I have some sheep's wool that we just cleaned and now want to card. Do I need to buy a carder, or is there something else that I may have more readily available? Where would I buy a wool carder if I choose to go that route?
Depending on the condition of the wool you have various choices.
You can simply pick the wool apart. To do this you take up a small amount of wool and open up the locks, trying to keep the fibers parallel with each other. The wool will gradually become a fluffy cloud. This is usually done before carding anyway, but if the wool is nice, it can be spun or felted after picking and the carding step can be skipped. The yarn will be a little rougher, however.
There are various sorts of carding devices. The simplest is a little brush that you hold in one hand. You hold up the lock of wool in the other hand and run the brush through it. This opens up the wool and then it can be spun. This technique can be substituted for picking, as it accomplishes the same result. These brushes are sometimes used for dog brushing and can be picked up at your local pet shop. They have a squarish head with wire thingies.
Cards come in pairs (like corsets and hands and oxen) and are probably fairly expensive by now. Learning to card is not easy and will go a lot faster if you can find someone to give you a demo, or a book with detailed illustrations.
A carder usually refers to a drum carder, a piece of equipment that will cost you $300 plus and which only makes sense if you'll be processing a lot of wool. It does save a lot of time and it is easier to use than hand carders.
I haven't bought any of this equipment in many years. I know where to find stuff locally in Vermont, but for general sources--I'm not sure.
As I said, if the wool is nice and picks apart and fluffs easily, I would either pick it or fluff it with a dog brush and then spin it or felt it.
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