carding wool

This is part 2 in my wool series. I’ll just say again, this is my first time managing a fleece raw from the sheep. It’s a documentary, or a journal of sorts, intended to inspire those who might be interested in giving it a try, but think that this kind of thing is out of reach in their experience. It’s really not out of reach. If you want to try it, go for it! I’m having a fun time with it so far. I have to thank my few spinning friends for their help along the way, particularly Erin for this part, since she graciously allowed me to borrow her carders for awhile to get my rolags done.

On to the photos:

loading the carder

Carders come in pairs. This is one of them, loaded up with washed fleece and ready to begin the carding process. It’s hard to see, but it kind of looks like a huge dog brush. Except that the pins are all bent in the same direction. They hold the wool in place.

carded fleece

Basically what carding does is comb the wool fibres so they are all lined up in the same direction. This makes it possible to spin fine yarn. In the photo above, you can see what the wool looks like after it’s been combed using the carders. It’s hard to show exactly how to use the carders without video. (hmm, maybe next time…)

making the rolag

In order to get the wool off the carder you roll it into a big wooly sausage. This is known as a rolag.

rolag funnies

Next, you amuse yourself by thinking of all sorts of alternative uses for these crazy fluffy things, since you’ve never seen them before and you’ll hardly be able to keep your hands off them!

rolag pile

And repeat.


I’m so looking forward to spinning! You’ll hear more about that too when I finally get started with it. For now there are some other things I need to make sure I get done, like canning delicious relish (yesterday’s project) and other yummy things for the winter.


washing wool

This is my first ever attempt at washing wool, so this little photo album is not intended to impart years of wisdom; rather, I hope to inspire anyone who might be considering this by showing how anyone can blunder through the process and end up with something useable. If anyone has anything to add, please feel free to start a conversation!

So, let’s get started.

filling tub

First, I filled the tub with hot soapy water. I used my regular dish soap. Note the rubber gloves ready to go, and how filthy dirty the fleece is.

dunking fleece

When the water was about 6 or more inches deep, I started putting the fleece in by handfuls. I picked out bits of poo and hay as I went along. I also should have trimmed out a bit more of the stiff little ends, but it worked out for me to get most of it afterwards. Still, it would have been easier if I had done it first.

wool soaking

I made sure the wool was all thoroughly soaked by gently pressing it under the water. You can’t agitate it or you’ll end up with felt! Careful.

dirty water

After soaking for 40 or so minutes, the water was filthy.

draining water

I drained the water and added new soapy water. Here you can see that the wool is much whiter in parts. I pushed it all back to the back of the tub in order to allow the dirty water to drain out of it. When the soapy water was filled up again, I spread it out in the tub very gently (no felting!) so it could soak up the soap. In all, I did 3 soapy soaks and 1 rinsing soak with just hot water.

reject bits

During the rinse stage, I realized that a bunch of the little bits were not going to come clean and started picking them out with scissors. Next time, I’ll do this before washing.

drip drying wool

After draining the rinse water, I put a little step stool in the tub so the wool would be elevated above the tub floor. This allowed it to drip dry for awhile. I did a bit of squeezing too, but wool has a HUGE capacity to retain moisture. So I thought I’d just let it sit for a bit. Like, hours. I didn’t exactly keep track of time.

wool on towel

Then I laid 2 towels on the floor and spread the wool on top.

stomping wool

Added another towel and walked over it to squeeze out more moisture.

rolling wool in towel

Found that wasn’t working super great so I rolled up the towels….

squeezing out moisture

And again used body weight plus the added pressure of being rolled up. That helped get a lot of the moisture out, but it was still damp.

wool laid out to dry

I placed a fresh dry towel on the floor and laid out the wool to air dry overnight.

wool outside

The next morning, I put it out on the picnic table to take advantage of sun and wind. It dried very well.


Thus ends Part I of my wool adventures. Thank you to everyone who gave advice along the way – Michelle and Erin particularly!!

Stay tuned for adventures in carding…..