Learning to Use a Drum Carder to Make Batts

Learning to Use a Drum Carder to Make Batts

Our guest artist today is Cathy Wycliff aka Luvswool.

After several months of taking a hiatus from felting–due to a work project and family health issues–I was starving to get back into it.

Fortunately, Marilyn suggested a lesson in carding batts. I don’t own a carder and my experience with blending fibers has been minimal, that is, using my dog brushes to blend a few bits of wool roving. Last Friday, Marilyn came over with two carders: a Louet Junior with a very coarse cloth (40 tpi?), and a standard Brother with fine (120 tpi) cloth.

I felt more comfortable beginning with the Louet, and grabbed some neutrals to begin the carding process. I used these fibers with no particular plan for my first batt: Mystery fiber chunks and fibers, possibly some Finn hand-spun; hand-dyed vintage yarn (early 80s); small amount of Domestic 56s and Navajo churro–all in various neutral shades, mostly gray.








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Then it was time to move on to the Brother for some finer carding. This time I went for color: Indigo-dyed Domestic 56s, dark blue Merino, hand-dyed mulberry silk, white Tencel, green mystery fiber, possibly Corriedale. The machine was a bit more sensitive, and so the fibers needed to be fed more carefully onto the drum.

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I tried the Brother once again, using slightly different fibers and colors: Hand-dyed Indigo Domestic 56s, dark blue Merino, white Tencel, unknown white fiber (possibly cotton), and Milk protein. Marilyn suggested we make two passes through with the fibers.

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Some things that surprised me about the carding experience: it took a lot of time and was more difficult than I imagined; the fibers don’t necessarily cooperate, in that bits get caught on the smaller drum; and finally, it’s probably a good idea to have a plan of what you want to make with the batts before you begin. This was an experience I really enjoyed and I have made a couple more batts with the Louet coarse carder, which Marilyn generously has loaned me. The neutrals below were passed through three times.

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More mystery fibers in green and yellow.


Thanks Cathy for sharing your first experience with carding batts.  Do you still have carder envy?  Personally, I am happy to have the carders.  They have come in handy more than once.  I love making batts just for fun.  I don’t always have a use for them and often give them away.  Its always a creative learning experience!





20 thoughts on “Learning to Use a Drum Carder to Make Batts

  1. We have a couple of carders and the blends you get by just feeding the machine and winding the handle is wonderful!

    1. Yes, it’s a wonderful feeling to feed in bits and end up with batts. Does take a bit of practice though, doesn’t it!

  2. Ooh, that greeny-blue batt under the first picture of the Brother carder is gorgeous! They all look good 🙂 It really is a lot of fun making batts, isn’t it, like making a 3D fibre painting, adding texture, shine and colour.

    1. Thanks, Zed! It is fun making batts, but there is a learning curve. In ways it is like making a fiber painting, but I didn’t feel like I had as much control with the carder. I guess the more you card, the better you get!

  3. Thank you for sharing this side of working with wool fibers….I was completely ignorant of the process…..this small look was fascinating!

  4. So happy you enjoyed seeing this birds-eye view of learning to use a drum carder. I had viewed videos of the carding process but it was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. Guess that’s true with any new skill you learn. Try it sometime!

  5. Looks like you’re hooked now 🙂 It does take more effort using the drum carder than you would think. But I find it a great activity to have the carder set up in front of the TV and do a little carding at the same time.

  6. Oh, yeah! Definitely hooked. I tend to do my felting & fiber work to rock music, rather than TV. I am so easily distracted I’d be afraid to catch my finger in the drum carder.

  7. I’m glad you’re enjoying the carder now. I’m sure it was a little intimidating at first to have me hovering over you. 🙂

  8. It gets a little easier each time. And I didn’t feel like you were hovering but was worried I might break your machine! Thanks much for the expert guidance in using drum carders. ;-))

    1. I wouldn’t call it expert guidance, just sharing my limited experience. 🙂 Obviously, you didn’t break it. I think you’re seeing using it more gives you a better understanding and feel for the process.

    1. Thanks, Judy! Also looking forward to seeing your batts when you return from vacation.

  9. Thank you for sharing your carder experience. When blending wools on the carder I like the first pass when the colours have blended but are still distinct – makes great background material and interesting fibres with which to make inlay felt.

  10. Lyn, you make a good point about doing one pass on the carder to keep the colors more distinct.
    Great learning experience!

  11. It is harder than people think and yes like anything it takes practice. Your batts came out nice. I always have to relearn a little if I use my small hand crank carder. You can’t feed it like the big one.

    1. There was quite a contrast between your giant carder and the junior Louet! But it’s all good. I enjoyed the experience but need more practice to become a competent carder.

  12. I just had a big smile reading through this post. I still remember the excitement I felt the first time I cranked the handle on my brand new drum carder, and I still love the process of feeding it wool and watch the (sometimes unplanned) magic happen!

    What will you do with the batts, Cathy? 🙂

  13. It is truly a fun and exciting experience. Now I just need to take the plunge in buying my own carder. Any large financial purchase deserves careful thinking. ;-))

    I actually made a Kindle case with two of the small junior batts, and I am thinking of using the blues and blue-greens as backgrounds for new needle-felt paintings.

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