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About Combed Wool and Spinning Top - About Pure Wool Bedding - Dyeing with Gaywool Dyes - Washing your  Sheepskin or Lambskin  Pelt - Finishing your Spinning Wheel


About Combed Wool and Spinning Top...

Worsted yarns are spun from combed top. They are smooth, sleek and compact. They are less likely to pill than woolen yarns and stand up well to hard wear. Worsted yarns will show off intricate patterns in knitted or woven pieces.

To make combed wool top the raw fleece fibers are scoured, carded and combed. The combing process removes short and noiled fibers leaving long fibers which are aligned parallel to one another. This is the highest quality or "top-of-the-line" wool fiber, hence the name "top." Combing stretches the fiber and takes away the crimped character of the fleece, but the crimp is restored when the yarn is washed or the fibers are wet. For this reason, combed wool top does not feel as fine and soft as the raw fleece from whence it came.

Combed fibers are slightly more difficult to spin than carded fibers because of the parallel alignment. A spinner can "pre-draft" the fibers to make them easier to spin. To do this, pull off a length of top about one yard long by placing your hands about eight inches apart between the point where you want to make the break and pulling your hands away from each other. If your hands are too close together the top won't break apart. You now have a length of top about one yard long. Hold the piece at one end and divide it lengthwise into two, three, four or more strips. Make your strips thin for finer yarn or thicker for heavier yarns.

Pre-draft the strips by holding the strip at one end with your hands four or so inches apart… tug very gently making the fibers slip. Move both hands down a couple of inches and repeat the process, slowly working your way along the length of the strip. Hold the fiber up to a light so that you can see what you've done. The strip should be thin, smooth and even. If there are thicker spots reposition your hands and thin them out. Be careful that you do not pull too hard initially. If you pull the top apart it is very difficult to merge the two torn pieces back together. Pre-drafting may seem like a lot of work at first, but with practice it becomes easier and you can then relax and enjoy getting the "feel" of the wool, which is well worth the effort.

To spin a worsted yarn, you can use any of the following techniques: the short draw, spinning-from-the-fold or point-of-contact spinning. I recommend the short draw, which is very much like the inchworm technique you may have used when you first learned to spin. Hold your hands just a bit further apart than a fiber length. Draft the fibers for a short length, then using the hand closest to the orifice, back guide the twist into the fibers. Keep a small amount of tension on the fibers between your hands at all times so the yarn will be smooth. The hand closest to the orifice should be held slightly closed so the twist does not jump into the fibers before they are completely drafted.

If you spend a short time spinning each day, just ten or fifteen minutes, your yarns will benefit from the consistency that this daily effort will establish. Good Luck and Happy Spinning!


About Pure Wool-filled Bedding...


Wool is the prized “Golden Fleece” sought in ancient times. Today light-weight wool fill is equally prized for the qualities it brings to comforters, quilts, pillows, mattress pads, and futons.

Like all pure wool bedding, wool fill feels comfortable, offers superior insulation, resists flames, and lasts a good long time. But it is the crimp in the wool fiber makes wool fill especially versatile. Wool naturally forms a cohesive batting without any chemical binders. Bedding made of pure wool fill will not lose its shape, separate into lumps, or shift.

Wool fill is resilient...

Wool fill retains its superior qualities, wet or dry. Unlike down, which shifts into corners and bunches when wet, wool fill stays fluffy and evenly plump. Unlike synthetics, which feel clammy when wet and flatten out with wear, wool fill eliminates uneven cold spots.

Wool fill is so resilient it consistently outperforms synthetics such as polyester fiber fill. In scientific tests, wool recovered 95% of its original thickness when compressed. Synthetic substitutes recovered only between 67% to 79%. No matter how it is twisted, crushed, or pulled, pure wool fill springs back to its original lush thickness.

Wool fill is comfortable...

The natural, three dimensional structure of wool, which has never be duplicated in a factory, creates millions of air pockets to trap warmth. This unique cellular arrangement not only gives wool fill great insulating value, but also allows it to absorb body vapor and diffuse it to the atmosphere. Compared to synthetics, which can absorb moisture equal to merely 4% or less of their weight, wool can absorb up to 30 % without feeling cold or clammy. That's how wool fill creates a natural comfort zone of dry, warm air around the body to keep you comfortably warmer, longer.

As wool fill absorbs moisture, it dries from within and so conserves natural body heat. Even under severely cold conditions, wool-filled bedding offers excellent protection against rapid loss of body heat. Whether or not you need this extra protection, you'll find bedding filled with wool is as luxuriously warm as down, but at less costly and without any of the drawbacks.

