Pure wool is warm.
Straight from the sheep, it contains naturally
waterproof lanolin and probably twigs, dirt and bugs. Having
obtained a whole fleece, it has to be spread out, preferably on to
a clean sheet, to have all the bigger alien bits removed. When the
fleece is laid out before you it is easy to recognise the different
bits. The tops of the legs and the thick neck wool clearly show the
shape of the animal. In a short-fleeced animal there may not be
much difference in the length of the wool; in a long-wooled sheep
it will be short where the legs are and longer in the body. Some
fleeces feel soft to handle and are lustrous to look at. In others the
kemp — the rough hairy bits — are all through the fleece.
The suitability of the fleece for processing is governed by
several factors. If you are intending to spin the fleece, the governing
factor is your own ability. Some people take to spinning like
ducks to the water. Others never quite get the co-ordination of
foot and hand going. To be able to produce spun yarn is very
satisfying. Taking a fleece and transforming it into clothing is one
of the most basic fulfilments.
There are other ways to use wool.
You can simply pluck out tufts of wool from a long-haired fleece
and knit them as you go. The result can be spectacular using a
coloured fleece. You can pull out long fibres and use them to
embroider plain cloth. Or you could put the whole fleece between
two pieces of cloth. Sew squares on the cloth to anchor the wool
and you have an original padded coat. Stuffed toys using wool are
soft and washable as are cushions. If you are allergic to feathers or
rather to the mites that live in old feathers, you may find that
stuffing cushions with wool is more acceptable.
Before you spin you generally use items called carders to make
the wool into uniform rolls called rollags.
The action using the
carders, which carry lots of bent pins in opposite directions, is to
roll up light fluffy coils. These coils can then be spun or you can
knit directly with them or apply them to other fabric with a
couching stitch. Although usually wool is only seen as a product
after it has been spun, there are many other possibilities for using
it in a raw state. If you can manage to spin a little wool, why not
stretch that on a frame and weave tufts of wool in and out of it?
If you pack this wool in tightly and turn in loose ends you will
quickly make beautiful thick hard-wearing rugs. If you can use
multicoloured fleeces like the Jacob's you can stagger the shading
and produce a work of art. A small amount of wool can be spun as
the Egyptians did using a drop spindle. Or you can be even more
rustic and use a potato as the weight.
are attractive pieces of furniture. They have variations in design
and are often local in origin. Once spinning by hand was an
essential part of our survival. Today it is a craft. Many hand-
knitters would pay well for hand-spun wool. You can often learn
to spin at local evening classes. If there is not such a class near you
perhaps it would be worth advertising for a teacher. The most
surprising people can spin and often are delighted to show newcomers
how to begin. Although an experienced spinner will judge
their ability by the fineness and evenness of the yarn they spin, it
is often most appealing to the knitter when spun in an irregular
manner. The differing thicknesses make most attractive jumpers.
Truthfully if you want really even wool, it is produced by machine;
even the Jacob wool is spun commercially if you want this kind
of continual evenness.
To weave is another country enterprise that
can be wool-based or today use man-made fibres or linen thread.
The basic principles of weaving are easy to acquire. With a full
textbook and a simple loom it is no time at all before you are able
to construct simple pieces. The most awkward parts initially are
chaining the warp and then fitting it to the loom. This process
really needs two pairs of hands. If help is available, all that is lost
is your temper. If not, you will have to employ the aid of odd
things such as chair-backs; at least there is nobody to see the first
The width of fabric you can produce is
entirely governed by the width of your loom. It is always advisable
to buy the widest loom you think you will need from the outset.
Otherwise your work will be limited.
There are two main outlets for woven work.
One is to dressmakers
who require hand-loomed cloth for special pieces. The
other is to sell specifically woven pieces as works of art. All sorts
of varied colours and textures can be worked in. Several prominent
artists in this field specialise in wall hangings that evoke country
landscapes and sunsets.
Advertising in craft magazines may bring
commissions and certainly word of mouth advertising will help. It
is becoming quite usual for companies to use hand-produced
tapestries in board-room settings. If your work is not suitable for
a wall hanging, perhaps it is suitable for a special set of curtains.
Craft outlets often require you to leave your work on display
with them. They then pay you if it sells and deduct a commission.
This kind of exposure may get you a reputation in an area but it
may not be sufficient to provide an income. Often customers such
as the boardroom commissions will not approach you but will
respond favourably to an approach. It is worth constructing some
moveable samples. It may be difficult to describe adequately the
speciality twelve-foot-long hangings you have in mind: it is easier
with a one-foot-square sample in front of you.
There are sometimes local exhibitions in town halls and other
centres at which you can show your work. These can all help to
establish a reputation. Some craft shows are very good at attracting
ing custom but some are very poor and it is always worth checking
on planned advertising and the past experience of the organisers
before paying a fee for a stall. Better still is to negotiate a percentage
fee for your stall. If you feel you cannot justify a position on
your own, it is often worth sharing space with another craft
worker. It is all a question of exposure to get the reputation and
asking for orders to get the business.