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Preparing bunny wool to spin

posted Sep 4, 2011, 3:23 PM by Niele DaKine
So, there is a jar full of bunny wool.  Now what?  How does that become yarn?  If it were a sheep's fleece, there would be a whole section here about washing and scouring the fleece.  Fortunately for us, we not only have a more luxurious fiber, but it is a lot easier to get it ready for spinning.  Angora bunnies are nice and clean so the wool doesn't need to be cleaned before spinning.  After it is spun, the yarn can be washed in the skein, but we will cover that in another post.  At the moment, we will just look at how to card the fiber to get it ready to spin.

There are a variety of methods of "carding" the wool.  Carding is basically brushing the fibers so they are smooth and parallel to each other.   More or less, anyway.  Here is a variety of "carders":
carding tools
Starting at the bottom left, there is a pair of green brushes.  These are dog slicker brushes and have a handy button on the back to release the fiber.  They are made by "Safari" and that particular pair were bought at the feed store.  Most pet shops should have something similar.  

The next item over, going counter-clockwise are a pair of antique wooden cotton carders.  These are similar to wool cards except the wires are finer and the cards are bigger and wider.  They work well for angora fiber.  New cotton cards can be bought at a variety of places online and they generally run about $80 for a pair.  Usually you can select how many wires per inch you want on them, for angora the finer ones with more wires per inch are better.  That measurement is sometimes called "TPI" which is "teeth per inch" and 120 TPI to 90 TPI are a good numbers for angora wool.  The cotton cards we have were found at a yard sale, but they are not a common thing to find at yard sales at all.

At the top is a drum carder.  This particular one is for processing wool since the teeth are a bit coarse, but it also works for angora.  There are several places to find them online.  Before this one was acquired locally, I had been looking at them at this website:  http://brotherdrumcarder.com/index.html   I haven't ordered from them, but they seem to have a quality product with shipping included in the price.  In the tray of the drum carder is a "flicker" carder, which is a real tiny carding brush.  I use it for cleaning the wires on the other carders since it's pretty small to process wool with.

If anyone is considering bringing in carding cloth (the rubber fabric with the wires in it is called "carding cloth) by the foot or by the roll, I'd be interested in some.  I'd like to make some hand cards and drum carders, but just buying the carding cloth in precut sections is about the same price as a completed carder.  There are a few places which make it, but they sell it in large rolls.  http://www.howardbrush.com/card_clothing_home_spin.html    At some point, I may get some carding cloth from these folks and build a drum carder especially for angora wool, but I still don't have the wood shop set up again since we've moved so that project will not happen any time soon.

Considering the availability of these items in Hawaii, we will "process" the wool using the items you are most likely to be able to find which in this case is the dog slicker brushes.  First off, "load" one of the brushes with a bit of wool from your jar of wool.
Basically, that means put a wad of wool on the brush's wire teeth.  Not too much wool or it doesn't work all that well.  You'll figure it out quick enough if it's too much.  You can always add in more as you card the wool.  Then, put the two brushes together so the teeth are pulling through each other.
Keep the brushes in this alignment with each other for each pass.  Brush the wool for several passes and then there will be some wool on each brush and it will be nice and smooth.  You can add more fiber between passes if it doesn't look like there is much there.

Carded wool, ready to spin, but now to get it off the brushes and into the spinning box.  I keep a basket for the carded wool so when the basket is full, then I know there's enough to fill a bobbin on the spinning wheel full of fiber.  

Use one brush to pull the wool off the other.  Put the brushes together like this and pull the wool from one brush with the other one.  In this case, the brush on the right will be pulled down across the face of the brush on the left.
One swipe should pull all the wool out of the other brush.

You can use the other brush to make one more pass to get the wool into more of a roll shape, but for angora, it doesn't really matter since it will end up just a pile of fiber by the time you are ready to spin.  Sheep's wool will hold the roll shape which is called a "rolag" but angora fiber isn't so organized.

Pop the carded fiber into the basket and then start carding another bit of wool until you have enough to spin.  I've found the easiest way to get similar quantities of spun fiber on each spindle is to measure it by how full the basket of fiber is.

So, that's about it for carding.