Once the sheep have been shorn their fleeces have to be sorted or graded, based on overall quality of the wool fleeces. Unlike the meat, the best quality of the wool comes from the shoulders and sides of the sheep. This wool is used for clothing.
In order to remove all of the dirt, sand, grease and dried sweat from the fleece it is scoured several times in alkaline baths containing water, soap and soda ash. The fleece is then rolled in machines to squeeze all the water out; it is then treated with oil so that it remains manageable. If the fleece were to be complete dried out it would not be usable.
To begin the process of change the now clean fleece to recognizable spools of wool, the fibers are put through purpose built metal teeth, a process known as Carding. Carding straightens the fleeces into long slivers that almost look like wool! Any residual dirt or other matter is fully removed at this stage.
The gilling and combing processes that follow, separate the longer and shorter slivers or stands. The shorter strands are used for worsted yarn, which is a medium weight yarn used for knitting chunkier pieces like scarves and thick wooly sweaters! The quality of this wool, even in the thicker shorter strands is considered to be very high, and although not as soft as wool that has been spun, it is a much sought after.
Quality control at this stage is done by sight, feel and measurement. Loose threads are removed by hand and any minor flaws and specks are cut away for the next finishing stages.
The drawing process is reserved for the long strands when they are compacted and thinned in preparation for spinning.
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