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How to Hand Card Wool

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

What Is Carding Wool?

Carding wool, or any fiber, must be done in order to get the fiber ready for spinning into yarn. The clean fiber is carded either by machine or by hand into a manageable size. This allows the spinner to draw out the amount she needs as she is spinning without having to stop to pull out knots, briers, or tangles.Carding is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon or evening.

What Fibers Can Be Spun?

Many fibers can be carded and spun.

  • Dog hair
  • Sheep's wool
  • Angora from either rabbit or goat
  • Cotton
  • Llama
  • Bamboo
  • Silk
  • Soy fibers
  • Even dryer lint!

There are different methods for different fibers, and the plant fibers take specialized tools and processes. Most spinners will use mainly animal fibers.

Clemes and Clemes hand carders
Clemes and Clemes hand carders
Close up of the teeth of a carding tool
Close up of the teeth of a carding tool
clean wool, before carding
clean wool, before carding
Loading the card
Loading the card

Using Hand Cards

The first things you will need to card your fiber, besides the actual fiber, are hand cards. These are flat or slightly curved tools that look much like a dog brush. In fact, you can use dog brushes until you get access to cards. The cards should be marked for your right and left hand. When they are new it does not matter which is which but once you use them you need to take a pen and mark the handles, or somewhere where the markings can easily be seen.

Carding, Step By Step

  1. Start by laying one of the carders across your left knee, face up pulling the fiber through the teeth of the carder.
  2. With the other carder in your right hand, gently brush across the wool several times until the wool is evenly distributed on both cards and is starting to get fluffy.
  3. Pull the wool out from the right card and lay it on top of the wool on the left.
  4. Repeat the process of gently brushing across the wool, six times or so, until the fiber is very light and puffy.
  5. Put all of the wool on the left carder again and from the top edge roll it off the carding tool and into a soft, fluffy roll. This is called a rolag.
  6. Repeat the process with your wool until you have enough to spin.

Gently brushing the wool
Gently brushing the wool
Making the rolag
Making the rolag

Mixing Fibers & Colors

You can get some interesting effects by mixing fibers and/or colors as you card. Carding two types of fiber together will give you a completely different finished yarn than a single fiber. By mixing heavily crimped fiber and longer silkier fiber, for example, you can get a smooth yarn with "nubs" which is a very trendy combination.

Carding two or more colors together will give you a heathered effect if it is done subtly, or a more multi-color effect if bright, or contrasting colors are used. Depending on the ratio of color to color you can get variegated or marbled effects as well.

The more you experiment and practice the more intricate can be your combinations. Be sure to knit or crochet a small swatch after spinning to make sure it looks the way you want it to.

A completed rolag next to wool that has not been carded
A completed rolag next to wool that has not been carded

Where To Get Carders?

There are many places on the internet where you can buy new or used carders. If you have a spinners guild near you you might check with them to see if anyone has any to sell. Some knitting/spinning stores carry them as well. If you can find them locally it is best to get them that way as you can talk to the sales person and get advice, check them out and see what shape you like. Expect to pay at least 50.00 for a set.

Watch Someone Card Wool


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    • profile image

      joy roby 6 years ago


      I hope it is as smple as that .if so i will be knitting in no time.

      thanks a lot


    • profile image

      Gail Fetty 7 years ago

      Thanks for the great info. I have been wanting to do this for years ,as I am a knitter and crocheter and wanted to make my own yarn as my great grandmother did. So I can pass down the tradition that seemed to have been lost. Now I have got wool available to me,I can get started.

    • Abbie Marshall profile image

      Abbie Marshall 7 years ago from The Coast of Northern New England

      Thanks for a really great hub. Carding has been on my "learn to do list" for awhile (with 3 young boys it'll be there a bit longer to!!) thanks for all the great info!!

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas


      Because in using them they wear a certain way. The left should ALWAYS be left because of this, at least this is my understanding.

    • profile image

      Dawn 7 years ago

      Can you please explain WHY cards should be marked L and R?


    • Joy At Home profile image

      Joy At Home 8 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the info...this has been on my list of things to learn for years (too many things first...).

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 10 years ago

      Wow that's pretty nifty!

    • VickeyK profile image

      VickeyK 10 years ago

      Amazing how little the technology changes over thousands of years! I guess when something works, you stay with it.

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 10 years ago from North Carolina

      I haven't done manual carding, but I did this carding process in my school, used to hate the sounds of the machines and fibers floating in the air suffocating sometimes. But it does a great job in cleaning the fibers and straightening. Nice to see you guys have this for home use as well, one can appreciate this process more.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Thank you! I will doing one on hand spinning, and one on wheel spinning soon...:)

      Isn't it relaxing?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Excellent Hub! I've done a little carding. It's very interesting.