Preparing Fibers

If the closest you want to get to preparing fiber is to click the shopping cart button for wool roving, then you probably might want to skip this part. However, it actually isn’t hard to take the wool from raw fiber to felt. It takes some time and effort but you can certainly save some money processing the fiber yourself.

It works best if you wash raw wool outside. It has a definite odor (think sheep poo) and will smell up the entire house. You’ll need several large containers for the wash water and the rinse water. The fleece should be skirted which means the dirtiest parts have been removed. Put the fleece in mesh bags but don’t pack it in tightly. If it’s packed too tightly, the center wool will not come clean. Water must be able to penetrate all the way through the bag of wool. For the wash water, use 160 degree F (71 C) water for merino or other fine wools and 140 degree F (60 C) water for coarser wools. The finer wools have more lanolin and need the higher temperature to get rid of all the grease. Use a grease cutting dish detergent for the soap. Put the bag of fleece in the wash water first and soak for 30 minutes and then move to a clear container of water that is slightly cooler than the wash water. Avoid agitation throughout the process to prevent felting. You may need to wash the wool twice and rinse up to three times to get it completely clean.

The next step is to dry the wool. Use a washing machine on spin cycle to get rid of excess water. Then spread the wool out to dry on a screen or rack. It helps to have a warm, sunny day to dry quickly.

After drying, the wool needs to be teased apart into fluffy clouds of fiber before carding. You can card by hand or if you’re lucky enough to have a drum carder, it’s much faster. The drum carder makes nice fluffy batts and can even be used to make a roving. Carders have metal teeth on their surface which helps to untangle and straighten the fibers.

See Ann’s tutorial for making a roving.

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