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A pair of cairds, used for carding wool. Main body 22 x 15cm, handle 14 x 3cm, made from wood, steel pins.

This set of cairds belonged to two widowed sisters from Unst in Shetland. They were noted spinners and knitters of fine lace. The cairds have been so well used that one of them has split in two and has been repaired.

Before wool is spun, it needs to be combed on 'cairds' so as all the wool fibres are lying in one direction. A handful of wool is placed on the hooks of one card and the other is repeatedly stroked across in one direction. This draws the wool out flat. Then, by reversing the stroke of the card, the wool is rolled into a long sausage ready for spinning.

When people were knitting a lot, they would sometimes get a lot of lasses together and have a 'cairdin'. This was quite a social event. The girls would all sit around the fire and caird, joking with each other. Sometimes, a great big bed of straw would be made up in the barn for the event, and everyone would stay over.
  • Shetland Museum