Sheep are sheared in one piece. The fleece is then rolled out and folded correctly to make sorting easier at the mill. The sorting process is vital as different sheep can produce different qualities of wool, resulting in different products from clothing to carpets to blankets, whilst the quality of the wool variers depending on the part of the sheep’s body it comes from.
The fleece is put through a willower to untangle the wool, removing impurities such as dust and sand, disentangling it on a roller with metal teeth to create a soft, fluffy mass of fibres.
Carding produces fully disentangled, soft rolls of wool called rovings or rolags, for spinning into yarn. Originally done by hand, a carding engine was invented in the 18th century.
Spinning pulls and twists the fibres together to form a continuous thread, turning the soft rolls into strong woollen yarn, originally by using a portable spindle and whorl.
In the 19th century, fast and efficient spinning machines were invented, transforming the woollen industry. Winding, unwinding and winding again are all essential processes in preparing yarn for weaving.
Warping by hand is one of the most intricate of all textile processes, with all the threads for the warp of a piece of cloth placed in the correct order, and colour sequence, before weaving.
Weaving turns the yarn into cloth, which is made of two sets of threads. The warp thread sits side by side, and the weft threads are woven under and over the warp – under one, over one, under over … and so on.
The finishing process consists of washing, drying, fulling (cleansing of the wool to eliminate oils & dirt, and to make it thicker) and finally brushing.