Sheep Shearing – How To Make Wool

Posted by in Felting Wool, General Information

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Lets explore the journey that wool takes from the sheep to a sweater.

There once was a stunning ram named Maximus, who’s fleece was white as snow. Maximus was a Finnsheep and since the warm winds of spring had come, it was time for his annual shearing.

Making Wool - Sheep ShearingFirst off, Maximus, was herded into a shearing area. He was put up on a table and his hooves were trimmed and cleaned, it was the perfect time to make sure he was healthy. The shearing area was clean and organized to ensure that both the ram and the shearer would be safe and comfortable. Maximus thought the shearer was going to give him a hug, at first, but the sturdy person picked up Maximus and pushed him into a siting position and placed his front hooves into straps. It was not uncomfortable for the sheep. Maximus took notice of the man’s shoes and how they were covered in cloth as to not get the wool fibers caught or tangled in a mess.

Next, the shearer grabbed an electric shearer and ran the vibrating tool through the long fur and along Maximus’ belly. Then they moved to the left rear leg and hock and moved around the lower area, then up to the neck, and down the right side. In mere moments, Maximus felt his thick coat being pulled off in one solid piece. It looked like a loosely woven sweater, but was called a fleece.

Maximus was now a little chilled. The shearer rushed the ram out into the warm sun. But, the sheep was curious as to what would happen to his fleece. He ran around the barn and peeked into the window just as the shearer handed the fleece to another person, who took the greased wool and dunked it into several tubs of hot, soapy water. Maximus imagined this was to wash off the dirt and debris that had been stuck in the course fibers. He also knew that there were oils in the fleece that needed to be rinsed off. The person washing his fleece told the shearer, “There is lots of lanolin in this. I wonder if women know that their makeup and soap is made with sheep oils?”

The fleece was then placed in a machine that pressed and rolled the wool, helping to dry and separate the fibers. Wool from other sheep was added and passed through the machine.

Soon the clean wool was sorted according to stable length and separated for it’s end use. A process called carding pulled the fibers so that they all ran in a single direction. Maximus noticed that more debris was pulled out of the wool. Then, the wool was combed. This was important because it began the separation of longer (four or more inches), course fibers, from the softer, but shorter fibers. The thicker, coarser fibers were collected and twisted together in a process called roving. That material would be used for making worsted yarn. The worsted wool would be used to make rough fabrics, twill, gloves and even carpet.

The shorter and softer wool, called woollen fibers, had been carded and would soon be processed into felt, fine yarns or matting material. Maximus was satisfied knowing that his wool would be used in many different ways. After all, woollen fibers are used in making everything from sweaters, to jewelry and felt.

Written by Chad Mullens

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