I continue my Eastward theme this week – today I present my Finnish hand cards. Curved, slender and lightweight. With 108 teeth per square inch they are the perfect candidates for fine wools. The most special thing about them is the leather carding pads, carefully nailed onto the cards as back in the 19th century.
A card story
A couple of years ago Barbro, a spinning friend of mine from Finland, asked in a spinning group if anyone would be interested in fine hand cards with leather carding pads. An acquaintance of her had found a woodworker who makes hand cards from recycled wood, similar to those that were common in Finland in the 19th century. They had also found a business that made leather pads. I had been looking for hand cards with leather pads for a while and not found any. I do have a couple of antique card pairs with leather pads, but they have been mistreated by people who don’t know the treasure antique hand cards are and were therefore not very fiber friendly. When Barbro presented this opportunity I was all ears and eager to try the Finnish leather cards.
Five months later the cards were available in the web shop. With Google Translate and lots of patience for interesting translations from Finnish (of which I only understand numbers from 1–5, Do not cover and a swearing word) I managed to order a pair of cards. 108 tpi and nailed leather pads. My heart sang as I received them another ten days later.
The cards can be purchased at Villa Laurila. Laurila is the name of a manor hall and Villa is the Finnish word for wool (adding to my list of Finnish words to recognize).
Finnish hand cards fun facts
There are lots of beautiful and well balanced details and features on the Finnish cards, some of which I haven’t worked with before.
My Finnish cards are quite small, the smallest I have tried. I do like the size, they are lightweight – one card weighs only 205 grams, compared to my Kromski 108 tpi at 345 grams. I do love my Kromskis too, though. But especially considering the fineness of the wools I will be carding with these cards I think a lightweight card is preferable. I’m thinking the lightness will facilitate a lighter stroke and thereby be more gentle on the fine fibers.
The handle is a lot smaller than my Kromskis and my hands enjoy the slender shape of the handle and the beeswax/linseed oil surface.
Eventhough I know nothing about woodworking I can easily tell that these cards were made by a professional craftsperson. The way the paddle is inserted into the handle is just exquisite. The technique probably has an equally exquisite name.
When you buy the Finnish hand cards you can choose between nails and staples. To stay as close to the originals that inspired these cards I went with the nails option. Don’t they look just smashing?
The leather pads was the number one reason why I bought these cards. I have wanted a pair for so long but never found any. And these are beautiful. I love the framing strips of leather where the nails fasten the pads, such an elegant little log cabin corner.
Someone told me that leather pads are a bit sensitive to the wiggling of the teeth compared to modern foam pads. Therefore it is a good idea to mark and dedicate one card to one hand. I have written H for höger (right) and V for vänster (left) on mine. Hopefully I remember to check the letters before I start carding too.
The Finnish cards are curved, something that I’m not used to. Not that I don’t like curved hand cards, I just haven’t tried them before. I think the curve adds to the beauty of the cards as it fits very well with the bellied handle. However, with the curved design of the hand cards I gave myself a new challenge: Learning to card with curved cards.
I have carded a lot through the years and I have found a technique that works for me. But it wasn’t there from the beginning. I have learned along the way and tried new angles, techniques and ergonomic tricks. One of my favourite help in this has been the video How to card wool: Four spinners, four techniques. In the video Rita Buchanan, Maggie Casey, Carol Rhoades and Norman Kennedy show their favourite ways to card. There is so much to learn in this video. It becomes very clear that so much is a matter of personal preference. The aim is the same – to align the fibers parallel and add air in between them, creating an evenly and airily arranged batt or rolag to spin from. But how you get there is your own journey.
After I had watched this video I picked my favourite tricks from all the spinners and composed my own carding repertoire. The most important thing to me is to create an airy rolag, even in shape and fiber distribution and without putting too much strain on me or the fibers.
Rock the wool
Even if I can transfer some of my methods from my flat card technique I can’t transfer all of it. So I had to relearn. As I was considering this I remembered the video. Rita Buchanan showed sort of a carding dance that gave her a lot of joy. This technique appealed to me and I watched the video again and started practicing. If you don’t have access to the video you can read about it and see a couple of illustrations here.
The technique she uses is a rocking motion. This is common for other curved cards techniques too, but in Rita’s technique (that she says she in turn probably learned from someone else) she changes the active hand (but not the positions of the hands) as the wool dances between the cards.
This is how I try to rock my wool in Rita Buchanan’s style:
I’m using Åland wool in the carding pictures. Before I card I always tease the wool. You can read more about teasing here. After that I dress the cards with the wool, leaving a one inch frame of the carding pad around the wool empty. This far I do the same as with flat cards.
- Top card active: With the top card (left hand in my case) I card with a rocking motion from above. My bottom card arm is locked by the side of my torso. Starting at the top end of the bottom card I card with 4 or 5 rocks up toward the handle side of the bottom card until I have transfered all the wool to the top card.
- Bottom card active: With the bottom card (right hand in my case) I card with a rocking motion from underneath. My top card arm is locked by the side of my torso. Starting at the top end of the top card I card with 4 or 5 rocks up toward the handle side of the top card until I have transfered all the wool to the bottom card.
- I repeat step 1 and 2 another turn and then lift the wool gently and roll it into a rolag with the support of my free hand.
At my Instagram highlights you can see a short video where I card Åland wool with this technique with my Finnish cards. Right after that there is another highlight sequence where I card with my flat cards.
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