Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hand Carding Wool Roving

I thought that it would be best to talk about hand carding before presenting machine carding so the logic would make sense.  What is hand carding and what does it mean for a needle felter?  The following post is an exerpt from my book, "The ART of Machine Needle Felting" and is an important preparatory step for successful work.  Otherwise, your work might look like creative dryer lint, if your wool was not prepared properly by carding.  I find I need to card my beautiful, carded merino roving after storage in a plastic bin.  After the bin has been raked through and the wool handled, the outside surface begins to felt a little and  the fibers need to be opened up again.  Without carding it is difficult to pull off thin wisps of wool from the stored roving, which is the secret to the Non-Dryer-Lint-Look.

Alpaca Fibers Carded into Rolags

There are so many exciting fibers available to felters it’s hard to know where to begin.  Some are short fibers, some are very long; some are curly, some are hairy, some are fluffy and some are smooth.  How do you tame these different fibers into being held under the needles to be felted? 

 By Hand Carding. 

Carding Paddles are sold in pairs and can be found wherever spinning and knitting items are sold, so they are pretty easy to find.   The large Hand Carding paddles work the best because you can card up several rolags (rolls of carded fiber) quickly and easily and stack them up before each project. You can also use pet brushes for this method as well.   This makes an unbelievable difference in how smoothly your felting will progress, not to mention the ease the felting needles will have punching the layers.  You don't have to make rolags after carding, but it sure helps to keep the wool organized and ready on your table and then stored back in the plasic bin without the fibers getting tangled.
Before Carding
After Carding

Carding transforms the fibers and brings out their natural beauty.  Even a rough fleece looks beautiful after having been carded into rolags and the process is very easy to learn.
1.     Place the Carding Paddles on your lap with the handles facing outward.

2.     Take small, thin chunks of fiber and lay them across the brush on your left lap.

3.     Holding the fibers down with your left hand, begin brushing sideways in one direction   (toward the right) with your right paddle.

4.     Brush carefully and slowly several times in one direction.  Don’t grind the teeth into one another, just brush lightly.

5.     Transfer the fiber from the left paddle on to the right paddle.

6.     Transfer the fibers from the right paddle back onto the left paddle and repeat the combing process.

7.     Keep combing and transferring the fibers from carder to carder until you have combed through all sides and the fibers are very fluffy and separated.

8.     You are now ready to roll up your first rolag.

9.     Begin folding the fibers in from the outside edge of the carder and tightly roll with your fingers.

10.     Roll up several times across the brush, lifting and rolling, so that the rolag will stay rolled when you put it aside on the table.  Make enough rolags for your chosen project. 

Next time - blending fibers and colors with Hand Carders

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