sure to turn them on either side, and allow the teeth to fully dry.
Now, your handcards are ready for action.
Heavenly Bresser is the owner of Heavenly Knitchet. She is an award-winning handspinner and teacher at major fiber events all over the United States. Aside from spinning and teaching, she can be found dyeing fibers and making jewelry. Her goal is to inspire, encourage, and uplift other fiber artists. Visit her online at heavenlyknitchet.com.