Guest Author - Laun Dunn
A flick card is a long handled card that has a small head that is usually about 3” x 4”. The carding cloth is glued and/or stapled to the head. To use a flick card, one either places the fiber to be carded on a canvas or leather square that is usually held on the leg, or hold the lock in one hand while using the other hand to operate the flicker.
As I have found myself turning to unprocessed fiber more frequently, I also find my flick carder to be indispensable. I currently have an Ashford flick card that has served me very well for the past 4 years or so, and I use it more often than most spinners do. I use it on both washed and unwashed fiber, and it is often all that is needed to prepare fiber for spinning.
Flick cards remedy a number of fiber problems. Primarily, they remove vegetation from the fiber, and align the fiber for spinning. They can remove dried tips from wool, or open dirt coated ends of other fibers. Flickers also remove kemps and second cuts, and the friction they generate can be just enough to soften the grease for those who like to spin raw wool.
I find that when I get a really good alpaca fleece, I prefer to spin the blanket fiber with minimal processing. Keep in mind that this is best for an adult alpaca fleece, as a baby fleece will lose a great deal of fiber to the flick card. Instead of washing the raw fiber prior to spinning, use the natural alignment of the fiber to your advantage by spinning first. Place the fiber in locks in a dishpan or other container being careful to orient the shorn ends of the locks in the same direction. Sit down to your wheel with this basket of fiber, and your flick card, and you are ready to go.
Get a comfortable handful of the fiber in your non-dominant hand. Don’t get a huge handful or the teeth of the flick card won’t be able to get through it. Hold the fiber by the middle of the length of the lock, with the shorn end facing out first. Gently flick the ends to remove any second cuts. If you find vegetation on your shorn ends, the fiber needs more preparation than a flick carder can provide, and you should use a more intense preparation. Turn the lock end for end, and flick the tips to open them and remove any vegetation.
When you spin your flicked locks, hold the shorn ends facing the orifice of the wheel. You can use any type of backward drafting method; I prefer a long backward draw. The fiber will almost self draft, and you will find that you use your forward hand very little. I find this method works very well to create yarn that is thick without having to change my wheel ratios, or drastically alter my spinning tempo. The freshly spun yarn will be very smooth without much bloom.
If you want to create a halo on your finished yarn, you can use a finishing method which would include fulling. Even with camelid fiber, fulling the yarn will add strength and give spectacular results.