Wool Roving: What is it, what to use it for & where to buy it

If you are looking into getting some wool for your handspinning or felting projects then you will have come across the term “roving”. What exactly is roving and why would you want to use it?

Wool roving is a 1-2 inched prepared wool fiber rope that is ready to be used for handspinning or other wool crafts, like felting. Roving can be purchased online or at local farm stores.

Wondering where to get your handpsinning wool? Best Places To Get Wool gives you some help on sourcing your wool.

Merino and silk blend combed top
This is a ready to spin Merino and silk blend.

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Wool roving is ready to spin wool fibers

Wool roving is washed and carded ready to use wool that is commonly used for both spinning and felting.

Roving has the wool fibers separated out so they flow smoothly into the wheel as you spin.

Wool roving looks like a 1-2 inch wide rope of something like cotton candy. It’s fluffy and soft, with all of the fibers aligned for ease of spinning.

Roving can be all one type of wool, blended wools that are evenly mixed though out the roving, wool blended with other fibers, dyed or undyed and striped, which is also called humbug.

The Woolery protein fibers page is where I start my search for spinning wool, especially if I need a bulk amount.

spinning wool, 3 colors
The black and white wools are combed top the brown is a pindrafted alpaca and wool blend.

Looking for a great resource on which fiber to pick and how best to use it? Consider getting The Fleece And Fiber Sourcebook, filled with wonderful pictures and details on just about any wool you can find.

There are 4 types of wool roving

There are a few different kinds of wool roving, all of which are ready to spin.

They are processed to present the wool in a variety of final forms to give the wool crafter options to best suit her abilities and final project.

The 4 types of roving are:

  • roving
  • top
  • pin drafted
  • pencil

Roving is a 1-2 inch thin continuous cloud of prepared fiber. This is the most common, normal roving.

The fibers in this roving are evenly dispersed but can be going in different directions, which is ideal for fluffy yarns or felting.

Top is a roving that has been combed to make the fibers all run in one direction, like a river.

This will also have any smaller fibers or previously misaligned fibers going end to end. Top makes nice worsted spun yarn. I like to work with this type of fiber preparation the best.

Can You Spin Combed Top? goes over when you might consider working with combed top rather than other types of roving.

Pin drafted roving is a step in between roving and top. It is lightly aligned, so more aligned fibers than roving but not as perfectly aligned as top.

I purchased some pin drafted roving and to be blunt, I did not see the difference between this and top as far as use. It did have more debris, which probably was the fault of the fleece more than the pin drafting.

ball of pink pencil roving
This is a ball of Merino and Rambouillet pencil roving, which I would say is actually more like half a pencil wide, at best. It takes very little twist to hold it together as a single.

Pencil roving is just a thin piece of roving. I have seen anywhere from around pencil sized down to basically yarn sized, so you would just need to add twist.

Pencil roving is good for folks who are having trouble keeping spun yarn even due to uneven drafting. This wool is already pulled out to a smaller size for you, so you do less to near no drafting as you spin.

How To Spin Pencil Roving shows you how to work with this interesting roving.

Most roving is actually combed top

When ordering your roving, be sure you understand what you are getting, meaning look into what exactly is the fiber preparation.

I have ordered multiple “rovings” only to be sent combed top.

That’s fine with me for spinning, it’s just not what I thought I was getting from the title and description.

If you have any questions about the roving versus top, email the shop and see exactly what fiber preparation was used.

I have notice that if the description lists felting first, it is more likely to be roving and if the main listed use is spinning, it is more likely to be top, even if you are searching the term roving.

Why use roving for handspinning?

The main idea behind roving is that it is an easy to spin wool preparation.

Using roving for your spinning wool is incredibly fast compared to preparing your own fleeces by hand carding then spinning.

I have to admit, up until recently I have done most of my spinning with wool from our own sheep.

It’s pretty easy to get, but more challenging to prepare and not always as workable as I was hoping it would be when I picked the fleece.

Now that I have decided to branch out and try some new to me wools, I am seeing how much easier it is to use a prepared for me roving!

This is some naturally colored Merino that I am rolling up into faux rolags. Since this wool is already fully processed and combed out, there is very little waste, maybe just the occasional noil or small bit of hay chaff.

Purchased roving is 100% spinnable

When I spin my own hand carded fibers I still have odd bits and noils to pull out, so as I use the carded fiber I end up with a dusting of cast off bits all around my chair.

With the purchased roving, 100% is spinnable, nice, very nice!

Tons of breed specific wool options

The other advantage to roving is that you can now experiment with other breeds or fibers that you would like to use but do not have access to the unprocessed fiber.

For example, one of the new to me fibers I ordered is Zwartbles. I have seen the sheep online and have been curious about them, but when looking into these neat sheep I find that they are not in the U.S.

That’s a surprise to me, Zwartbles seem like a great all round sheep. Anyway, since they are not in the country, ordering roving is the only way for me to see how this wool works for me.

For anyone who is curious, Zwartbles is a very easy to work with medium wool. Spins great and works up well knitted.

Another experimental wool for me this year is Gotland. Interesting wool, very slippery and hard to keep ahold of, but I love the yarn, knitting with it was fun and the knit fabric feels wonderful.

The reason I’m going on about my purchases is to point out the huge variety of roving available to you and the advantage of getting roving instead of an entire fleece, at least until you know you like the wool!

This is one of my current experiments on my new wheel (now I can make a three ply since I have four bobbins), so I went with two bobbins of brown Comeback and one bobbin of light brown Merino. All of this wool is purchased.

Roving can be purchased online or at farm stores

Wool roving can be purchased online from both large and small businesses or at local on farm stores. You will also find plenty of roving for sale at fiber shows or sheep and wool festivals.

If you are hoping to shop local, search “wool roving for sale near your town, your state” you’ll get some good results. Some of these results will be craft stores, but the farms will start to show up as well.

I love the fact that I can buy more bulk amounts of wool from the bigger stores online, like The Woolery or Paradise Fibers, or I can buy specialty wools and combinations from folks, like me, who just love wool.

So far, if you are looking for the best prices on wool, based on price per ounce, I have found the best deals to be at The Woolery.

They sell mostly in 8 ounce lots (half pound) to a pound and have a large selection.

If you do not want to get that much wool from one breed or fiber mix, then Paradise Fibers has smaller lots available.

I have just received two orders from Etsy shops that I found just by searching around, I started with specific breed rovings, I think I started with Romney, and then spied around on the results.

I was specifically looking for smaller shops to buy from and found them!

You’ll quickly get a feel for a small business run by a wool lover, they’ll talk about love of spinning or other wool crafts and their home raised wool.

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