Friday, 20 May 2011

The Wonders of Wool - part two: processing

After a somewhat extended bank holiday few weeks, here is part two of my woolly series. Procrastination, thy name is Amy :-)

This time it's all about how the lovely stuff is processed, to turn it from this

Image taken from, a really interesting blog all about fibre arts - well worth a read.

into this

Buffy Sock Yarn - Superwash Blue faced Leicester from Juno Fibre Arts. And I can confirm that her superwash BFL is a joy to knit with :-)

I have a vague idea that wool is somehow washed (I know this is called 'scouring', and before it is done the wool is full of nasty chemicals from sheep dip), and then brushed and dyed. But to get an insight into how this might take place in my bathroom, should I wish it to, I have gone to Colour it Green again to benefit from her wisdom and experience:
Processing the wool
 "After they are shorn, we take the fleeces and pull off any dirty bits, and wrap them in a cotton duvet cover and store in one of out-buildings. 
"When it comes time to wash some - well there are differing opinions but this is what we do.  We pull off about 100g of fleece at a time, and wash it in hot water with soap - carefully as hot water and soap plus wool equals felt!. Then carefully rinse it out.  Then we dye it at this point - or not if it is to be natural. 

Carded wool from ColouritGreen on Etsy
"We dry it on a rack, then it is time to card it. We use a drum carder, and passing bits of the wool through this removes any double cut pieces, debris, and knots and straightens all the fibres out into a bit fluffy batt. At this point I often blend the colours on the carder, to get interesting shades and combinations - it really is colour therapy!

Hand spun wool - Berries - from ColouritGreen on Etsy

"From there it is spun on our wheel into yarn, then plied then we measure the yardage and wraps per inch, and skein it and then it is good to go!"

She makes it sound so easy! (And the finished product is amazing - gorgeous colours, and lovely to knit with!) I don't have the space in my tiny current house to do ambitious things like washing fleeces, but one day soon I am going to have to have a go. And that will probably open the door on exciting activities such as Dyeing.... But for now blog posts will have to suffice. And I will try to get them published in a more timely fashion in future!!

If you have any interesting facts, stories, ideas that you're bursting to tell I'd love to hear them, and maybe make them into posts. Please leave a comment - who doesn't love getting comments :-)  


  1. Lovely article. :o) I don't seem to have the space or time - particularly uninterrupted time - to process wool. Thank goodness for so many lovely people who already do it. :o) Then I get to use their hard work in my felt making. :o)

  2. yay for wool :)

    mandatory sheep dipping was stopped many years ago, and if you get your wool from folk who dont use chems prior to shearing, nothing to worry about :)