Hello again wool lovers! :) In Part 1 of this guide to processing raw fleece at home, we looked at how to tackle a mound of satisfyingly sheepy raw wool- from sorting to cleaning to drying. Hopefully now you’ve got a big pile of clean, dry fleece, probably including bits of dried up grass and stuff, but generally looking a better for having had a good wash.
I was a bit daunted as to how I was going to process all my fleece, especially when i kept finding myself in a reverie of wool caressing and not actually doing any carding. Heck, I still have a load of it (now shoved in a huge zippable bag) that I’m still trying to get through. I’m using a set of regular 72pt carders, which can handle most kinds of wool.
Your fleece will be made up of what’s called “locks”- this is the name for the natural slivers of fiber that make up the fleece. The narrower end is usually the dirtiest, being the outer part of the fleece- where as the wider end is generally fairly clean. Depending on the sheep breed, the locks can have lots of crimp, feel hairy or smooth, have a lot of lustre or not. I’ve been processing a random bag of mixed fleece from a farm here in Denmark which contained a lot of Leicester wool and maybe a bit of mohair- it had a lovely softness and lustre. On the other hand, I’m now processing a Whitefaced Woodland fleece from a farm in the UK- an old native hill breed with a real mix of smooth and coarser fibres.
The ends of some of the locks had some stubborn matter still in them, so I gave just the ends a comb through on the edge of one of the carders to loosen the locks, but if your fleece is looking good, it’s time to card! (you can pick any large bits of vegetable matter out as you go).
Start separating locks from the fleece. Before you place it on the carder, gently tease the fibres apart width-ways, opening up the lock to make carding easier.
Now place a few opened locks on one of your carders side by side. I just did one layer, aligning the locks so that the widest ends lay nearest to the handle. As you card, the “teeth” of the carders will work against each other, so hold this carder face-up, using the second carder face-down to brush in the opposite direction against the teeth of the first carder.
I was a bit worried at first that my weakling arms wouldn’t be strong enough to keep this up! :) It was much easier than I imagined though, and it was made MUCH easier when I read that the carders should be moved against each other lightly and smoothly at first rather than digging in too much (which will just make the carder teeth lock together and put strain on your arms!).
Once you’ve carded a bit and the locks are looking like fluffy fibre, you might be able to just peel it off in one wadge, or you can use the other carder to help lift the fibres out of the teeth.
I put the fluffy stuff in a big bag as I carded it. I haven’t tried out the Whitefaced Woodland yet, but the random mixed bag fleece was carded in exactly the same way, and I spun directly from this without further preparation. As carded fibres point in all directions, it seems to cling together just fine, and in some ways is nicer to spin than combed fibres which all lie in the same direction. With your carded wooly goodness, you can just pull out a handful of fibres and start spinning!
Here’s the first lot of yarn I spun from the “random mixed bag” of raw fleece. I chain plied a single to make a fingering-weight yarn. I still can’t believe how snow white it is! (if you look at the second picture in this post, you’ll see what I mean!)
I hope you’ve found these posts helpful if you’re thinking of trying to process some raw wool in the comfort of your own home! :) It takes time, but generally it’s a lot less complicated than I imagined and requires less physical work. And it’s fun! (yes, even the dealing-with-poo bits!)