Once a year, the sheep shearer comes to call and relieves the small flock of sheep of their heavy wool. After cleaning the wool to remove debris and oils (called lanolin) from the fiber, there are many different techniques for turning raw wool into a finished product.
“With Leicester Longwool, wool is a very long wick, unlike merino, which has a shorter wick,” Vonnegut explained, pulling several wicks of wool from a bucket and sliding them over a metal comb in his studio. of Fortune. “It’s called combing, and there is such a thing as carding – two different processes for combing or for wool. Much depends on how you treat it with combs or with carding.
For worsted wool suits such as Brooks Brothers or Pendleton, the wool is combed to prevent too much air from entering the fibers. For a warmer outerwear like a fisherman’s sweater, you card the wool to keep air in the fibers before you spin.
“Fishermen back then wanted a lot of air in their woolen sweaters because… your body heat heats up the air molecules trapped in the down of the wool to keep you warm,” Vonnegut said. . “You don’t want something like a suit (because) it’s not as warm as a wool sweater.”
After combing the woolen strands until they are nice and soft, Vonnegut pulls the soft fibers through a card with a small opening to wrap the long fiber into a ball, which will then be turned on the wheel to begin. the process of rotating fibers into yarn. Usually the fiber is spun two or three times with the strands wrapped around each other to form the yarn.