Sheep-wool-yarn

by Heike November. 26, 2018 3510 views

I have a tech job and I like it (mostly), but sometimes I need to do something completely different. Therefore I visited a while ago a wool-spinning workshop and I liked it so much, that I found myself looking for an own spinning wheel. Finally I found a secondhand one in a very good condition, so I'm now the proud owner of my own spinning wheel.

My spinning wheel

My spinning wheel

For me, the whole process, how wool or fibre becomes yarn is totally fascinating.
And I mean the old manual process by handicraft - and not todays wool industry, where there is so much to condemn! (Look at PETA Webside https://www.peta.org/features/wool/ than you know what I mean.
But don't do it, if you are thin-skinned !!!)
Todays domestic sheep comes from the moufflon and was domesticated around 10.000 BC, in the area of today's eastern Turkey and Iran. People soon discovered that the sheep is more than a 'meat supplier', but the coat has extraordinary qualities. It provides protection from wind, rain, cold and heat. Of course, the wool of this early animals did not match the one our sheep wear today. Today's wool fleece is the result of centuries of breeding. Did you know, that originally, sheep just would grow enough wool as they needed to protect themselves from the cold and wet? Earlier sheep had a natural coat change, but humans bred this away. Luckily there are some Sheep Breeders' Associations, who today try to preserve old ancient races, like the Nolana Sheep or the Wiltshire-Horn, who still have this natural fur change.
Todays sheep without natural fur change, need to be shorn minimum once a year. Not only to avoid infections by flies, maggots and other pests, also because the sheep could become overheated and die.

Sheep in Moudeyres - Auvergne/France

Sheep in Moudeyres - Auvergne/France

Sheep in Snowdonian Nationalpark - Wales/Great Britain

Sheep in Snowdonian Nationalpark - Wales/Great Britain

Sheep in Ronneburg - Hessen - And no, it's not a rare 6-Legs-Sheep... :) There was a lamb standing behind it.

Sheep in Ronneburg - Hessen - And no, it's not a rare 6-Legs-Sheep... :) There was a lamb standing behind it.

3 tired lambs in Ronneburg - Hessen/Germany. Believe me, the one in the front really had a head !!! :)

3 tired lambs in Ronneburg - Hessen/Germany. Believe me, the one in the front really had a head !!! :)

Mähhhphisto  :) - Vogelsberg/Germany

Mähhhphisto :) - Vogelsberg/Germany

The best quality of wool comes from the shoulders and sides of the sheep and is used for the creation of yarn. Before you can spin wool, it has to be prepared.
Once the sheep is shorn - hopefully with a lot of animal-respect and very little stress and no injuries - all inferior fleece portions (head, lower leg, and belly wool) and any urine and fecal contaminated fibers are sorted out, as well as seeds, hay or straw, that may still be embedded in the fleece. In the next step the wool is washed and then dried. By washing, the wool-fat is partly removed, so that the wool does not stick too much during the spinning. Now the dried wool have to be teased and carded. Teasing gets the wool fluffy, carding is smoothing the fibers - and also cleaning it from leftovers from dirt. Believe me, it's a hell of a job if you do it manually, because it takes ages and it's quite exhausting (and boring). Luckely there are some little companies with carding-machines in germany, who offer chargeable teasing and carding service for hand spinners. As soon as the wool is carded and rolled, so that the fibers are parallel to each other, the wool is ready to spin. I have to admit, I'm more the comfortable spinner, I buy the raw wool already washed, dryed, teased and cardered. My hobby is spinning and not washing and carding... 😀

Gorges du Verdon Museum of Prehistory - Provence/France

Gorges du Verdon Museum of Prehistory - Provence/France

Above photo I made years ago in a prehistoric museum in France. The doll (I think it's female, because at that times the men usually indulged their hunting passion ;)) is spinning with a hand held spindle. It's not 100% clear when and where the spinning wheel was developed. Might be in China during the sixth century for silk and ramie spinning, or later in India for cotton. By the late Middle Ages and during the early Renaissance, spinning wheels appeared in Europe via the Middle East.

1,6 kg (3,5lb) merino wool top waiting for spinning

1,6 kg (3,5lb) merino wool top waiting for spinning

Colored wool top rovings at a wool-festival in Friedberg - Hessen/Germany

Colored wool top rovings at a wool-festival in Friedberg - Hessen/Germany

wool top rovings

wool top rovings

Standard Flyer

Standard Flyer

Done during the workshop

Done during the workshop

The above photo shows the yarn, I spun in the workshop. As you can see, it's not very consistent. But I don't mind, I like it that way - and everybody tells me, with more practice, it will become more consistant. (I'm not sure yet, whether I really want it more consistant.) Below is one additional yarn on the left side, it's Alpaca. It's wonderful soft and since I belong to the people with sensitive skin, I often feel uncomfortable wearing wool, if it's too rough. A friend of mine calls me 'Luxusweibchen', because I only want to wear alpaca and cashmere... 😁

The short skein of wool on the left side is Alpaca. Wonderful soft!

The short skein of wool on the left side is Alpaca. Wonderful soft!

Alpaca wool - The one wool thread in the middle is already perfect, hahaha...

Alpaca wool - The one wool thread in the middle is already perfect, hahaha...

