Carding

Wool was carded to straighten the fibres ready for spinning. This job was always done by the spinner. In Saxon times, an iron comb was used but by the 13th century, hand cards had been developed. These consisted of two wooden boards covered with metal teeth which produced a loose roll of fibres (a rolag). Frome was the local centre of the hand card making industry. Cards were supplied to the spinners by the clothier.

Hand carding

Illustration of an early carding machine

After mechanisation, carding was carried out on a carding set, a series of rollers which produced a flat web of fibres. The piecener took pieces off the carding set, joined them by hand and fed them into the slubbing billy. One of the earliest processes to be mechanised was the conversion of carded fibres from a web into bundles of fibres. The slubbing billy came into use by the 1790s and looked very similar to an early spinning jenny.

Modern carding involves passing fibres through several carding sets. A multi-layered condenser has a doffer which splits the web of fibres into continuous slivers or slubbings. These look like thin ropes and have a very small amount of twist which holds the fibres together.

Slubbings coming off a doffer

The slubbing aprons of a condenser, which are set as a pair one above the other with a rotating and a reciprocal motion from side to side. This rubs the  slubbing into a soft thread which is then wound onto bobbins ready to go on the spinning machines.

 

 Slubbing

One of the earliest processes to be mechanised was the conversion of carded fibres into a lightly twisted thread. The slubbing billy came into use by the 1790s and looked very similar to an early spinning jenny.

A Slubbing Billy

After mechanisation, carding was carried out on a carding set, a series of rollers which produced a flat web of fibres. This passed through a second machine called a condenser which split the web of fibres into continuous slivers or slubbings.

The carding machine in Trowbridge Museum