George:From fleece to rolag
How do we manage to turn the hairs of these fuzzy creatures into cloth?
Dolly with a full fleece
That's what I am working on figuring out. Luckily there were some bags of sheared wool stashed away from last year, so I could skip the steps of shearing and scouring (washing) the wool for now and start with the easiest part -- carding the wool.
Dolly freshly sheared
Carding is where you clean the remaining bits of non-wool out of the wool, fluff it up and straighten out the fibers so it will be ready to spin into yarn. Wool, when it comes off a sheep is arranged in clumps or locks that can be teased apart by hand, loaded onto a wool card and gently combed onto another card.
loading the card
using card against card
The result is a flat sheet of wool with the fibers more or less lined up that can be rolled into a rolag, ready for spinning.
a rolag ready for the spinning wheel
The next step is spinning. Spinning on a wheel is really doing several things at once -- stretching out or drafting the fibers, twisting them together and then winding the resulting strand of yarn onto a bobbin. It took me a couple of days of tangling up clumps of wool into useless slubs (lumps) before I started to get the hang of doing all of these things at once. The hardest part, I have found, is getting started. It's kind of like learning how to drive a car with a shick shift -- you have to coordinate hands and feet and pay attention to what is going on around you at the same time. More about spinning later, once I get things down enough to share with the rest of the world.