Above is a picture of a replica of the original Spinning Jenny - see credits at the end of this article.
Now comes the choice between carded woollen spun and combed worsted spun yarns.
Now we have a pile of evenly organised fluff: clean, blended and oiled so that it will go through the next machines.
Here is an unskirted white Ryeland fleece on my kitchen floor. The grouting of the tiles will give some idea of the dimensions. It weighed around 2.5kg before I started skirting it.
As with home decorating, the amount of work done in preparation for spinning is (and feels like) much more than the actual final painting or papering! So far, we have moved from the first of the pictures above … and are now heading for the second … the third is still some way farther through the mill!
Scouring and drying: the first stage of processing
We are starting with wool, mohair or alpaca (or indeed cashmere) which has already been sorted and graded and is therefore a pile of similar or mixed fibres ready to be transformed into felt or a yarn.
It is said that everything of a pig can be used but the squeak, and the same is true of fleeces! But as not all fibre is wonderful, so even once the best of the harvested fibre has been selected and stored well, the fibre type will determine its end use.
Having described how the quality of wool is critically affected by the health and type of the sheep, it all begins again immediately after shearing! It is a real shame and can ruin the results if the next steps are not followed as soon as practical.
This crucial next stage starts the transformation of the raw material, bringing together the vital producer quality and aspirations with the capability and expertise of the processor in exploiting the potential of the fibre.
Harvesting in the case of wool means shearing. Pure new wool comes from live sheep and sheep are not killed in the shearing process! This blog item focusses on how to shear live sheep with care and respect.
Here we look at three important aspects of fleece and fibre: consistency/style, colour and animal health.
Consistency varies considerably between different breeds, within the breed and across the animal. We can have Gotland sheep, all of which have lustre longwool, with wide variations of thickness and crimp between different animals and a range of these across the body of an individual.