There is one tool that I have used more than any other in the past few years of the Master Spinner program. Well, not more than my spinning wheel, but it comes close and that is my hand cards. In Level 1 we learn to use our hand cards and we prepare twenty different skeins just for the breed studies alone. We started to learn blending with both silk top and noil. It’s hard to get through the homework for Level 1 without being proficient in using hand cards. In Level 2, we learn more about blending and begin to calculate the percentages we use when we are blending two or more fibers together. I have carded silk, wool, cotton, alpaca, mohair, yak, buffalo, cashmere, camel, and blended most of them with each other. All 3 of my final projects were made from hand carded sliver or rolags. Odds are this year will be too.
Using my hand cards is second nature to me now. In fact I put my Level 3 scarf into the fair in the fleece to fiber category. That required me to recreate the fiber blend I had used back in December to spin the yarn. It took me all of 5 min. Probably less, but I had to locate the fibers and weigh the percentages then card. The carding was the easy part.
This year we get to use our hand cards to create a percentage gradient from white to black. This ends up being an optical illusion, because no matter how much you blend it is just black and white fibers mixing. Today I got to weigh out the fibers and blend them. Our text book takes the math out of this and tells us how many grams of black and white we need to blend for each of the 7 grays. The hardest part is that I like to make one sliver for each single to ply which meant I had to cut some decimals in half and round to get accurate measurements. I use a jeweler’s scale which will and does give me tenths of a gram, it does not go so far as hundredths of a gram. So in some cases I just had to fudge to the next highest number and hope. It seems to have turned out just fine.
Carding up the fiber for these 7 skeins made me realize how far I have come. There was a time in my life when the idea of picking up my hand cards to card wool or even blend something was terrifying. Now, it is second nature.