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Wool processing

Carding

Once wool has been scoured, it will have be carded before it can be spun into yarn. Carding is a process that passes the wool through a series of rollers covered with fine bristles or fine wire teeth. This separates the wool out from tangles, clumps and staples and lays the fibres parallel and formed into a fine web. There are several differences between cards producing wool for woollen yarn and those used for semi-worsted or worsted yarns, although the basic process is the same.

The wool fibres, carried on the teeth of a fast-moving cylinder called a swift, are teased and straightened by the teeth of a smaller cylinder, the worker, which is facing the opposite direction. The stripper, as it name suggests, is a cylinder that strips the wool from the worker. This process is repeated several times. There are at least four sets of workers and strippers to each swift, with up to six on big diameter swifts.

After the last set of workers and strippers is a roller known as the fancy, which lifts the fibre to the surface of the swift. From here it will transfer easily to the doffer that carries it on to the next swift.

A woollen card is divided into two sections, the scribbler section and the carding section. At the end of the scribbler section the fibres are now in a web. The wool is then gathered together into a sliver and carried through a Scotch feed to the carding section, where there are normally two more sets of swifts, workers and strippers that will tease the wool again.

At the end of the woollen card, the web is split into narrow strips that are passed through a condenser. This gently rubs the strips with conveyor belts – a bit like rubbing clay or plasticine with your fingers – so that the strips are round and the fibres are linked enough to hold together. These are called slubbings, and are wound onto large spools ready for spinning in a woollen system.

A worsted card does not have separate scribbler and carding sections. After being teased by the sets of swifts and associated rollers so the fibres are roughly parallel, the web is drawn through a funnel into a thick sliver that requires considerable further processing. The first of these processes is generally gilling.

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