This job is a passion.
This passion involves stinky raw wool (a smell I actually adore), test blends in my studio after scouring and drying various fibers, spinning those blends on my wheel or drop spindle to see how they act at different weights and plies, shipping fiber or hauling a vehicle FULL (and I do mean full) of fleece to one of the fabulous mills I'm fortunate enough to work with, and then waiting (the waiting!!!) as they do their part - scouring, drying, picking, carding, spinning, plying and skeining each into a dyable yarn for us.
Let’s break it down some more - The mill takes all of that lovely and odiferous fiber and scours it. That means they wash all of the vegetable matter, dirt, sand, and poo out of the fleece with very very hot water and a special kind of soap. After this, it has to dry. If you’ve ever been in a drying room at a fiber mill, you’ll know it smells exactly like you would expect: Wet wool. I love it. The drying process can take awhile, especially if it is extra humid out, but the wait is worth it.
After it has been scoured and washed, the fiber is put through a picker, a machine that pulls the locks open to disperse any remaining debris. Then, the wool heads to the carders; this can be one or a string of giant drum carders that brush out and blend the fibers before they go to be spun into yarn. After it is spun, yarn can be plied together, usually with between 2 and 8 strands. An unplied yarn is a “single,” which can also be used as is. I have a bit of a love affair with 2-ply yarn and have had our farm-to-needle bases spun up this way. Anyway, back to the mills - The fabulous folks there do ALL of this for us. Seriously. ALL. OF. IT. I’m in awe of the dedication and work that goes into the beautiful skeins that make their way to me.
Even as I’m typing this, I’m getting distracted by 2 particularly glorious boxes that arrived from Stonehedge Fiber Mill containing 2 of our FTN bases: Superior and Smitten DK - more on those soon.
Catch up here on Jill’s “To Needle” post from 2 weeks ago.