Navajo Wool Carding

Navajo RugsCarding, with what looks like a pair of combs, leaves the wool in long, loose, fluffy rolls. A handful of wool is placed on one of the toothed surfaced carders, and the other is raked across it until the wool fibers are untangled and begin to have a uniform appearance in the rolls. It is this hand carding that gives the final product its amazing strength and resilience, since the individual fibers are less apt to be broken when worked by hand.

The purpose of carding is to smooth down or make straight the matted individual fibers of the wool, giving them a relatively uniform longitudinal development in the strand. Rolling the wool between the hands or the length of the thigh will accomplish a similar process. In early times, the Navajo used teasels or thistles, which grew wild in parts of their homeland for carding. Today the toothed comb card of American manufacture is in widespread use. Taking a card in each hand, the weaver combs a handful of wool between them into a thick, fluffy rope, ready for spinning.

Carding straightens out the wool fibers so they lie parallel to each other, and also helps eliminate foreign matter. The bottom card is held in one hand with the handle and teeth of the card pointing away from the weaver. The wool is hooked onto the teeth of this card, and distributed as evenly as possible in a thin layer. Too much wool on the card will result in poor separation of the fibers. The top card is grasped in the other hand, palm down, with teeth down and handle toward the weaver. In carding, the wool is teased by gently pulling it apart, which opens up the locks and lets the foreign matter drop out. This process is continued until the fibers become loose and fluffy.

With the bottom card resting on the weavers knee, the edge of the top card is drawn over the bottom card and toward the weaver. This is a gently combing process, where the fibers are transferred from the bottom card to the top card, and then top card to bottom card. Little pressure is exerted, so the teeth of the cards do not mesh. This process is repeated until all fibers are evenly combed, and on bottom card. Fibers are gently removed, and resemble a rectangular mass that are light and airy, and ready for spinning.