FLEECE TO FIBRE
Once my sheep have been sheared, which happens in late may early June, the fleece is sent to a woollen mill in Cornwall where I have it turned into yarn. When the wool arrives at the mill it is sorted and graded – this is when dirt, short fibre and dust is removed from the fleece. Once this has been done, it is then ready to begin its journey at the mill to become yarn.
Wool straight off a sheep contains a high level of valuable lanolin, as well as dead skin, sweat residue, pesticides, and vegetable matter. Before the wool can be used for spinning, it must be scoured, a process of cleaning the greasy wool and removing the dirt, sweat, grease, some short fibre and vegetation. After scouring, the fleeces are spun and then tumble dried - the fleece is now basically a big pile of slightly damp, very slightly oiled fluff.
2. Carding or Scribbling
Carding is a process that disentangles and intermixes the wool fibres to produce a continuous web suitable for spinning. It is achieved by passing the fibres between moving surfaces that break up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibres to be parallel with each other. Carding produces fully disentangled, soft rolls of wool ready for spinning into yarn.
My cream yarn is the natural colour produced by my Portland sheep and the brown is from the fleece of my Castlemilk Moorit sheep. My other colours have been dyed for me by The Natural Fibre Company in Launceston, who process all my fleeces. They use dyes organically approved to the Global Organic Textile Standards. In addition to hot water, all they need to complete the dyeing process are an acid and wetting & balancing agent. As the fibre absorbs all the colour, effluent from the dye vats is almost colourless.
After the fleece has been carded it is held together by the natural hooks that exist on the surface of the wool fibres. Spinning pulls and twists the fibres together to form a continuous thread, turning the soft rolls into strong woollen yarn.