Carding Tools and Techniques: Spin Off Fall 2023

Join us as we celebrate all things carding—from handcards, drumcarders, and flick cards, to blending boards and more—to help you harness the power of fiber prep.

Kate Larson Aug 30, 2023 - 3 min read

Carding Tools and Techniques: Spin Off Fall 2023 Primary Image

Handcards paired with Border Leicester locks. Photos by Matt Graves

Rolag, licker-in, doff, knee—the language of carding delights me. And these are just some examples from English-speaking traditions; there are many more. These still-common terms give us clues about the longevity and evolution of the technology as well. Rolag, an old word derived from Gaelic languages, describes neat rolls of fiber produced by handcards. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests several possible origins, and one connection might be rolla, which is an Early Irish word associated with rolls of parchment. Fascinating.

Licker-in connects us with a more mechanized era. Found on large-scale carding mills as well as the compact drumcarders we can use on our kitchen tables, the licker-in is a common term for a smaller drum that first engages the fiber with its carding teeth, passing the fiber within reach of the next drum. Whether you are spinning carded batts, carded roving, combed wool tops, or cotton sliver, that fiber encountered a licker-in along the way!

Heavenly Bresser shows us how to create fractal rolags on a blending board.

A foundation cloth covered in bent metal teeth seems such a simple technology, but we continue to find new ways to make use of it in our fiber-prep pursuits! In this issue, Roy Clemes helps us take a closer look at carding cloth and how it is made, and Eileen Hallman explains how cotton is processed into the spinner-friendly prep called card sliver.

Kim shows us show to use a single handcard and diz to create fractal and ombré yarns. Photo by Matt GravesLearn how to use a handcard and diz for smooth prep and color effects from frequent Spin Off contributor Kim McKenna.

This issue is bursting with makers’ voices! Two amazing fiber artists—Kelly Knispel and Amanda Solomon—both took on the same knitted project and had wild and wonderful results. Shetland spinner Elizabeth Johnston shares the history of the hap and invites you to make your own. Tips, inspiration, and color abound, and I hope this issue has you reaching for your handcards and dusting off your drumcarder.

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Kate Larson, editor of Spin Off, teaches handspinning around the country and spends as many hours as life allows in the barn with her beloved flock of Border Leicesters.