From Sheep to Yarn: Part II

Marissa     Animal Husbandry     , ,     1    

This is the second part of a three part series on yarn making.  You can read the first part (washing the fleece) here.

Now that we have a nice pile of fluffy, fairly clean wool, it’s time to turn it into yarn.  I tried two different methods for this.  The first involved just going straight to carding the wool with no other prep.  This did remove a lot of the particles still caught in the wool, but they ended up all over the floor in the house and not all of it came out.  A little more google searching (what on earth did people do before google…oh, they probably asked their grandmother to show them how to process wool!) and I discovered a new step.

The first step in processing is rather easy – called picking. There is a device to do this for those that go through a lot of fleeces, but the easiest way is to just do finger picking. You just pull all the wool apart. All the vegetable matter stuck in between the fibers is exposed and no longer tangled up. This weekend was perfect for this – sunny and a bit breezy. So I just sat outside picking wool, letting the breeze take the lighter bits of debris and the heavier ones fell to the ground.

Once I picked the wool, it was ready for carding. This is essentially combing it so that all the fibers are going in the same direction. There are all sorts of ‘carders’ for this, but they are all basically paddles with a bunch of curved metal teeth.

You load up one carder and then begin drawing the other one on top. Repeat this until all the wool is on one carder, then transfer back to the first. Pretty soon, you end up with nicely combed wool. 

Once it’s all lined up on the carder, you just pull off and roll the wool into a little log…called a rolag (Willa’s favorite new word). These are pretty messy as they were the first ones I’ve made.  With more practice, now they are nice and round and perfectly fluffy.  I’ve seen some videos online with really messy ones and apparently it doesn’t matter.  I’m still struggling with all the steps, so I’m going to make everything as perfect as possible!

Finally, you get to turn the wool into yarn. I’m using a drop spindle.  I’ve not been shown how to use one in person, so I’m basing this off of books and lots and lots of youtube videos.  I understand the theory behind the process – it’s the application that is a bit difficult. 

You start by ‘drafting’ (pulling) a rolag thinner on one end and twisting it up so you can attach it to the spindle. Then you ‘flick’ the spindle to set it in motion. More advanced spinners do all the work while the spindle is going, but I’m still in the learning phase, so I’m doing a process called ‘park and draft’. Just before the spindle starts spinning in the opposite direction, I ‘park’ it (grab it between my knees or feet) and then ‘draft’ (pull) the unspun wool to the desired thickness while still pinching the spun wool so as not to let the twist further up. Then when I let go of the twisted wool, the built up tension twists the newly drafted part. Release the spindle again, flick, park, draft. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

When the spindle is full (yarn goes half way up the shaft or so), you simply unwind the yarn and roll it into a ball. Whew!

I’m still working on keeping the yarn the same thickness and the same twist amount. There are lots of finer points to using a drop spindle so I have a long ways to go before being proficient…but I also have 10 fleeces to process so surely I’ll catch on by the end! The yarn in the picture above is from maybe 1/10 of a fleece. And the sheep are due to be sheared again in March! I feel as though I’ll be doing this in all my free time from now on…at least it’s fun for now!

Still to come is washing the yarn one final time to ‘set’ the twist and dyeing!

1 comment

  • Shaleza said:

    Feb 26, 2012 3:27 pm

    Call your “aunt” Carolyn, she’d be happy to show you how.