February 13, 2009


I have always laboured under the delusion that I'm not very good with my drum carder. We have an uneasy relationship, and I've never quite gotten it to give me what I want. I put the fibre in, the way I was taught to put it in, and I turn the handle and what I get is pretty good, but it's never been the fluffy, incredible batts that I want. I had, therefore, checked about eighty nine resources for hand spinners to try and learn more about it, and had seen the same advice and technique just about everywhere. Everybody I know and have ever been taught by has done the same thing. They open up the tips of the fibre- if need be, perhaps tease a lock open a little, then feed it into the carder. There is eccentric and rampant debate about whether or not this should be done tip first, or butt first, but if you want to start a nice healthy debate in a spinning circle, you can bring that up. (It's like stating your position on circulars or straights. People have opinions and fierce convictions.) This is the way things are. I encourage you to go check all your resources (as I have) to confirm that you think you know how to card. Imagine my shock yesterday then, when I was in Judith MacKenzie McCuin's class and she's chatting away, and is tossing bits of leftover roving and such into a drum carder while she's talking, and I'm watching her, because she's throwing them in SIDEWAYS. That's right, SIDEWAYS. Not tip first, not butt first, not even an end first, SIDEWAYS. I'm watching that, and I'm thinking something like "poor dear must be exhausted" or even "maybe things going into a carder straight isn't as important as I thought" when Judith just tosses the following statement into the air, and the world as I know it shattered into a million little pieces.

Fibre always goes into a drum carder sideways.

I swear it. That's what she said. She said fibre, and always and SIDEWAYS. I was gobsmacked. Messed up. I fixated on it for hours. I kept dragging her back to the topic. She'd move on and I'd say something like "I'm sorry, I just have to try and understand this. Are you saying that FIBRE GOES INTO A DRUM CARDER SIDEWAYS?" and then she would say something like "Yes" and I would say something like "Is this a secret? I mean, how can I card without knowing this for 10 years? I had carding lessons. I've looked at books. I know spinners. Why didn't somebody tell me?" and Judith would very patiently explain about the knowledge gap between the industrial wool sector, which ALWAYS FEEDS FIBRE INTO THE DRUM CARDER SIDEWAYS and the home spinner, where it's like we took the scaled down version of the equipment but not how to use it, and that makes sense. If you look at how fibre comes out of carder, it would make sense to think that's how it goes into a carder. I get it, and it's not until you think about how you might tease open a lock by pulling it apart sideways before you put it into a carder that you get the concept of what a carder is really supposed to do. (The irony that I have been pulling locks apart sideways and then putting them in straight for 10 years is not lost on me.) I heard her. I understood her, I watched her, and I saw the batts and she's right. It is not a load of hooey. It totally works, it works better, and still it was all I could do all class long to contain myself. It's still almost all I can think. I keep wanting to go up to Judith and say "just to clarify, you're saying that FIBRE GOES INTO A DRUM CARDER SIDEWAYS?" which I have actually done a few times and yes. That's just what she means.

Now, this is one of the most shocking fibre revelations I've ever heard. Seriously. There are people I have to phone about this. I mean, c'mon. Honk if you were taught the exact opposite of this. Honk if your drum carder instructions say the opposite of this. Then go try it, and get back to me. It's messed up dudes. Messed up... but there is one good thing... it turns out that I don't know if I suck at drum carding yet.

Posted by Stephanie at February 13, 2009 11:30 AM