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Wool Roving


Continued from product description on Home Crafts' Page Seven...

Historical Background: The first sheep did not produce wool. Modern sheep evolved from "mouflons," which were wild-grazing animals from the Mesopotamian area. The first "merino" sheep possibly appeared in Spain over 3,000 years ago, but tests show that a piece of "woollen" cloth found in Denmark was made over 3,500 year ago. Other wool cloth was found in Greece and Babylon, which is said to mean "Land of Wool." Sheep were first bred for their meat and hides. Today, sheep are bred primarily for their wool. There are many breeds of sheep which produce nice wool. Some of these are Corriedale, Cheviot, Cotswold, Lincoln, Merino, Romney, Southdown, and Suffolk. Actually, wool comes in a variety of natural colors: pure white, off-white, yellowish-white, silver to charcoal gray, jet black, tan, or reddish brown. Of course, wool can be dyed other colors after it is either washed or spun.

Before wool can be spun into yarn, it must go through several processes. The first process is to scour the grease, dirt, lanolin and squint (dried sheep sweat) out. After the wool is washed, it is removed from the wash water and spread out to dry. Next, a time-consuming process called "picking" or "teasing the fleece" is done to pick out the tangles or any other leftover substances. Then, these cleaned fibers need to be combed with carding brushes to align the fibers and make the lengths straight. The wool is now ready to spin after all this work.

One can twist the wool fibers between the thumb and forefinger or use a drop spindle to spin yarn. Medieval spinners also used a "distaff" to hold the fibers of wool, which were then twisted by hand before the thread or yarn was wound on a spindle. A distaff, which is held under the arm, is a wood stick about 3-feet long that has a fork or ornate comb at one end to hold the wool fibers.

American colonists began raising sheep in Jamestown, Virginia, even though England tried to control the trading of wool with rigorous laws. These were not the first sheep in the Americas. Columbus took sheep to Cuba and Santo Domingo on his second voyage in 1493. Cortez took flocks of sheep into what is Mexico and Southwestern United States where his expedition introduced sheep to Navajo tribes -- who, centuries later, became famous for their Navajo rugs and other types of weavings. In the early 1800s, Merino sheep were brought to America from Spain to improve the domestic stock.

Wool is used to make many articles -- from knitted sweaters, mittens, and hats to woven blankets, rugs, and fabric.

Some wool terms are: "raw fleece" (wool that just been sheared from the sheep before it is washed), "a single fleece" (the wool that is produced by one sheep in one year and can weigh between four and twelve pounds), and "wool top" (a long, continuous strand of the longest wool fibers).

Fun Fact: Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson imported sheep from England and wore wool suits at their inaugurations.

Kool-Aid Dye Recipe: This recipe is reprinted with the permission of Chris Gustin, Homestead Weaving Studio, Nashville, Indiana.

Use 1/2 to 1 pack* of non-sugared Kool-Aid or similar product. (*Dye intensity depends on flavor!) Dissolve in 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer in enamel or Corningware pan. Add 1 cup vinegar and stir. Add wool roving, but do not agitate (just push it under the water). Simmer gently for about 15 to 20 minutes until water is clear or nearly clear. Remove from heat. Let cool in pan until cool enough to handle, then drain and rinse gently until water runs clear. Dry on towel, turning a couple times a day until dry. For fun, try sprinkling different colors on to the wool roving once it's in the vinegar bath. Sprinkled colors will strike and bloom. Remember red plus blue plus yellow equals brown. Try to keep the colors separated. Similar effects can be achieved with Easter Egg dyes.

Please see our Wool Drop Spindle Only (4602) for the historical background of drop spindles for wool.

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Wool Roving
Wool Roving
Item Number 4603

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