Wool. Carding. Spinning. Weaving. These words are all a part of our heritage from many years ago, that lasted for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The common people knew how to make their own fibre from what they had available, and most areas had wool available, from a variety of sources. Today, in first world countries, many people wouldn’t know the difference between spinning and weaving, and most certainly wouldn’t know how to turn a sheep into a sweater or a rug. We have lost the need to know this. We are the “rich”; we have people who do this for us. And we don’t use wool much anymore either. Synthetic fibres and overseas factory production have taken over the homestead spinning wheel and the loom. Production time and cost is so much improved that we have all but lost the need and the know-how to produce fibre in our own house. Only those with extra money can afford to purchase locally-spun or woven products. Unless you do it yourself.
I have always been interested in creating things. I am a potter; I make my own dishes. I know how to crochet, knit and sew. And over the last few years I have developed a real drive within me to go further, and to learn the skills the average woman would have known 100 years ago. My husband has been listening to me, and he found me a beautiful, second hand spinning wheel for Christmas this year. I am now the proud new owner of an Ashford Classic! And I don’t know how to spin :). Thankfully YouTube has it all.
Before you can spin, however, you need carded wool. Wool that has been sheered off a sheep (or other fibre animal), has been washed to remove the natural oils (or not, depending on what you desire), tagged (picked through to remove undesirable bits), dyed (if desired, and not necessarily in this order) and carded (brushed, so that all the wool goes in the same direction and can be spun). You can buy wool already prepared, or you can get a fleece from a sheep, and do it all yourself. Naturally, I wanted to do it myself. (Naturally, because I always seem to choose to do things the hardest way!)
My friend Jenn gave me a fleece from one of her Romney sheep. It is a medium grey, and was ready to be washed. My friend Monika told me how to wash the fleece. Friends are awesome! For more information on washing your wool check out this video.
You can hand card the wool or you can use a drum carder. Hand carding take a lot longer than a drum carder. My friend Monika had a drum carder so I invited a few friends over with wool and/or an extra set of hands, and we carded wool! I now have a huge stack of carded wool, ready to be dyed (if I want) or spun, or felted. For more information on carding wool check out this helpful video.
The next step is going to be dying the wool. I have found a local supply store that carries a beginner set of a variety of all natural dyes. I am purchasing this, and will be set to dye the wool. The fun has only begun!
There is so much to learn, and so little time. Between raising my children, preparing meals, taking care of my farm animals, keeping the house in some sense of order, and learning new skills, life is busy! I’d love to hear from other people who are also interested in learning a sustainable skill. What are you interested in? How are you learning? What has been the biggest help in your journey? The most challenging obstacle?