Combing and Carding

Flemish girl carding wool. Painting by Maria Wilk, 1883 Flemish girl carding wool. Painting by Maria Wilk, 1883

Combing and carding are two related techniques for preparing cotton, hair or wool fibres. With respect to sheep’s wool, the two techniques are used for making either worsted or woollen threads respectively.

Combing is a technique whereby fibres (usually cotton or wool) are passed through a series of straight, metal teeth in order to lay the fibres parallel to one another. The fibres are then placed together in a long line (‘combed sliver’), which is used to spin a smooth, even thread. In this process, long fibres are separated from shorter ones (noils) and tangles are removed. At the same time, practically all remaining foreign matter is removed from the fibres. In general, combed fibres are cleaner, finer, stronger and more lustrous than carded ones. Combed fibres are generally used for producing worsted threads.

Carding is a technique whereby two hand or machine cards are used. These cards have numerous wire teeth set into a paper, leather or metal ground. The teethed cards are used to separate the fibres, to spread them into a web (but not in parallel lines as in combed wool) and to remove any short or broken fibres as well as impurities. The web is condensed into a continuous untwisted strand of fibres called a sliver. Carded fibres are generally used for producing woollen threads.


  • BURNHAM, Dorothy (1980). Warp and Weft: A Textile Terminology, Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, pp. 22, 28-29.
  • TORTORA, Phyllis G. and Ingrid JOHNSON (2014). The Fairchild Books: Dictionary of Textiles, 8th edition, London: Bloomsbury, pp. 99, 136.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 26 June 2016).


Last modified on Monday, 24 April 2017 18:14
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