Drum Carding a Fine Fleece

Dyed wool Roving
Dyed wool Roving

Welcome back to our series of posts on processing our Rambouillet fleece from start to finish.

Previously we covered how to Flick card locks.  You may recall that I stated  once locks are flick  carded, my preference is to then to put that fibre through a drum carder.  I like to complete this stage to provide a larger piece of fleece for spinning with less starting and stopping.  It also provides me with a handy method to store prepared fibre.

My drum carder is a small old drum carder I purchased from kijiji.  It was manufactured in Sifton Manitoba likely in the 50’s or 60’s.  It has a large drum also called a swift that is about 9 inches across.  I can typically get about 2 ounces of fibre on this.

I spent time refurbishing the drum carder and added new cloth to both the small and large drum.  The small drum has a carding cloth with 72 tines per inch and the large drum has 90 tines per inch.

Flicked locks on drum carder tray

As Rambouillet fleece is very fine the drum carder should have more tines per inch maybe 100-120.  For this reason the locks will need to go through at a very slow speed.  This will help to eliminate fibres snapping back and creating lumps, referred to as neps.
The process is very simple.  I lay the flicked locks onto the tray.  If you cannot see the tray through the locks, the layer is too thick.  Pull the locks open to create a thin layer.  Slowly turn the drum carder in a clockwise motion.
Continue to add layers until the large drum is getting full (almost to the top of the tines).

Removing carded batt from drum carder

To remove the fleece or batt, turn the drum until you see the section that does not have tines.  Slide a strong metal knitting needle or a doffer that came with your drum carder under the fibre. Slowly lift up small sections of the fibre from the teeth. Make your way across the drum.  Now gripping the end of those fibres furthest from the small drum, lift the batt in an upward direction while turning the drum in a counter clockwise direction to remove the batt.  You will notice as you are lifting that some fibre is being left behind, I run my knitting needle between the row of teeth just in front of the section being removed to help lift most of the fibre from the drum.

Once you remove the batt you will want to run this through again to help smooth out the fibres.  You will not be putting the full batt through as it will jam or you will end up with most of your fibre on the small drum.  Instead take the batt between both hands and open the batt as if opening a book.  Do this a few times, place a layer on the tray of the drum carder.  Remember you need to be able to see the tray through the fibre.  You will be able to turn a bit faster than with the locks, but cranking too fast will create neps or the fibre will transfer onto the small drum and not the large drum.

I typically put fibre through 3 times.  You can put it through as many times as you like.  Each pass will align the fibres more.  On the final round once the batt is removed from the carder, I split the batt length wise into 1/2 ounce pieces.  I wrap the piece around my hand and push the end into the centre.  This makes a nice nest of fibre, easy to store and once opened a great length of roving to spin from.

For storage I place all this nests of fibre into a mesh lingerie bag with a label of the breed and the dye used.  I link the bags together using metal shower curtain rings then hang then in the closet of my craft room.

I have never had an issue with moths or bugs getting into my wool.  If you live in an area where this may be a concern, spritz the wool with an alcohol and lavender essential oil mixture or hang cedar closet boards in the closet.

Check  out our YouTube channel;  Murlo Discovery Channel for a video on this process.  Be sure to subscribe to our webpage to receive notifications of our next post.