wool journey

The Wool Journey Part 16 and postscript: Labelling

Sue Blacker's picture
9 June, 2019 - 18:55 | Sue Blacker

To be honest, labelling is possibly even more complicated than actually making yarns.  And of course we cannot spin yarns about our yarns.  Well, we can and do in describing the concepts, ideas and thinking behind designing a yarn, but not when describing the dimensions, weight and composition!

Also labels full of technnical information are not particularly photogenic, though we do try our best with Blacker Yars ballbands.

For semi definitive information, please refer to https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/513963/BIS-16-193-textile-labelling-regulations-guidance.pdf, although it specifically says one should read the legislation and that it is only guidance.  Your local Trading Standards people are generally knowledgeable and helpful.

The Wool Journey Part 15: the final package and packaging

Sue Blacker's picture
2 June, 2019 - 18:25 | Sue Blacker

One important thing about this whole Wool Journey is that basically we have described getting from the sheep to the yarn, with various options along the way.  However, a yarn is still actually only an incredibly versatile raw material, ready to be made into something!

The options for wool yarn are huge: from lace ring shawls to heavy, hard-wearing carpets or fire-fighter clothing, from natural coloured to amazing dyed shades.  So here we are only just preparing a pack of yarn for the amazing further journeys.  Even so, each kilogram of spun single yarn may go through up to 7 further processes to get it ready to leave our mill.

We already mentioned cones in part 14, as the way in which single yarns are almost always packaged.  Cones have the advantage of density and carry a large quantity of yarn in a relatively small volume.

The Wool Journey Part 14: single or plied yarns?

Sue Blacker's picture
27 May, 2019 - 17:05 | Sue Blacker

So at last our journey is getting to the finishing stages: we have a yarn!  However, it is a single yarn: twisted in one direction only.  Single yarns alone are prone to kink or to make a garment or sock spiral if over-twisted, but if they are not twisted enough they fall apart.  So getting the correct twist is important for the end use as well as for the handle and balance of the yarn.  The key is both to have sufficient twist to hold the yarn together for its designed purpose and to have no more than sufficient twist in order to maintain softness, bulk and memory characteristics of the wool.

The Wool Journey Part 12: spinning at last!

Sue Blacker's picture
12 November, 2018 - 17:20 | Sue Blacker

Above is a picture of a replica of the original Spinning Jenny - see credits at the end of this article.

It is interesting to see that, when we have people touring our mill, those who are hand spinners at once understand what our machines are doing, since each stage in the process has been individually automated over time.  Many of the machines are also not significantly changed from their original designs – they go faster, have electric motors instead of being steam or water driven, have guards to keep operators safe and have some electronic controls, but intrinsically are pushing fibre through and twisting in the same way as when they were first designed.

The Wool Journey Part 11: preparing to spin Part 3: what yarn to make?

Sue Blacker's picture
3 October, 2018 - 18:10 | Sue Blacker

Now comes the choice between carded woollen spun and combed worsted spun yarns.

The photos above show a worsted spun Blue-faced Leicester yarn and knitted swatch on the left and a woollen spun version on the right.  There is also a downloadable information sheet about this on our website.   In Part 10 we described the different methods of fibre preparation: carding for woollen-spun yarns and combing for worsted-spun yarns, so now we look at which should be chosen, for what purposes.  This is something of a revision summary of earlier stages of our journey ...

The Wool Journey Part 10: preparing to spin, part 2

Sue Blacker's picture
19 June, 2018 - 15:52 | Sue Blacker

Now we have a pile of evenly organised fluff: clean, blended and oiled so that it will go through the next machines.

At a small scale, the clean fibre can be processed by hand using hand carders or a drum carder, with or without a small electric motor and also combed by hand using heavy worsted combs or the type of combs used to groom dogs and cats.  There are even nice electrically driven spinning wheels!  However, at The Natural Fibre Company we start with traditional large carding machines, which have not changed much in structure since they were invented in the second half of the eighteenth century by Lewis Paul and later also patented in various forms by Richard Arkwright and Samuel Crompton.

Timely tutorial: skirting a fleece ready for spinning or felt-making

Sue Blacker's picture
17 May, 2018 - 15:46 | Sue Blacker

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.

Firstly, we take a look at both sides: the outside is normally dirtier as it has been nearer to the world, and the inside is cleaner and shows the difference as the ends are all shorn rather than pointy.

The Wool Journey Part 9: preparing to spin, part 1

Sue Blacker's picture
20 March, 2018 - 12:32 | Sue Blacker

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!

So the next processes of teasing, blending, carding and combing are just as important to improve the end result as all the work already done by the farmer to produce and harvest the fibre and the sorting, grading, scouring and drying.

Teasing and blending

To make felt or to spin yarn, it is necessary to separate the scoured fibres, which may have clumped together in scouring, drying and packaging in bales.  This may be done by hand and is most easily achieved when the fleece is still slightly damp from washing.

The Wool Journey Part 8: all clean and tidy!

Sue Blacker's picture
13 March, 2018 - 10:14 | Sue Blacker

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.

Cashmere may have been treated with formaldehyde to prevent any risk of the spread of anthrax, which is endemic in most areas where cashmere is produced in quantity and is a requirement of the World Health Organisation.  This means that most cashmere at present cannot be used for organic products, however, scouring will have removed this before further processing, so it is an environmental rather than material issue for organic acceptance.


The Wool Journey part 7: fit for which purpose?

Sue Blacker's picture
26 January, 2018 - 17:19 | Sue Blacker

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.

Understanding which fibre is suited to what purpose is very important in ensuring that the producer can get the best price for the product and that the processor and end customer get something which will actually work for them.  Thus all of The Wool Journey parts 1-4, which described wool types, are very relevant going forward into processing.

Sorting and grading: no need to waste anything!

For both The Natural Fibre Company and Blacker Yarns, the same approach is taken to sorting and grading, to ensure all customers get their fleeces and yarns as effectively processed as possible.


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Blacker Yarns

enquiries@blackeryarns.co.uk | +44 (0) 1566 777 635


The Natural Fibre Company

enquiries@thenaturalfibre.co.uk | +44 (0) 1566 777 635