Cliff House Alpacas finally bit the bullet and invested in a drum carder. We agonized for long months about which carder would be the right fit for us, and finally settled on the the Happy Hybrid by Pat Green Carders, LTD. Since the decision was such a hard one for us, and since reviews of drum carders are few and far between, I decided to update you all on how exactly this carder is working for us.
All the Pat Green carders have super-fine and close “fur” teeth that seems to work very well with my alpaca fiber, even the coarser seconds from the legs and neck. I originally intended to purchase Deb’s Delicate Deluxe, which is a go-to carder for many spinners. Paula Simmons, the lady who answers the phone when you call to place an order, convinced me to get the Happy Hybrid instead, as it has two ratios: one for coarse, and one for super fine fiber. I have yet to use the slower, finer setting, and somewhat regret spending the extra $150. I suppose if you have a bunch of baby fleece, the slower speed may be better, but we only have two babies a year at this point.
The carder arrived quickly and fully assembled, although my first batts would have benefitted from some tinkering with the distance between the main drum and the licker-in (the little drum in front). Getting the drums as close together as possible, with both sides of the drum evenly spaced, is a trick if you are a touch spatially challenged, but you should only have to do it once (and after cleanings).
I loaded the in-feed tray with prime fleece that had been carefully picked, although not washed. The handle turns smoothly and easily, though the wooden part invariably unscrews as you work. As everyone else on the internet had cautioned, a thin layer of fiber slowly loaded produces a batt with fewer snarls. I’m not too picky about snarls, so I felt that one trip through the carder produced spin-able fiber, though two trips always improved the quality.
Removing the batt from the carder is remarkably easy, and considering how many people have trouble with this step, I was pleasantly surprised. I do make sure the drum is fully loaded using the burnishing tool, and that helps. I’ve seriously injured myself on the teeth while using the doffer stick to break the batt, so be careful!
After I have the batt broken, I roll it around a rod that came with the carder, and it comes right off!
I then divide the batt into 5 or 6 long strips of fiber, stretch them out into roving, and roll them into little cinnamon rolls of delicious fiber. It is SO much easier to spin, mostly because I don’t have to stop to grab new fiber as often. It is also MUCH faster than hand carding, which is what I did last year, for all six fleeces.
All told, I would recommend Pat Green’s carders, although I would caution the starting fiber artist against purchasing the happy hybrid. Carders do hold their value, so I could always resale this one if I don’t use the other gears, but that’s more trouble than I want to take right now. And I would add that it has helped my consistency as a spinner, although I’d never admit that Paula (she told me it would, but pbbt. I resent the implication I was ever inconsistent).