March 4, 2013

The Local Wool Mill :: mama's field trip

Home 'schooling' days are never really over, they just seem to change a little... recently I had the honor of accompanying another family to our local wool mill, and what a honor it truly was!

There was so much to learn, and to see:

The wool comes into the mill in large bales, full of everything that you would think would be in the fiber straight off the sheep. Including feces and blood...

There is also paint and other more natural particles in the wool fibers too. The blood is often from a poor sheering job, or a new sheerer learning the ropes. The paint is what is used for tagging or marking the sheep for sheering and/or other identification purposes. After the fibers are checked and sorted they enter into the washing process...

See the length of the fibers in my hand, they are all one length... this is something that is also looked for because often times a sheerer will not be getting close enough to the skin and back up the sheers to take another second swipe. This second swipe is not a good thing, as it often leaves fibers of different lengths and these fibers can effect the processing quality in many ways, including the little fiber balls you get on your sweaters after washing.

After the fiber has been washed and dried, it is then carded and stretched into roving...

The roving is then spun into yarn. Sometimes the roving is spun with another type of fiber, or another natural color, or even another 'same' fiber to make up the various ply's we are use to seeing in the stores.

Then the wool is dyed, this mill uses a chemical dye that is set by heat... they had originally tried using plant based dyes, however these colors fade rather quickly and the process is very time consuming for a growing business. They do dye their wool yarn via custom colors and orders as a standard.

After the dying process is complete, the wool yarn is left to dry... then it is shipped to the local markets and to those outside orders at greater distances. One the things I thought was neat was this particular wool mill is that the yarn is identifiable to a specific rancher. Something you definitely do not get from big box yarn carriers.

A Fiber Rainbow

Fiber Show Display

We also learned how to care for our wool fibers and some other amazing facts about this heavenly blessing...

  • Wool is naturally resistant to mold and mildew.
  • It naturally wicks away moisture.
  • Doesn't need to be laundered after each use... air drying does wonders.
  • Wool is actually non-allergenic for the most part, there are some who are allergic to lanolin, however most wood be allergies stem from the chemical processing verses the actual wool.
  • Some studies indicate that wool helps to lower your heart rate and may help relieve minor pain. (I personally have not read these studies)

Did you know:
  • That the average rancher only makes about $1.00 to $3.00 a pound for their wool fibers. The amount of wool produced is very dependent on the breed of sheep, but typically each sheep produces about fifteen pounds of wool each year.

I will close my post with this very poor, indoor shot of a table top loom that is available for purchase. I thought this little guy was adorable and really it wasn't to difficult to to use.

Maybe a possibility for the future...

Trip Resource:

~ Blessings!

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