From sheep to fabric.

There are, of course, whole books written on spinning and weaving but the following is the gist of the process.

First find a sheep willing to part with its winter coat. Then shear it.

Okay, so I let someone else do that part.

I bought it bagged up at a fiber festival. Here it is next to four gallon dye pot.

Here’s some of it on its way to being washed.

I strongly suspect the sheep in question loved to roll around on its back. The fleece was quite dirty.

Close ups:

Rambouillet is a soft, fine fiber like merino only very springy.

Then you wash the fleece. When you wash the fleece you can use hot water, but you have to be careful to not agitate it or it will felt. (I tend to get pretty uptight too when I get in hot water and then someone agitates me. Just saying.)

I use my big dye pot and stick the wool in a special mesh bag I bought at a fiber store. As I said, I suspect this sheep of rolling around on its back. A lot. The fiber was very muddy with lots of bits of grass in it. I even found a small dried flower. I soaked it in water. The rinse water looked like liquid mud. I soaked it water again. Then the water looked like diluted liquid mud. I soaked it a while with ordinary laundry detergent, rinsed again. Then it almost looked like clean water but there was sand in the bottom of the pot.

Wool has a lot of lanolin in it. That’s very greasy stuff. So then I soaked it in an ecologically friendly wool scour product called Kookaburra, then rinsed again. Then I washed with detergent again to get some more lanolin out of it. And rinsed again.

The above took all day. Then I put it in the washer on spin cycle to get the excess water out. Then it was left to air dry overnight.

Then it looked like this:

And a few closeups:

Then I ran the fibers through the drum carder. A drum carder consists of two cylinders.

Drum carder:

The smaller cylinder is covered with little blades that helps to separate the fibers.

The larger cylinder is covered with tiny wires like a pet brush.

Drum carder with fiber being fed on one side:

Drum carder with straightened fibers wrapped around the larger cylinder:

Removing fiber from drum carder:

I ran the medium gray wool through together, then the light grey, and then the whiter wool resulting in four batts.

Close up of a batt:

Then I died the wool various shades of blue, rinsed it, ran it through the spin cycle of the washing machine again, let it air dry and then blended the various colors together using the drum carder, resulting in this:

Then I spun the wool. Spinning twists the straightened out fibers around each other.

Spinning wheel with a spool of yarn:

Single ply yarn. The little lumps are there because the rambouillet came out of the carder with little lumps in it. I like them so I spun them into the yarn. I want the fabric I make to have a lot of texture.

When I spun (clockwise) the wool into single ply yarn I gave it some extra twist so that I could then take two spools of single ply yarn and spin them together counter clockwise to make two ply yarn. (Commercial acrylic knitting yarn sold in the large craft stores is usually four ply.)

I use my spinning wheel with the quill attachment to wind my yarn onto weaving bobbins.

Here’s the yarn on a bobbin inside a weaving shuttle ready to for the loom.

And here it is on the loom woven into a fabric. I deliberately chose a weaving pattern that shows off the hand spun yarn instead of the commercial thread I used for the warp.


So there you have it, fabric from scratch.  🙂

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