How to Prepare Fiber with Hand Cards

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Hand cards are traditional tools for processing short to medium-length springy fibers. They come in a variety of styles, with curved back and flat back being the most common. They also come with different types of carding cloth on them: Coarse is used for more open fibers, medium is used for everything but superfine wool, and fine is used for fine wools and some exotic fibers, such as yak and camel. Some hand cards are made especially for processing cotton; these do a good job on cashmere and Angora rabbit as well. All hand cards can process fibers of mixed lengths.

1

Sit in a comfortable chair. Hold one of the cards in your left hand, and place it on your left knee with the teeth up.

Hand cards are used to process fiber that is less than 3 inches long. Fiber that you process on hand cards is soft, open, and easy to spin.

2

Take a handful of teased fiber and catch it in the teeth of the card.

Just put a little bit of fiber on at a time; too much fiber makes it harder to card.

3

Hold the other card in your right hand. Stroke the fiber gently with the carder, as if you were stroking a cat.

Make sure that the bottom (where the handle is) of the right card starts the stroke at the bottom of the left card. As you stroke, most of the fiber should pass from the left card to the right carder.

If you are left-handed, just reverse your hand positions.

4

Transfer the fiber from the left card to the right card. Take the bottom of the right card, and place it at the top of the left card. Sweep the right carder down the face of the left one.

Hand cards come in a wide variety of carding cloth types. The cloth varies by the size of the teeth, how closely the teeth are set together, and the angle of the bend in the teeth. Usually, the finer the teeth and more closely set together they are, the finer the fiber is that can be carded on them. The more pronounced the bend in the teeth, the more gentle the carding action. Often, spinners have more than one set of cards, using coarse cards for strong wools and fine cards for cotton and cashmere.

5

Transfer the fiber back to the left carder. Place the bottom of the left carder on the top of the right carder, and swoop down.

The fiber should now be back on the left carder. Continue from left to right until the fiber is quite open and evenly distributed.

6

Remove the fiber from the card by transferring it from left to right quickly. Lay a card in your lap upside down. Place the fiber on the card.

You can hand card different colors of fiber together. You can add color in bands on the carder. Keep track of the width of the bands if you want to make the rolags match. Watch the colors mix to create a new color as you pass from carder to carder.

7

Take a knitting needle or piece of dowel, place it on the fiber at the top of the card, and roll it away from you.

The fiber should wrap around the dowel.

8

Push the fiber off the dowel.

This is called a rolag and is ready to spin. To add an extra twist, you can tighten the rolag by pressing it with your thumb while you twist the stick. This is called a puni, and is often used for spinning cotton.


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