Preparing Wool For Felting
The soft fluffy wool you pulled out of your Bear Creek Felting Kit went through many steps to get there. I will share the steps we take with our wool before it is added to one of my needle felting kits. If you are interested in the shearing process you can find an article about shearing at Bear Creek here.
After the wool is shorn from the sheep it is laid out in one piece (fleece) on a skirting table. The skirting table has holes in it that allow second cuts, hay, straw and dirt to fall through. We shake the entire table to try and get rid of any excess dirt and vegetable matter. We then skirt the fleece which means we peel off the entire outer edge of the fleece. This is the wool from the legs, belly, rear end and neck areas. This wool is usually matted or soiled. We also pick out any heavily soiled areas. We throw this fleece away or use it as core wool for big projects.
Since we are continually trying to improve our wool for needle felting we bag each fleeceseparately with preprinted labels of each sheep. Later we critique each fleece for it’s quality and feltability. This is recorded in my sheep record book so that I know the different qualities each sheep has to help me make future decisions.
The fleece is then stored in an open bag or gunny sack. I bring my wool to a local woolen mill where they start out by laying it out on a skirting table and picking through it removing as much vegetable matter as possible. They then soak it in hot water with a special soap that helps to remove stains and grease. The wool is rinsed several times and then laid out and air dried.
When the wool is completely dry it is run through a carding machine. The carding machine combs the fiber into roving or clouds. Roving is great for hand spinners as it comes in a continuous long string for easy spinning. It also works well for felting. Carding machines can also make clouds of fiber which is not as convenient as roving for hand-spinning but wonderful for felting.
I also wash some of my wool at home in this same way in my kitchen sink. I have a hand crank carding machine that I use to card the wool with when processing it at home.
When I first started out with wool I washed the wool in my sink and then carded the wool using dog combs. Over time I purchased a drum carder to speed up the process and then when my business began to take off I started taking my wool to a woolen mill.