Finally a few words about welfare of sheep, alpaca, cashmere goats, angora rabbits, silk caterpillars (yes, also they have a heavy fate) and all the other animals, who are wool/yarn suppliers. I don't think it's a solution, to replace such an incredible natural resource like wool with polyester and cotton, like PETA recommends. Synthetic materials are often toxic and not biodegradable, and did you know that over one quarter of all pesticides used globally, are sprayed on cotton fields? Is that really better for the animals??? I say no.
At least it's in our (the consumer) hands, how the animals are treated. There is/are wool/yarn/clothes on the market, that comes from fair and well-cared animals. We only need to look where we buy the products and verify the certifications.

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There are 20 comments , add yours!
Michael Inderrieden 1 year, 3 months ago

Good story and pix.

1 year, 3 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Michael Inderrieden 1 year, 3 months ago

Thank you Michael !

1 year, 3 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 1 year, 4 months ago

Großartige Fotos zu einem ebenso tollen Post! Im Zuge der experimentellen Archäologie habe ich mit der Spindel rumgepfuscht - DRAMA! Kolleginnen haben daraus die total systematische Woll-/Spinnforschung gemacht. Ich wette mit dem Spinnrad würde ich zum Dornröschen. Meine totale Bewunderung ist mit dir!

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 1 year, 4 months ago

Danke, Sigrid. Wir haben im Workshop nur so 5 Minuten mit der Handspindel gearbeitet. Da hatte ich aber auch schon gemerkt, das das nicht unbedingt meins ist. Aber mit dem Spinnrad lief es dann besser. Interessanterweise hatte der einzige Mann im Workshop am meisten Talent beim spinnen mit dem Rad. Das fand ich schon überraschend. smile

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Camellia Staab 1 year, 4 months ago

First of all congratulations on your acquisition. It really is a beautiful piece of "furniture". I learned quite a bit from your post and the last paragraph made me think of an instance, a few months ago when I was out and about shooting. This lady had the most beautiful angora rabbit sitting on her lap and was very gently spinning wool from the rabbit's hair. It definitely looked like the rabbit was well taken care of. You know who could use some of your spun wool.....Andi  😉

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Camellia Staab 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you Camellia !  I'm sure the rabbit was very well cared when it sat on her lap. smile I would not hesitate to buy wool from such little private producers.

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Lakshmi Bhat 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you so much for photos and the text. We have no winter at all so no will an clothes 😊, the spinning wheel reminds me of the spinning wheel people used long ago to make thread from cotton. Regards

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Lakshmi Bhat 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you Lakshmi ! Yes, wearing wool clothes in your region would be a bit foolish smile smile

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Vivienne Albiston 1 year, 4 months ago

Magic, I have a spinning wheel but spin the wool before its washed. It is so lovely to knit with. I use Jacob wool cos the crimp is a bit longer and I can get a variety of colour. My neighbour only has the white fleeces cos the wool board will not take any dark fleece at all.x

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Vivienne Albiston 1 year, 4 months ago

Thanks Vivianne. Our workshop-teacher told us, that some spinners do spin the wool without washing. But it could be, that the spun wool looses twist, if you wash it after you spun it. I think at least it's a personal choice. When I looked for carding companies in germany, I realized that most of them accept only washed wool, or are washing it themselves before carding, because they are afraid that too much wool-fat may harm their machines. I also learned, Alpaca is often not washed before spinning, because it has no wool-fat. But there are again other spinners, who wash it before spinning it. Hm, so I noticed for myself, you can do it or leave it. smile I googled the Jacob sheep. What a beautiful animal. I'm sure the wool is fantastic. In the workshop we had raw wool from
different breeds, but all were from germany. I quickly noticed, that every wool is different to spin. I really enjoy this relaxing atmosphere during spinning. It has something meditative... smiley

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Bethany Plonski 1 year, 4 months ago

Fascinating! It's strange to think that most of us know so little about the history and origins of clothing materials we use everyday. Thanks for sharing this!

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Bethany Plonski 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you, Bethany. Glad you liked it. I think we generally don't care much about things that are meanwhile so obvious and so easy to get like clothes etc. But that's quite normal, we have enough other challenges to manage our daily life's. grinning

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Greg Blaney 1 year, 4 months ago

You're probably feeling sheepish about spinning such a yarn, Heike smile . This was a very interesting post - I learned something today. Thanks for sharing.

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Greg Blaney 1 year, 4 months ago

Hahaha, yes there are several phrases comming from old handicrafts. In german we say : 'Ich habe den Faden verloren.' when we, in the middle of the sentence don't know anymore, what we really wanted to say.
It also comes from spinning, where you have to be careful, that the thread does not slip through your fingers.
Thanks for your comment, Greg! Glad you liked it. smile

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Berckmans Peter 1 year, 4 months ago

Thanks for sharing this. Please don't go all sleeping beauty on us.smile

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Berckmans Peter 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you very much, Peter. I think the sleeping beauty was a spoiled noble, I have no idea, how she managed to prick her finger on the spinning wheel... smile

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Abigail Gossage 1 year, 4 months ago

Fascinating, so glad you made the post!

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Abigail Gossage 1 year, 4 months ago

Thanks so much, Abigal!

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Sherry Hill 1 year, 4 months ago

that's all so fascinating.. you grabbed my interest.. and wow, what a thing to learn and do on your own..

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
Heike Replied to Sherry Hill 1 year, 4 months ago

Kind thanks, Sherry! smile

1 year, 4 months ago Edited
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