How to Card Wool

Four Parts:Washing WoolDrying WoolHand Carding WoolRefining Carded Wool

Wool carding separates and straightens sheep’s wool so that it can be used to make roving for fiber art or yarn for knitting.[1] These instructions take you through the process of hand processing wool at home.

Part 1
Washing Wool

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    Shake off any superficial dirt or vegetation that has gathered on your wool. Freshly shorn sheep’s wool will also have dirt deep in the fibers, so you will need to wash it well.
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    Grab a bucket or clean out a sink to use as a washing basin.
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    Fill your basin with warm water at approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit (82 Celsius). Water that is too hot will strip the wool of natural oils.
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    Pour in several squirts of Dawn dishwashing detergent. You can use any detergent with a pH between seven and nine without bleaching additives. Mix the detergent into the water.
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    Submerge your wool. Rub it with your hands to wash it thoroughly.
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    Drain your sink.
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    Fill the basin with water at the same temperature. Submerge it and rub it with your hands to remove soap.
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    Rinse it at least three times or until all bubbles from the detergent disappear.[2]

Part 2
Drying Wool

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    Place the wet wool on top of a thick towel.
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    Wrap it in the towel and squeeze.
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    Spread it out. Lay it on another clean and dry towel.
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    Allow it to dry overnight.

Part 3
Hand Carding Wool

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    Purchase hand carders from a spinning or hobby store. They are wooden paddles covered in pin board. They look like dog brushes.
    • Make sure you don’t purchase cotton carders.
    • Wool carders come in small sizes and larger sizes. Larger sizes can be harder to handle if you have little upper body strength.
    • Some wool carders have teeth that are very close together. They are harder to drag apart but align the wool into finer wool.[3]
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    Cover one hand carder with a small layer of wool locks. Cover it until almost all the teeth are covered. The other carder should remain empty to begin with.
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    Sit down with an empty lap. Place the full carder on the on your left knee with the wool facing up. Hold the handle with your left hand.[4]
    • Switch your hands and knee if your left hand is your dominant hand.
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    Hold the empty carder by the handle in the right hand. Turn it so that the pin paper is facing down.
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    Brush the empty carder over the top of the pin paper on your left knee. Start at the front end of the full carder. Work your way gently from the front to the back in full strokes.
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    Don’t push down very hard. The pin paper should grab a few fibers at a time, straightening it onto the second carder.[5]
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    Repeat the process until all of the wool is transferred onto the right carder.

Part 4
Refining Carded Wool

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    Transfer the full carder to the left knee. Take the empty carder into your right hand.
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    Repeat the hand carding process to further refine the wool.
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    Continue switching carders until no dirt appears and the wool is very uniform.
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    Roll the completed carded wool from the front to the handle. You can use the other carder to help lift the top of the fibers up and back. Once the fiber is rolled, it is referred to as a rolag.[6]

Tips

  • If you have to card a lot of wool, consider purchasing a drum carder. This piece of machinery can card large amounts of wool quickly.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand carders
  • Freshly shorn sheep’s wool
  • Breathable bags
  • Water
  • Dishwashing detergent
  • Bucket
  • Towel

Article Info

Categories: Hobbies and Crafts