Spinning with raw wool versus washed wool, what are the things you need to do to make spinning with raw wool work for you?
To spin with raw wool, pull a small section of wool to work with off of a well skirted fleece. Use your fingers to separate out the ends of a few of the locks in your working wool then start to spin as you would with washed wool.
Raw Wool vs Washed Wool: Which one should you use? gives you the pros and the cons of working with each.
How to hand spin raw wool
Take your wool fleece and tear off a section to work with, I like a section about the size of a soccer ball. I put this on a table next to me, but you can also put it in your lap. See what works best for you.
Break off a small handful of wool, this is what you’ll actually be spinning off of.
Separate out the fibers a bit more with your fingers, just to make it easy to start and get to spinning. It’s really that easy! If the fleece is amenable to spinning raw, you should be good to go.
Getting Wool Ready To Spin In The Grease gives more specifics on how I get wool through the pre spinning prep.
You’ll find that spinning a raw fleece is not too different from spinning roving or top, however, it is not as smooth.
I find with roving that I almost don’t have to think, it’s so easy to work with.
On the other hand, spinning directly from the raw fleece is more variable, especially if the ends of the locks are wonky, that’s when I get the bumps or noils.
You have to be a bit more careful with going from lock to lock and keeping the flow of spinning fiber into the wheel at the rate you want for the yarn you are trying to spin.
You will get used to pacing the flow of the wool into the wheel, but like everything else, it will take a bit of practice. If you like the look of a more rustic yarn, spinning of of a raw fleece will do it!
If you find that the locks of wool will not separate out well for spinning, consider prepping the fiber a bit, to see if a bit more preparation will make the fleece easy to work with.
Preparations to get raw wool ready for spinning
Before you actually start spinning, you need to prep your wool.
At the very least you should look it over and see that the fleece has been skirted to your liking. If more skirting needs to be done, now is the time.
Now that you have looked over the fleece and see that all of the remaining wool is acceptable to you, consider that there are parts of the fleece that have finer wool than other sections.
Usually over the back and most of the way down the sides of the sheep are nicer than the edges, even though you have skirted.
If you can feel a difference, consider if you want to separate out the finer sections of fiber or just spin it all as you come to it.
Pull off a good sized part of the fleece, I usually end up with a chunk about the size of my head and work off of it.
Take one of the locks and pull it away from the rest of your working chunk and test it.
Can you easily separate out the ends of the fibers? If so, you are good to go. You can get started spinning right away.
This is my preferred way to spin, I enjoy working directly from the raw fleece and find fiber prep to be a bit of a chore.
If the lock of wool is not easy to separate out into spinnable fibers, consider washing the fleece then carding it.
You can, of course, card your raw wool, but it will leave lanolin and dirt on your cards. But, since they are your cards, if you are fine with the grease on the cards then it’s fine.
You can solve this problem by having two sets of cards or just using your one set of cards for all carding and deciding that a bit of grease on the cards, even when you are working with clean wool, is okay.
How to know if your raw wool needs washed
If you are trying to separate out the fibers of your test lock of wool and you can’t get the wool to separate out like you need it to, now you have the option to wash the fleece.
Soak wool overnight to remove suint
You can just soak the fleece overnight to get out the suint. The advantage to doing a suint soak versus an actual wash is that you still keep the lanolin in the wool.
The suint soak just removes the “other stuff” like sweat.
Starting with body temperature water, fill the container and let the fleece sink on it’s own. In the morning, the suint will have tinted the water brown.
Now dry the fleece and see if you can spin off of the wool now. I did this with some of my black fleece (Finn cross ewe) that I have.
It made a big difference to how easy the locks were to open up with the flick carder.
Wash a small batch of the fleece to test spinnability
Your other option is to completely wash the wool.
I know that the entire point of this article is to work with raw fleece, but sometimes the fleece you have needs washed to spin well for you, even if you are not a fan of washing fleeces.
I’m not a fan of washing fleeces, at all, actually. But, I’m also not a fan of banging my head against a wall insisting that something be what it is not.
Try the suint soak, if that does not do it, wash the fleece or pick another one to spin.
I prefer to wash smaller sections of wool at a time, rather than the entire fleece and use a wool scour, my favorite is Unicorn Power Scour. It works great and keeps the whites, white.
You’ll read about folks recommending dish detergent, don’t do it, especially for white wool. For me, using dish detergent leaves a dingy color to the white, this never happens with the Power Scour.
How To Wash A Raw Wool Fleece is from Clemes.com and gives the specific amounts of Power Scour to use based on the water amount being used.