Wool Roving Or Batts: Which one should you use and why?

As you are looking around for wool to spin for your next handspinning project, you’ll probably come across wool batts as well as roving. And some of those batts look pretty amazing!

Both roving and batts come in all manner of fiber combinations from your favorite fiber shops, so which one do you pick? Should you work with wool roving or wool batts and why or why not?

Wool roving is best for spinning smooth consistent yarns. Wool batts are the best option for anyone wanting to spin with a diversity of fibers and fiber densities in one yarn.

Wool Roving vs Combed Top goes over the differences between the two and when and why you might use one over the other.

This is a variety of purchased roving from different wools, actually the black and white are combed top and the brown is pindrafted roving.

Should you use wool batts or roving?

Wool roving (which is actually combed top, in most cases) is best used when you want to spin a very uniform yarn.

All of the roving should look the same, unless of course it is dyed more than one color, but other wise from end to end roving is uniform.

Wool batts may or may not be uniform

Well carded batts can also be used for uniform yarns, but not all batts are uniform! Some are specifically made with all kinds of variety.

Is your batt made to to produce a uniform yarn? This all depends upon what was put into the batt! This is the main differentiator between batts and roving.

Wool batts are best used when you want to spin a yarn from fibers that vary in density, some well carded, some chunky or have very distinct variations in color or materials.

Batts can also be the best source of the specific fiber you want to spin, for instance, if you want to buy fiber from a specific farm and they offer batts only, you’ll do just fine spinning from batts!

The two pictures on the right are batts that I made, top is drum carded and bottom is hand carded.
The pictures on the left are roving dizzed off of a hand carded batt. You can also diz off of a drum carder directly from the drum carder.

What are the similarities between wool batting and roving?

Wool roving and wool batts are both carded ready to spin wool, that you can use as is or breakdown into smaller sections.

Rovings and batts can be made of the exact same materials.

For example, you could get a batt of Romney or Romney roving, potentially from the same fleece!

The wool used would be the same in this case, it’s just the preparation and appearance that is different.

Both roving and batts can be of one wool, a mix of wools or even a mix of wool and non wools, for instance merino mixed with a sparkly synthetic fiber like angelina.

Both roving and batts can be made at home or purchased and both can be used for spinning as well as felting.

An interesting part about colorful roving and batts is that you can choose how to spin them, as far as which part of the prepared fiber you choose to use at which time gives you different colored yarn.

You can pull apart both roving and batts and spin like colors with like or you can use the prepared fiber more as is and get a more mixed color look to your yarn, it’s all in how you use the fiber!

batt of carded wool
This is the batt from the picture above. Notice how the fibers are kind of going in different directions, this is because the wool was carded. Combed wool is much more well aligned than batts.

What are the differences between wool batting and roving?

The main difference between wool roving and wool batting is width and potentially the consistency of the fibers used.

Both roving and batts can have the same weight or amount of fiber but the fiber will be presented differently for each.

Roving is a 2-3 inch wide ready to spin rope of fiber that is consistent, at least as far as fiber preparation and density goes, from end to end.

Wool batts are as wide as the carder used to make the batt and may or may not be consistent.

The batts can be very large, up to mattress sized, but most batts for handspinning would be in the 6-12 inch wide range, with the width of the batt determined by the width of the carding cloth on the carder.

The other potential difference you can have between roving and batting is how well blended the fibers are in the finished, ready to spin fiber.

A roving would be made of well blended fibers and be consistently carded or combed the whole length of the roving.

This means if you pick a section of roving and compare it to another section of roving, they will look the same or have the same consistency just be of a different color, in the case of dyed roving.

Not so with some batts! You can find batts with no variety in them, the batt is all one beautifully carded cloud of fiber, but you can also find batts that are barely blended at all, on purpose!

Making wool batts you can really let your creativity shine and are nearly unlimited in what can be included in the batt, up to the card being full, of course!

Wool batts for spinning can be made using hand carders, blending boards or drum carders.

drum carded batt of mixed wools
This is a batt I made on my drum carder. It’s a mix of wools, the blue is wool that I dyed here. This batting can be spun by splitting it into roving strips or just pulling off a mini batt and spinning from the smaller batt.

Can you spin wool batting?

You can spin wool batting. You can choose to spin it as is from a corner, take it apart into strips or take it apart into two or three large sections.

How you decide to spin the batt depends upon what you want the yarn to look like and how much material you are willing to hold/work off of as you are spinning.

I like to work with smaller sections or strips.

I find that if I keep the batt whole, I get behind on my drafting and end up making chubby yarn, or at least yarn with chubby sections! Which actually would be super, if that was your plan to begin with!

Beginner Friendly Wools To Spin gives you a list of easy to work with wool, perfect for learning!

When would you use wool batting?

There are some spinning applications where batting is actually more likely to get you the yarn you want, when compared to using roving.

You would use wool batting, instead of roving:

  • when the fiber you want to use is of variable density (some well separated, some chunkier bits)
  • you are creating something new and you want to get a specific more textured look to your yarn that you are not able to achieve with roving (it’s too consistent)
  • the fiber you want to work with is available as batting, but not roving

Sometimes the fiber you want to work with is available as carded batts but not roving. No problem! You can get the batt and work with it, as is, or turn it into roving yourself.

roving and batt of mohair blend
This is a batt of mohair and Polwarth, half of which I split into roving nests. The other half of the main batt is at the bottom of the picture.

Turn wool batting into roving

If you purchase a batt and you would really prefer that fiber to be spun as roving, great news, you can make it into roving yourself!

Take your purchased (or drum carded) batt and split it lengthwise into strips, it’s that easy! You’ll have a lovely roving that is easy to work with and ready to go.

If you have a homemade batt on a handcarder, you can make this into roving, as well.

All you need to do is take a diz, or something that can be used as a diz like a button or a key with a small hole, and pull the fiber from the batt through the diz to make roving.

Word to the wise on the hole of the diz, it needs to be small. The wool comes through the diz then poofs out into a far bigger roving than you would think!

This will take you a bit of time, it’s not hard but does take some patience until you get the feel for it.

Once you get some practice, you should be able to take the entire batt and make it into one long roving!

Don’t worry if your first few attempts to make your own roving end up as shorter or broken off sections, you can always restart and, of course, you’ll get better with practice!

Interestingly enough, I was at The Great Lakes Sheep And Wool Show And Sale, and noticed that one of the farms with a few alpacas in the outside tents was making batts right in the tent beside the alpacas.

They had a little card table and small digital scale set up right beside the drum carder. Obviously, this is not the vendor’s first fiber show!

I had never thought of that before, but you’d have a lot of time on your hands when the crowds waned or if the weather was inclement. What a great use of the weekend away from home!

The point to this story is that if you were to purchase fiber from this farm you will get beautiful drum carded batts, not roving, which is fine, since now you know how to work with one!

If you want a few more pictures of different fiber preparations, read Wool Terms at Sarafina Fiber Art. It’s a short, easy to read glossary type list with great pictures.

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