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Carding Wool

Wool was an important fiber in colonial America.  Wool was spun and woven into a strong fabric that kept people warm in the winter.

Every spring, sheep were shorn. Their wool was trimmed off, and then cleaned and combed to prepare it for spinning. Carding or combing wool is a necessary step in the process of making wool cloth. Carding makes sure all the wool fibers are untangled and aligned in one direction, making it easier to spin smoothly.

This video from George Washington's Mount Vernon describes the 18th century wool production process

So, how do you card wool?

Step 1

Choose a clean clump of fleece. Loosen the fleece gently without pulling the lock totally apart.

Step 2

Lay your clump of fleece onto the bottom card.

Step 3

With a sweeping motion, draw the right card down over the left card. Do not mesh the teeth of the cards together. Continue this gentle brushing motion until the wool is smooth and the fibers look like they are all going in the same direction.

Step 4

When you are finished, nudge the right card up against the left, gently pushing the wool to the edge of the opposite card.

Step 5

Pull the combed fleece off of the cards. This little bundle is called a rolag. Longer bundles are called roving. It is now ready to be dyed or spun.

Stay tuned for a future post on dying wool, spinning, and other related activities!

People dipping sheep in the river and shearing them in the field, then washing, beating and combing the wool. Engraving.. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


Continue the Wool Carding Fun at Learning at London Town!

All programs are held outside with appropriate distancing, group sizes, and cleaning in accordance with CDC and local guidance. Pre-registration required for all programs.

Learning at London Town: The Fabric of Life Wednesday, October 14, 1 pm- 3 pm OR Saturday, October 17, 10 am- 12 pm

Experience the fabrics of colonial life - woolens, linens, cottons, and silks! Help process some of the natural fibers that were the basis for colonial clothing. Fabric patterns were often block printed on colonial textiles – design and print your own pattern to take home! ​$8 for member children grades 1 - 4 $10 for non-member children grades 1 - 4 REGISTER HERE

Learning at London Town: Game On! Wednesday, November 18, 1 pm- 3 pm OR Saturday, November 21, 10 am- 12 pm

Life for kids in the Colonial Chesapeake wasn’t all about work. In this program, kids will learn to play some sports and games that were popular in London Town’s heyday. While having fun, children will learn important communication and team-building skills. ​$8 for member children grades 1 - 4 $10 for non-member children grades 1 - 4 REGISTER HERE

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