February 06, 2012

Reasons for Owning Wool Combs and Hand Cards (Or Not)

Early on when I took up handspinning, I was set on acquiring hand cards and wool combs so I could prepare fibre.  I talked to experienced spinners about the options.  I noted what brands and designs they use and recommend, and I tested as many as I could.  I read books and window shopped for a while before taking the plunge.  Even with all that, well, it's amazing my capacity to try before I buy and still not know until later if a tool is a keeper.

I've watched other handspinners go through the same careful shopping process.  Hand cards and wool combs cost a fair bit.  The action of carding and combing, the ergonomics of the particular design, and the resulting arrangement of fibre can match your taste or not.  Hand cards and I still don't get along, and I greatly prefer the design of one of my sets of wool combs over the other.

I've noticed that the people who keep and like their hand cards and wool combs do so for a number of reasons.  Here's the list.  It might help you decide whether you have a practical reason to own cards and combs.  

They keep fibre animals that produce enough fibre to process by hand but not enough to send to a custom mill.  They want fibre that is not commonly commercially milled and stocked in stores, such as rare breed wool.  They want a blend of fibres or a multi-colour blend they can't buy ready-made.  They prefer to pick a fleece by judging the look of its intact locks, and they think commercially-blended roving or top has lost the character of the original.  They enjoy the feel of spinning rolags from hand cards or sliver from wool combs.  They spin woolen and worsted yarn with rolags and sliver respectively, yarn structures that cannot be obtained so well from commercial preparations.  They interpret historical methods of handspinning as a job or hobby.  They have been given unprocessed fibre for free.  

That last reason pulls in beginner spinners.  Tantalizing, to have fibre but be unable to spin it in its tangled state.  If that's you, at this point how do you know you'll go for more after you finish processing the pile of free fiber?  There are stop-gap options.  Rent hand cards, combs, or a drum carder from your guild.  Get by with a cat comb or dog comb, or a relatively inexpensive flicker sold by handspinning supply stores.  Put the pile away and spin prepared roving and top for a while.

None of the stop-gap options would have swayed me.  I could not be told.  I suppose this blog post is sort of a message to my earlier self and to my future acquisitive self too.


  1. Yes,I know, I know.... so tempting to rush in, but patience is a virtue and money saved today can be spent tomorrow.

  2. mmm, there can be risks to waiting. I forgot to mention there have been currency conversion-fueled price hikes, like with Majacraft, and tool makers who take wool combs out of production and back in again, like Forsyth and Valkyrie.


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