Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Spinning Kai: Carding

For all the posts on Spinning Kai, click on the "Hand Spinning" tab at the top of the blog under the header photo.

I've heard it in the comments, in emails, and on Facebook: Some of you have been asking about the next installment of Spinning Kai. Here it is, and I hope you will forgive me for taking so long to post it. Hey, what am I saying? This is a long and picky process. 

Once the fiber was washed and then teased out, it needed to go onto the cards in a process called charging. That just means I spread a handful of the teased fiber across the card that I hold in my left hand. I was taught to mark the cards "left" and "right" and to always use them that way, so I do. 

The left card is held in my left hand and rests on my left knee, and my right hand moves the right card across the left one to brush, detangle, and straighten the fiber. In the first photo, the fiber has been carded with both brushes a couple of times. That fiber sitting between the cards in the photo is there to remind you what the teased fibers looked like before carding. After four or five good brushings, the fiber is transferred to the right carder, then the brushing continues. I was taught to transfer the brushed fiber at least four times. 

The point of all this carding is to get the fibers going in the same direction; pretty much the same results you would want when brushing out your own hair. Here it has been transferred back and forth, and back and forth again.

There is a delicate little move you make to get the fiber unstuck from the wire pins, then you roll up the combed fiber into a rolag. I am finding that wool rolags are easier to make into clearly formed, neat rolls; it seems to me that the llama fiber is formed differently from wool. An extreme close up of a bit of wool fiber would show overlapping scales that tend to stick together (thus the tendency of wool to felt). I'm just guessing here, but handling this llama fiber makes me guess that it is more smoothly formed and that it also has less crimp than wool fibers.

I just checked my theory about the fibers and it appears that I was right. You can look at a microscopic comparison of alpaca, llama, and sheep fibers here:

Anyway, that's my excuse for these wobbly-looking rolags. They will serve their purpose, however, which is to give the hand spinner (me!) a well organized handful of fiber with the hairs parallel to each other and at right angles to the orifice of the spinning wheel.

My goodness! It doesn't seem so technical when I actually go through the process. I needed to look at the Wikipedia article on carding to help me pull together the description of and explanation for what my hands do so automatically--it's a little bit like being asked to write down a recipe when you've been making it without thought or measurement all your life. When I think of it, I've been doing this process with fiber for almost 40 years!

Here is a basket of the rolags that have been made so far. It will be a while before the next installment on Spinning Kai, since there is still plenty of teased fiber in the inelegant garbage bag (below) yet to be carded. It may not look like that much, but it will make a lot of rolags.


Deb from WhatsInMyAttic said...

I'm loving this! You are a woman of so many talents, Clair. Thanks for the lesson, and I'll be watching for your next installment. I know a couple who were given an alpaca as a wedding gift...just sayin', and I have no idea why I'm passing on this info! LOL!

Georgia said...

this is amazing! now this might be a stupid question, but my mom has been wanted to know what the spindle does on a spinning wheel (she's a teacher and needs it for her class). perhaps you can give me a good explantion since i assume this fur will eventually head to a spinning wheel? BTW got my first egg!! post coming soon....:0)

Danni said...

Inelegant garbage bag? I beg to differ. This, my friend, is a Llama Fiber Protective Exterior! (See? It's all in the wording... lol)
Wow, Clair, this is so much fun. Isn't it funny how a person can do something for decades and, then, when you try to explain what you do to someone else, you question yourself?
Cool link on fiber/wool differences. That is incredible that llama fiber is 7x warmer than wool!

clairz said...

Georgia, re the spindle--I'd like to answer this fully in a post on Friday. Hope your mom can wait until then.

Congrats on the egg! All of us here know the excitement. Two of my new girls are laying regularly, and the third is just observing. Do hens ever NOT lay?

Zitrone said...

Can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to Kai's 'Fiber Protective Exterior' on my knitting needles! I will share this event with all my knitting friends. What a lengthy and work-intensive labor this is for you, but I heard you have many friends cheering you on. Can you hear them?

becky said...

Oh my gosh Clair, that is one labor intensive process!!!
It is a good thing you are retired!
I agree w/ Deb, you are a woman w/ many talents.
What a cool thing to do, especially in this day & age of machinery/fabrication/production.... how nice to do things the way they once were done. It slows us down & reconnects us, don't ya think?