Drum and hand carders, not “vs” but together

I must admit that since I bought my Wild Carder I hadn’t picked up my hand carders, until now.

When I first started to spin I had a half-day class where I bought my Kiwi, (from the lovely lady at the Threshing Barn http://www.threshingbarn.com/  in 2003).  I brought my Kiwi back to Chile and started using mohair from my goats.  Mohair that was not pure, not from kids, and not sheared well, but it was all I had and I had to figure it out.

Locks which are better carder or combed before putting in the drum carder

Spinning it was not that difficult, I had nothing to compare it to, so I worked with its smooth properties, spinning it with little twist so it did not become twine.  But carding it was hard work.  I realise now that the fleeces were slightly matted, and trying to card matted mohair is almost impossible.  Over the years I received sheep and alpaca fleeces, and my year in England gave me access to different types and qualities of wool.  Using hand carders is different depending on the quality of the wool and it is much easier when the wool is clean and soft.  But everyone who uses hand carders thinks at some time, “hey, this might be easier with a drum carder”.

Locks carded before put in the drum carder

I definitely thought this, so I bought the Wild Carder.  I did not realise that it was the quality of the wool I was working with that was making carding so time consuming, very greasy and dirty sheep, or matted mohair!  Now that I am back on the farm with my Wild Carder, and my hand carders, and a selection of different wools, I have been experimenting.  I did not understand why people said they combed their wool before putting it through the drum carder.  Then the other day I hand carded my wool before putting it through the drum carder and it made a big difference.  The Wild Carder, is narrower than my hand carders and I believe the process is different.

Batt next to a rolag, (with colour enhancement)

With hand carders you place the wool on one and pass the other carder over it repeatedly until the wool is how you like it.  The drum carder takes the same wool and passes it from the small drum to the big one, then layers more wool on top of that.  The hand carders give you small individual rolags, whereas the drum carder creates batts with more fibre all aligned in one direction.  If the wool is matted or dirty, it will not be ready for spinning with just one pass through the drum carder.  That would be like one or two passes with the hand carders.  I love the batts that my drum carder creates and using my hand carders with it will make better batts.

Drum carded batts showing blended colours

Of course these are my observations with my Wild Carder, which is quite specific and different from other carders.  I have never used other carders, and I don’t know if when other people buy drum carders they forget about their hand carders.  If you do, it might be worth digging them out and seeing how they can work with your drum carder.

Spun and plied with a purple wool

Before and After

I think everyone loves to see “before and after” pictures, especially when they are about transformations from something ugly and unusable to something beautiful and functional.  (We also seem fascinated by the before and after of disasters, but there is enough of that in the news).  These are my before and after photographs of my fibre studio, or my Spider’s Workshop.

My spinning room after five years of disuse

The building was the old pump house my father had built for the farm when he first moved here.  About six years ago we removed the pump, tiled the floor and put on a new door so I could use it for spinning.  It had open windows and gaps in the ceiling so unfortunately would fill with dust.  Because it was hard to keep clean I stopped using it for spinning and left it for storage.

Old box used for shelves

However with all my new fibre tools I needed a space to work and ventured back into the room to see what could be done.

The room was full of these spiders, not very nice

The first job was to clean it out and remove five years of spiders; that was not pleasant.

Behind a wooden box used as shelves there were hundreds. I felt like I was in a Steven King book.  There were even some mice skeletons in the cobwebs.

Everything removed, time to paint

Once it was all clean I painted it with left over paint from the house, while my husband made Plexiglas windows, (also from leftovers) to stop the dust from coming in.  He also made me some shelves and work tables, (from more leftovers).

The corner painted with my Kiwi next to a Traditional Jumbo Flyer

My carding equipment

Storage space, looms, and Ashford Traditional, (still has gaps in the ceiling)

Desk with spindles next to the door

For a couple of days I thought it looked like a breeze block room painted pretty colours, and not the studio I was dreaming of.  But once I moved all my stuff in, it started to feel like a space I could work and create in.  And in case I was having doubts, when asked at my daughters new school my “profession”, my husband answered “Artist”.


My Ashford Wild Carder has it's own space now



My bobbins hide under the curtain


Postcards and pictures I collected from craft shows when I was living in Devon

Have to wait

Only a few days left before we travel, and I am still packing.  Of course even with the packing I am stealing a bit of time to try my new drum carder.  I am surprised how easy it is to use.  I have heard some people say that drum carders do not solve all wool problems, (and definitely the batt is only as good as the wool you put in), but I find it much easier than hand carders, and the Ashford Wild Drum Carder makes lovely fluffy fat batts.

Wild Carder



The wild carder has longer tines than the regular Ashford Drum Carder to make thicker batts.  I took a picture to show how long they are compared to a 2 pence.

Close up of Ashford Wild Drum Carder

I have never used a drum carder before, but I think the longer tines make it harder to take the batt off.  Because the batt is thick I lift it off a little bit at a time, slowly.  I also found a useful tool in my Granddad’s knitting needles, that I inherited. It is a crotchet hook that has the smallest hook, (I can’t even see it and my Mom thought my Granddad may have used it to pick locks), which is perfect for picking little bits of wool or fluff off the drums.

Now my problem is that I don’t want to pack “the wild one”, I just want to play with it!  And the batts are stacking up because my wheel and drop spindle are packed.  Just have to wait.

Wild, wild ,wild

My Ashford Wild Drum Carder arrived today and I am so pleased with it.  I haven’t had much time to play with it, for two reasons;  first I am busy packing our stuff for Chile, (some to go by boat and some on the plane with us), and second when I did play with it my youngest daughter wanted to help me.  Which is actually okay, because it meant I almost have an electric drum carder – a child driven one.

My oldest daughter has never been very interested in my fibre pursuits, but my youngest loves to help me.  Maybe it is because I bought my Kiwi a month before she was conceived.  And when I was in the finally months of my pregnancy my doctor told me I had to slow down, so I spent a lot of time knitting.

I will post pictures of my little Wild One soon.

Christmas Wishes

Only a few days to Christmas and I have ordered some new spinning toys to take back to Chile, and I am so excited, (about the toys and going back).

Kiwi with mohair


In Chile sits my Ashford Kiwi, which is what I learned to spin on, and for the past year here in Devon, I have been using an Ashford Traditional.  Both are really nice wheels.

My Kiwi in the garden





To add to this I have just bought a jumbo flyer kit for the Traditional and an Ashford Wild Carder.  It was difficult deciding on which drum carder, but the cost was a big part.  Also, I really like the look of this carder.  I know I should have tried it first, and I hope I will not be disappointed by its tiny, “cute” size, but long thin batts appeal to me.



Now just have to wait till January for delievery, what a silly time to order on-line, days before Christmas with snow all over the UK!