Odd Handspinning Terms: Carding & Combing Edition

We’re back with another batch of odd handspinning terms—some you’ll know and others may surprise you! Let’s explore carding and combing wool.

Spin Off Editorial Staff Aug 9, 2023 - 4 min read

Odd Handspinning Terms: Carding & Combing Edition Primary Image

Do you have a favorite method of prepping fiber on your handcards? Photos by Matt Graves

We’re back with another batch of odd handspinning terms—some you’ll know and some that may surprise you! In her article “Wonderful Worsted” from Spin Off Summer 1983, Iris Dozer gives a list of words related to carding and combing wool.

Odd Handspinning Terms: A Worsted Vocabulary

Backings: longer fibers left on the back of the combs after drafting
Butt end: the clipped end of the lock of wool
Combing wool: industry: fibers of wool 1½" to 6" in length used in worsted spinning; craft: fibers of wool 4" to 10" long used for handcombing
Combs: a device used to disentangle, straighten and separate fibers
Crimp: natural curl in wool fiber. Crimp gives wool its natural resilience and elasticity
Donn: the act of placing fibers onto a comb in preparation for straightening
Doff: to pull of the fibers in an orderly fashion
Finger: small length of slivers (3'–4')
Finger Draft: draft against the twist. Twist is confined to the yarn below the lower hand or hand closest to twisting mechanism while drafting
Hackle: wool hackles have a two-row set of tines that can be used to separate wool fibers much like a comb
Jigging: the process of combing the wool
Lock: a small individual grouping of fibers that seem to cling together when shorn from the sheep

Locks of fiber are added to the handcard. Photo by Matt Graves

Luster: a natural gloss or sheen characteristic of some wools and mohair. Three characteristics types: silver luster found in Merino; silk luster found in English crossbred-longwool breeds; and glass luster found in mohair and other goat hairs
Lustre: same as luster
Milkings: longer fibers left on the front of the combs after doffing
Noils: short wool fibers left on the combs after doffing
Pad: a wooden or metal structure that holds the wool combs in place
Roving: a twisted sliver or roll of wool, also called a rove
Sliver: a continuous strand of parallel wool fibers with no twist applied
Spindle draft: drafting done against the wheel
Staple: the length of a lock of shorn wool
Top: a continuous untwisted strand of combed wool fibers made into a convenient package. Industry uses the sliver form wound into a ball of at least 1" in diameter
Woolen: short staple fibers, irregular in length and arrangement characterized by the adjectives soft, fuzzy, warm, bulky, stretchy
Worsted: long staple fibers regular in length, highly parallel in arrangement and spun into yarns characterized by the adjectives hard, smooth, cool, strong, lustrous

How many of these handspinning terms did you know?

Find more tips for using handcards here.

And learn more about combs here.

This article was excerpted from Spin Off Summer 1983. To read the full article, download the issue here.

Also, remember that if you are an active subscriber to Spin Off magazine, you have unlimited access to previous issues, including Summer 1983. See our help center for the step-by-step process on how to access them.

Originally published December 13, 2018; updated August 9, 2023.