Group B Data – Wool

Group Members: Ruby Becker, Morgan Dieschbourg, Marta Kondratiuk, Chris O’Mara

The majority of our data from this lab is qualitative as we found it difficult to quantify the experience. In the cases where quantitative data is present it is not representative of the process of wool working in the ancient world as we were all beginners and did not work with the skill or efficiency of ancient wool-workers. What we were able to gather most effectively were qualitative observations on the experience of wool working including observations about the wool types, the physical experience of wool-working, and the social aspect of doing this work in a group. Our data is split into three sections according to the three stations representative of different steps of wool working (carding, spinning, and weaving) and includes photos of our process.


How much?

In the half hour that we carded we each carded about one to two “carders worth” of wool, meaning we each put about as much wool on the carder as it would fit and carded it until it was a texture that we deemed useable for spinning. All in all, between the four of us, the process was completed about seven times. We were not certain what texture we were aiming for, but we worked to make to get as many of the clumps or knots out as we could. The wool also had many bits of bark and leaves that we attempted to remove in the process. There would be a better way to quantitatively understand this process if we had weighed the wool to have a more precise measurement than the estimate of one “carder’s worth.” However, how much wool we were able to card is only representative of how much, we, people who had been carding for about a half hour could card in a half hour.

Physical Experience

We found that carding took a decent amount of arm and upper body strength. Especially in the cases of more curly or matted fibers, a good amount of effort was required to break up the “clumps” and achieve a finer result.

The Social Aspect

As we carded we talked, mostly about the texture of the wool and about different techniques that we were attempting. We found different types of wool to be harder to card than others (see below) and commented that arm strength would be necessary for carding in great quantities. Most of the data that we collected about carding was qualitative such as observations about the wool and the effect that the process had on our arms as they got tired.

Wool TypeColorTextureCarding
Jacobsbrown, grey, tan“clumpy” shorter fibers,
fluffy, not very curly
somewhat hard to card,
sometimes feels matted
Leicester Long Woolwhite, greycoarse, longer fibers,
more of a hair-like texture
creates fluffy “cloud”
when carded
Cotswoldwhitevery curlyhard to card, curls
hard to break up
Soaybrown, grey,
some bits of white
varied textures
from soft fleece to
longer hair-like
difficult to remove all
the clumps, the fiber
was unwashed which could
Morgan cards wool


Starting Off

Spinning the wool took a while to get the hang of, but once going it was not too difficult to make some sort of thread. Most group members had to re-start their spinning process at least once, and once started the yarn breaking became a common problem. We spent much of the start of our spinning process sharing tips on how to get the yarn connected.

Machine roving v. Carded wool

When spinning we compared wool that we carded ourselves to the wool that was made into rovings by machine. We found that we appreciated the longer rovings made by the machine as they made it easier to keep the yarn spinning in longer, more continuous stretches without breaking. However, we also found that the self-carded wool was easier to attach to the thread that we had already spun; Alejandra explained that carding opens the fiber in a way that roving does not, which makes it easier to connect to itself. There was no consensus reached on whether carded wool or machine roving was easier to work with. Our observations did find that roving wool tended to make an smoother, less clumpy thread, but this could be partially due to our sub-par carding abilities.

Which wool?

Our group did not attempt to spin all of the wool types. We, for the most part, found that the longer fibers of the Cotswold and Leicester long wool made it easier to work with once it was connected to the thread than , however, it was harder to get a continuous roving from the longer fibers as they were less prone to joining together. The Leicester and cotswold were also prone to creating a kind of fluffy “cloud” when carded that was hard to draft from. We found wool types with a shorter fiber easier to join together, but harder to get a continuous roving from without breaking the thread. There was no unanimous opinion on which type of wool was easier to work with.

The Social Aspect

We found it very easy to talk and spin as, after we got the hang of it, we did not need to put our full attention on the spinning. Our conversations ranged from discussing the wool and the work to a variety of other conversational topics and amusing stories.

Physical Experience

While not as immediately taxing as carding, the repetitive nature of the spinning process, as well as the continuous attempt to get a good angle for drafting, became tiring as time went on. Spinning did not require a great deal of sheer strength, but did require that you sat in an upright position, with your back away from the back of the chair, so that you had your legs available for the “parking” position. It also required you to have your hands positioned away from your body at an angle so that you could draft your roving. This was not immediately tiring, but its repetitive nature became taxing. After an hour of sitting in the same place the movement to the next station was welcomed.

How much wool?

After spinning for about two hours our group had spun a variety of amounts of wool (shown below). This amount serves as an interesting observation on the amount of time and labor required to make yarn by hand, but is not representative of any realistic estimation of how long it would take to make wool in the ancient world as we were all beginners and it was very slow going.

Group MemberWool Spun in about 2 hours (in grams)


The Process

The basic in-and-out of weaving was relatively simple to pick up. Alejandra showed us how to leave enough slack at the ends so that the weaving was not too tight and the fabric did not become warped. At her suggestion, we experimented with the order in which we combed the weft thread into place; we ultimately settled on combing the middle first and then the edges as this made for a smoother finish. When picking up the threads with the wood “stick” we found that the one with the slightly bent edge made it easier to pick up individual warp threads than the one that was completely flat. The slight bend allowed you to “hook” under warp and work your way under and over the weft in a more efficient manner.

How much did we weave?

In about one hour we wove 12 rows at one loom and 10 rows at the other. However, this is only representative of how much a collection of people, many of whom had never woven before, can weave in an hour while switching off.

Using our Materials

We were able to use some of the yarn that we had made from wool we had also carded (specifically Ben’s from Group A) to weave on our loom. Though this yarn did not have the consistency in thickness of the yarn provided by Alejandra, it was still useable for weaving and created interesting texture in the fabric. Alejandra also showed us how to incorporate bits of un-spun and un-carded wool into the weaving to add additional texture.

The Social Aspect

Weaving took significantly more concentration and had a somewhat meditative quality; it was much less of a social activity than spinning or carding. The people who were spinning as the person weaving wove chatted, but the weaver was mostly consumed in attempting to pick up the correct threads.

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