The secret revealed...

Under a microscope, a single fiber of wool looks like a hair whose surface is covered with overlapping scales, like the shingles of a house. These scales are made up of millions of cells and are, in turn, covered with a very thin sheath or membrane which is finely porous - porous enough to let vapor penetrate, but at the same time, resistant to water droplets. And inside the fiber is a very thirsty center which can absorb up to 30% its own weight in moisture - eight to ten times as much as any synthetic - without feeling clammy. This complex construction creates a fiber capable of absorbing and rapidly evaporating body vapor for dry, comfortable warmth.

Wool's natural absorbency offers another distinct advantage. Because of its extraordinary ability to hold moisture, wool fiber is inherently flame-resistant. The main reason major hotel chains prefer wool bedding is because wool offers beauty and comfort along with an added measure of safety.

Each fiber also has a natural "crimp" - it looks like a coiled spring - with permanent built in "memory".  It returns to shape after stress. This springiness keeps products such as blankets eternally fluffy and soft - comfortable for a lifetime. In a blanket, wool's indestructible loft results in millions of microscopic air pockets which supply the insulation that keep body heat in and cold out.

A survey of wool's advantages in blankets and wool-filled comforters reveals the versatility, practicality, and superiority of this amazing natural resource, the inexpensive wonder fiber that science cannot match.

Wool for dry comfort...

The fact that pure wool bedding is more comfortable than synthetic bedding has been scientifically confirmed. A study conducted by the independent Holenstein Research Institute in West Germany showed that up to 1-1/2 times more moisture remains in the bed environment when an acrylic blanket is used than when a person sleeps under a pure wool blanket. Further objective tests demonstrated that a wool-filled quilt is more comfortable than a polyester-filled quilt of the same weight.

Wool is flame-resistant...

Wool bedding is the safest choice both at home and in hospitals, hotels, schools, and other institutional settings. Because of its unique chemical structure and natural moisture content, wool is difficult to ignite. It merely chars, and won't flair up. It will not melt, so when forced to ignite it does not cling to the skin and cause serious hot melt burns.

Wool is easy on the environment:

It's biodegradable and ecological sound... and in the era of mounting concern about what to do with discarded products no longer of use to anybody, the biodegradable aspect of wool, as opposed to synthetic material, is more important than ever. A wool blanket lasts for decades, and when the blanket finally gives out, because it is wool, it can be returned to the earth for natural recycling.   Wool fibers require no factory to produce. Part of wool's miracle is that it is self-replenishing.  Its source, the sheep, lives on producing a new crop of wool each year (unlike the sacrificed source of down), existing on vegetation, which also is self-replenishing.

Wool products are long lasting values:

Family heirlooms can be handed down from generation-to-generation... consumers can count on pure wool blankets and throws for 15, 20, even 30 years and beyond. Initially a wool blanket or wool-filled comforter may cost more than a synthetic substitute, but in the long run wool is the lowest in cost and the highest in comfort and usefulness. Wool blankets out-wear and out-perform all other fabrics. The wool in wool-filled comforters can be re-carded, that is, re-fluffed, for generations of lasting use.

Dyeing with Gaywool Dyes...

Gaywool Dyes are simple, complete, quick and fun.  The dye is formulated specifically for raw or spun wool. The formulation includes the mordant and dye bath acidifier: all that is necessary to produce true-to-type color fast dyeing.  These dyes are excellent on wool, cashmere, mohair, silk, nylon, pelts and fur and for re-dyeing light colored manufactured garments.

All dyeing of handspun wool should be done in skeins tied loosely in at least four places. It is also essential that they have been washed in a normal laundry detergent sufficiently to remove all trace of greasiness. The rate is, one level plastic cap full per 100g (3.5 ozs).

Single Color Dyeing

You need a container suitable for heating and large enough to cover the wool with water. The exact quantity of water is not important but should be sufficient that it is easy to turn the wool over while dyeing is taking place. For every (1) skeins or 100g of wool, take one (1) LEVEL PLASTIC CAPFUL of dyestuff, dissolve in a small quantity of hot water (e.g., 1 or 2 CAPFULS) and add the dye bath.

Heat the dye bath to boiling. Take the skeins of wool and wet them in warm water with a little kitchen detergent before putting in dye bath. Keep dye bath on or near boiling for approximately 30 minutes.

Please Note:

80% of the dyeing reaction takes place in the first four (4) minutes, consequently it is most important to gently turn the wool over at regular intervals or lift wool clear with a wooden spoon, drain liquid slightly and replace; Wool then takes up a new mixture of water and dye; this helps to keep the dyeing even.

Remove wool, rinse thoroughly in warm water, wring and hang to dry.

Rainbow Dyeing

Raw fleece may be dyed washed or unwashed. Place fleece in container, fill with water the way up the wool (do not cover the wool, or the dyes will run together). While bringing the water up to boiling point, sprinkle the dyes at random over the fleece, using compatable colors; gently poke the fleece into the water, do not stir; boil for approximately 30 minutes. Several colors can be used together, e.g. Raspberry and Logwood Cornflower and Indigo, or just one color using different strengths. Wool in HANKS can be dyed using the above directions.

NOTE: Keep water level even, add more water if necessary by pouring down the side of the pan; make sure the wool does not catch on the bottom.

For more muted colors, instead of sprinkling the powder, dilute the powder in boiling water first.  Then pour or spray on.


Rainbow Dyeing in the Oven or Microwave

BALLS of wool may be wet in warm water with a little detergent, and "injected" with a syringe filled with dye powder and water (app. 1 capfull or less of dye powder to 100 grams of wool). Place in microwave for 8 minutes on high and cover with film of plastic, or in an oven bag and in the oven on medium for 20 minutes.

HANKS or STAPLES of wool may be dyed using the above method. Wet wool, place in an ice cream bucket, sprinkle or spray, with dye powder at random, using several colors if desired, or paint dip, place in microwave for 8 minutes, cover with film of plastic or in an oven bag and in the oven for 20 minutes on medium.


Cold Water Dyeing with Gaywool

Raw wool, hanks, sheepskins, et cetera, can all be done by this method. For large amounts of rainbow dyeing, cold water dyeing is easy to do outside.

Wet wool, for every liter of water needed, you will have to add 40 grams of UREA (nitrogen) and 200 ml Acetic Acid (white vinegar). Mix the desired dye powder with hot water; for example three colors and divide your liter of liquid between them, then simply dip hanks, paint strands (over a log for example) or pour dye so it runs DOWN the hank or spray (with a Windex spray bottle), wring out excess if very wet, (for sheepskins, if you want the same color all over, work dye and liquor into skin to saturation point, with your gloved hands). After wringing out excess, simply cover with plastic and roll up and leave for 24 hours (less time in summer), after this time, rinse out excess dye and dry.  These dyes are excellent on Wool, Mohair, Cashmere, Fur and Nylon but not on other synthetic fibers.  For more information on using commercially available dyes, check our Books department for a useful little workbook entitled "Hands on Dyeing," by Blumenthal and Krieder.  If you are a 'grow it yourself' personality, we recommend "A Dyer's Garden" by Rita Buchanan.


ALWAYS wear gloves when handling chemicals, especially the urea... avoid breathing fumes (if possible work outdoors) and be very careful with boiling water...


Have fun and enjoy creating your colorful masterpieces!


Washing your Sheepskin or Lambskin Pelt

Your washable Corriedale sheep or lambskins should be washed in cold water on a slow machine wash cycle using mild detergent.  We recommend Murphy’s Oil Soap.  They can then be put in the dryer using a "no heat" setting, with a towel to absorb some of the water until almost dry, after which they should be air-dried. While air drying, they can be blocked or pulled to keep their shape and softness. They may also be dry cleaned.  Enjoy...


Finishing your Spinning Wheel...

If you purchased an unfinished kit, it is important to provide some type of protective finish before you begin using your spinning wheel.  Included in Ron's Woodworks Finishing Kit is a custom blended, tung oil based, clear finish that is used here in the Woodworks. First, lightly sand the wheel using a fine 220 grit paper (sand and finish all parts before assembly). Wipe clean with a lint free cloth (cheese cloth works fine, but the supplied tac cloth is better). Apply the finish by hand rubbing it into the wood using another lint free cloth (not provided). Rub briskly until your hand feels warmth coming from the rubbing. Use the small brush provided to dab finish into small openings and crevices. When finishing The Country Craftsman wheel, avoid getting finish on the "mother-of-all" leather bearings and the leather treadle linkage. Let the finish set for about ten minutes. Using a third lint free cloth, thoroughly wipe the excess finish from the surface (do not use the tac cloth in this step!) and let dry for twenty-four hours. Repeat for a second coat, sanding lightly between coats and wiping away any dust with the tac cloth. This will give a durable, lustrous, long-lasting protective finish. If you prefer to stain your wheel, do so before applying the Woodworks finish. Use a raw oil based stain in a color of your choosing (a raw stain contains no urethane or other additives to provide a hard finish). Follow the stain manufacturer's instructions and let the stain dry thoroughly before applying the Woodworks finish.