So I posted about how I go about choosing handcards a few weeks ago. In that post I talked a lot about the way I hold the cards and how that affects my handle choices. I got some questions about how exactly I do hold my cards.
I have a video that just came out about spinning fine yarns. It’s by interweave and it’s called Spin Thin and there’s carding instruction on there if the still pictures aren’t doing it for you. But in the mean time.
I’m going to go into detail about how I hold my cards because I think it cuts down on pain in my hands and arm and shoulder fatigue. using this method of carding I can do several pounds in a day and not feel sore at the end of the work.
We’ll start with my left hand, my non-dominant hand. Sometimes I call this the stationary hand even though it’s not actually completely stationary.
My fingers go accross the back of the main part of the hand card and my thumb is wrapped around. See why I don;t care what the shape of the handle is more than 2 inched away from the body of the card? I never touch it during carding.
On the other side of the card you can see that the handle is up where my thumb joins my palm. I like to call this my hand pit. I don’t wrap my thumb around. It just kind of rests along the edge of the card.
My right hand, dominant hand, the moving hand has the meaty part of my thumb resting on the top of the card. My thumb sticks out as kind of a steadying brace.
On the other side, my fingers are wrapped arround the handle and the first two fingers rest on the edge of the card.
I try not to grasp the cards with a very tight grip. I hold them just tightly enough so I don’t drop them.
Now lets talk about how much fiber to put on the cards. It looks like there is a lot of fiber if you are looking at this photo but really, the fiber is no thicker than the length of the teeth. I add the fiber beginning about 1/3 from the handle side of the card. In fiber prep, more is never better. It ends up in more passes, messier finished preparation and yarn that isn’t as smooth as it could be. In short, too much fiber during each prep step results in more work.
The way i card is to transfer all of the fiber from the stationary card to the moving card. I then switch hands and transfer again. You can keep your cards in the same hands and not transfer if you like, but switching is easier when you are first learning this method.
This method works well with curved cards and not very well at all with flat backed cards.
So, to begin carding bring the card in your dominant hand down into the fiber on the bottom card. The teeth of the card should grab only the fromt little bit of fiber on the stationary card.
Notice how little of the fiber is grabbed in this first pass.
Now flip the hand card in your dominant hand up to about a 90 degree angle and move the cards away from each other.
Bring the moving card down to the stationary card again, this time moving a bit closer. Again move that card to a 90 degree angle and move the cards away from each other.
There are a couple of steps skipped here but it’s the same movement. Bring the moving card down to the stationary card, The cards should overlap at about the front inch of eahc card. The teeth should sit together. Now do not move the cards accross each other. you should never hear the teeth scratching or working agains each other.
You will again move the card in your dominant hand to a 90 degree angle but now, at the same time, the bottom card will move in a downward motion.
Do this several times, over lapping the cards more and more each time. It usually takes me about 3 meetings of the cards to work my way from the tip side to the handle side of the card and transfer all of the fiber to the moving card.
Switch hands and repeat. Generally I have to do only 2 to 3 passes if I am processing raw fleece. For blending, the number of passes depends on how blended you want your fibers.
If you have a very fine fiber like Cormo or Merino and you want to card it, fewer passes is even more important because you want to avoid neps and noils which will make your yarn more lumpy than usual.
To make a rolag gather the fibers that are sticking off of the end of the hand card and begin to roll them toward you.
Roll the fibers accross the teeth of the hand card. Roling the new rolag accross the teeth will help the rolag stick together.
If I am going to card a lot of wool in a day I roll the new rolags between the backs of the hand cards to make them a tiny bit more solid so they will stay in rolag form in my basket or box.
I don’t like to card anything longer than 4 or 5 inches just because it’s a bit of a apin for me. But that’s ok because most fibers that are longer than that are lovely and shiny so I comb them to bring out the shine.
I will say that learning to use hand cards is better in person. Take a class. Take several classes. Interweave has a great video with 4 teachers teaching their hand carding technique. I took hand carding from several different teachers before I really caught on. I took a little bit from each of them and combined those little bits into a method that was good and comfortable for me.
Using the technique that I do I can hand card more wool faster than I could do it on a drum carder and I love it because I can sit down in front of the tv and get a ton of work done.
If you have questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer.