Woolly Glossary


TOP
Wool which has been combed out so that all the fibres are lying in the same direction and all the short fibres have been removed. It can be spun with a worsted technique, or used for felt making. Some spinners believe that a commercially made top can never be used to spin a fully worsted yarn, and that this can only be done with a hand made top (made on wool combs rather than in a mill).


4-PLY
This is a UK term for a classification of thickness of yarn, equivalent to an American fingering weight. When used in this context, it doesn't refer to the amount of threads twisted together to form the yarn! Very confusing.


ROVING
This is made from wool which has been carded. A carded batt is drawn out until it is a long rope of unspun fibre, and is given a slight twist to help it stay together. It looks rather like a top, but the fibres in a roving aren't as aligned as they are in a top. A SLIVER is a narrower roving, usually untwisted.


ROLAGS
A fat and tempting looking roll of fibre prepared on hand carders or a blending board, these are the wool preparation for a lofty, airy yarn which can be spun with a long draw. Their other name is 'lamb's tail' and that's just what they look like! They can be tightly rolled (as from a blending board) or more loosely done.


BATTS
A batt is a blanket of fibre which has been processed on a drum carder. They're very versatile, and can be torn into chunks, pulled into roving, made into strips, or spun across the whole width. Felters love them as backgrounds or bases for their work.


FLEECE
This is wool just as it has come off the sheep's back. Raw fleece hasn't even been washed, scoured or washed fleece has been through a cleaning process.


WORSTED
A spinning technique where all the fibres are kept parallel to one another, and no air or loft is introduced into the yarn. Longwool fleece and plant fibres such as flax are best spun in this way. It makes a shiny, slinky, heavy yarn which will knit or crochet with great stitch definition and will make woven cloth with a lot of drape. Our Cotswold yarn is mill spun in the worsted style.


WOOLLEN
A spinning technique more suited to lofty, shorter staple wools such as Shetland, or short fluffy plant fibres like cotton. The fibres within the yarn aren't parallel to one another, but instead are almost in a vortex shape within the yarn! Woollen spun yarn has a lot of air contained in it. The wool traditionally used to make Fair Isle sweaters is processed in this way.


ARAN WEIGHT
This is a UK term for a thickness of yarn, equivalent to the US worsted weight (which is of course not necessarily spun using the worsted technique!)


CARDING
This is the process by which tangles in fleece are removed and the fibres are organised for spinning. It can be done using either a set of hand carders or a drum carder. The products of carding are called either rolags or batts. Carding is usually only done with shorter staple fibres, although it can be effective on longer staples too.


COMBING
The process of removing tangles in longer staple fleece and organising the fibres so that they all flow in the same direction. The product of combing is called top, and it's spun with the worsted technique.


SPINNING
The process whereby fleece is made into yarn. It can be done by hand, on a spindle or a spinning wheel, or in a mill.


SCOURING
Another name for washing fleece and removing all the dirt, lanolin (grease) and suint (sweat). Sheep are notoriously and revoltingly filthy creatures, and the amount of dirt in a fleece may astonish you if you have never scoured one before.


SILK
A protein (animal) fibre from the cocoons of the silk moth (Bombyx mori). Silk comes in various preparations such as hankies, caps, silk brick or throwsters' waste. Silk is highly lustrous, warm in winter and cool in summer, takes dye very well, and can be blended with wool to great effect.


ANGELINA
A very fine and soft metallic, light reflecting fibre which we include in small quantities in some of our products. It is an artificial fibre.


WOOL NEPS
A larger version of those annoying bobbles you pull off your favourite cashmere or lambswool jumper, wool neps make a colourful and tactile textural addition to carded batts.


ACID DYES
Chemical dyes used with protein (animal fibres). The acid referred to in the name is actually the weak acid you need to set the dyes - we use white vinegar. They are cheap, non toxic and non polluting, and come in a wide range of fast, bright colours.


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