I’ve gotten a bit behind in documenting the wonderful work my daughter’s class did in their woolen adventures. A few weeks ago, the “job” for the day was to card their beautiful, dyed wool. I wanted to share a bit about how we did it and how these young five and six-year olds fared.
For the activity that day, I brought in my Fancy Kitty Drum Carder, which I love and adore. I was careful with it, and I had some rules: no touching it without me being right there, don’t crank it as fast as you can, no fingers on the carding cloth, and have fun! I also brought in some mini-hand carders (for this project I actually used small dog brushes (these are not the exact ones I used, but they are similar). I KNOW! CHEESY! But listen, they worked fine for this project, and they were affordable given the quantity I needed.) I brought in my regular sized Ashford Hand Carders as well.
The way we organized the class that day was to show a brief slide show talking about carding and what it actually means. Then, I met with about five children at a time. Around a table, they all had locks to start fluffing out. Once enough fiber was fluffed, I taught them how to load the hand-carders. While three students used the hand carders, one fluffed more wool, and the other started the process of carding on the drum carder. They all rotated through all of the jobs. I provided coloring pages for the kids who were waiting for their turn to card.
I have to say, the drum carder stole the show. Not one of the students was unimpressed with that tool, and all wanted to use it more. I wished I could have given them more time on it! The children were in agreement that adding different colors to the drum carder batt was the way to go, so by the time we got to the very last student, we had a gorgeous tutti-fruity looking batt that I wanted to spin so bad! Oh, the self-control!
I think that the kids really got to appreciate the time, patience and purpose behind carding wool. They all seemed to feel like they had put in a good day’s work, including my daughter, who’s seen this all a bunch. I was so proud of them.
March 1, 2016 at 11:27 am
What a wonderful lesson–you planned it so well for success!
March 2, 2016 at 12:20 am
Thank you! I’m loving it. I will write the final project post soon. I would do a lot different if I were to do it again. It was wonderful but hectic!
May 27, 2016 at 10:14 am
There’s something so cathartic about fibers. I’m interested in learning more about your work. My husband always jests, “She doesn’t pay herself to make yarn, but the value in therapy from the wheel alone is worth her time.” So true, right?! 🙂
May 27, 2016 at 6:10 pm
So true! When I first started spinning, I remember feeling like I’d just meditated! Once I’d learned how, of course. I love it all. I don’t have my own sheep but I love getting raw fleeces and going through the whole process from skirting to spinning. It’s so grounding and forces me to slow down. There’s no choice in the matter. Your blog is gorgeous, btw! I’d love to talk shop. Thank you so much for writing.
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May 27, 2016 at 9:48 pm
Yes, I have been trying for the past few years to grasp what it is about the process, but I think it’s like you said – slowing down for each step and creating something beautiful. We’re so used to a quick-fix type of modern lifestyle, that I think we crave the old process. Have you read Women’s Work, the first 20,000 years? It’s a really neat look at the history of women working with fiber. So fascinating.
May 27, 2016 at 9:54 pm
I haven’t yet, but I’ve heard of it. I think I read about it on Story Skeins blog. Have you seen it? It’s wonderful.
March 30, 2023 at 7:55 pm
I am considering teaching kids ages 5-12 how to card unprocessed wool and perhaps spin it into yarn. Would you have any advice for me? They would come in groups of 20 and with around 8 helpers. I am thinking about using dog combs. Are these effective enough? Do you think that the children with some help would be able to use a drop spindle? I would be thrilled if you had any advice for me about what children can manage.
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March 31, 2023 at 5:40 pm
Hi Julianna~ so fun that you are thinking of teaching this to kids! I found my typical sized hand carders to be a bit too big for elementary kids (plus they are expensive and I only had one pair), so I bought several sets of dog/cat brushes that fit nicely in the smaller hand. The bristles on the brushes are a little thinner than the ones on my hand carders, but it’s not an issue. I’ve taught it a few different ways, but I love doing a whole series with it. If I have a white or cream fleece, I’ll usually do the washing of it at home first, but not worry too much about the grasses/straw in it. I love to start with dyeing some of the wool in large mason jars using Kool-Aid – you just mix it, soak the wool for several days in the jars, in the sun, go back, take it out and lay it out to dry. I love to have kids sit in circles and pick the veggie matter out of the wool and while they do that, I read books to them that have to do with sheep/seasons/shearing, etc. I have lots of books I can recommend on that. And when it’s carding time, I usually have groups split into ones that are fluffing out the wool and ones that are carding the wool- then they switch. I have a drum carder too, that’s very portable, and I bring that in to demo how carding can be done on a bigger machine. If the kids are interested, they can each have a turn spinning the drum carder handle while another loads up the wool to go through, and all contribute to making a batt of wool the class can use. SO FUN!
With drop spindles, I’ve done that a few times and I love the spin and park-it method where you spin the spindle and then park it under your arm so kids don’t have to draft and spin simultaneously. I feel like that’s much more manageable for new spinners. I think the youngest I did that with might be 8 or 9- I can’t remember. Another way to bring spinning to younger kids is to have them sit in pairs and one drafts while the other spins- that’s very fun and a great communal exercise. All of these things are, aren’t they?!