Cleaning, Picking, and Carding the Wool

The sheep are sheared in the spring, and their fleeces are skirted and sorted. "Skirting" removes any low-quality or especially dirty wool. The good fiber is sent to a mill and that is the roving sold on my Etsy site:

Roving from MyLittleSheep.etsy.com

Over the years I've realized that spinning is much more enjoyable to me than washing, picking and carding, so now I prefer for a mill to do the prepartion of my fiber, giving me more time for what I enjoy most. But when I processed my own fiber, here is how I did it:

The fleeces were soaked and washed in tubs outside until clean (usually 2-3 washes), then thoroughly rinsed. Next, the wool was placed in laundry bags and using just the spin cycle of the washing machine (no rinsing), most of the water was removed. To dry the wool completely, it went back outside to catch the breeze in a shady spot..   

Babydoll wool Washing wool
Drying wool
Drying wool
Wool ready for picking

After the wool was thoroughly dry, it was picked, picked and picked some more by hand.  This was VERY time-consuming and tedious since the sheep accumulate a fair amount of vegetable matter (stems, seeds, etc.) in their fleeces. 

Black yearling ewe

While being picked, the wool was also pulled apart, fluffed up. This helped "open" it, helping the carding process go smoother. This next picture is a close up of the picked wool. As you can see, there are still small particles, but most of the vegetation has been removed. Most of the remaining vegetation will fly out during carding and spinning.

Picked wool

Carding was done next. At first glance, it seems like the purpose would be to align the fiber in the same direction. But Babydoll fiber is best spun "woolen", which means aligning the fiber is not important at all. In fact, if it is hand-carded, spinning from the sides of the resulting rolags (little rolls or tubes of fiber) means the fiber lies perpendicular as the twist enters it. This gives the resulting yarn even more loft. That is the purpose of spinning the "woolen" style--yarn with a lot of loft and cushion. The resulting yarn is wonderful for garments that keep us cozy in the winter.

Babydoll wool is naturally so crimpy and elastic, you can see why the resulting yarn will have plenty of cushion!

Babydoll wool close-up

Yarn from MyLittleSheep.com

Next: Dyeing Wool