Week 5 Group B Lab Data: Wool

The Sheep

  • Leicester Longwool
    • largest of the four types of sheep
    • curly s-shaped/clockwise fleece; fast-growing; shorn twice per year
    • only males have horns
    • breed developed in England; rather domesticated
  • Icelandic
    • on the smaller side
    • shorter and straighter fleece than the longwools; can be shorn twice per year
    • both males and females have horns
    • allowed to roam freely and mostly raised to eat in Iceland; wilder than the longwools
    • two types of sheep: the leaders (smarter) and the regular sheep
  • Jacob
    • middle-sized
    • hair texture is less curly and more fleecy; shorn once per year
    • both males and females have horns; Jacob sheep can have up to six horns
    • breed developed in England
  • Soay
    • smallest of the four
    • short fleece; self-shearing (or shedding)
    • both males and females have horns
    • most primitive (left to their own devices for many years on an island off the coast of Scotland)


Shearers go to school to learn how to shear. They sit the calmed sheep on their rumps and use pressure points to make them stick their limbs out, then use clippers to remove the fleece without cutting the animals.


  • Madder Root
    • necessary to soak, grind, then soak the dried roots again to achieve a bright color; other additives sometimes added
    • boil powder in water for one hour before straining and then adding mordanted yarn
    • smells somewhat like tea
  • Weld
    • can be added to water directly from drying
    • boiled in water for one hour before straining and then adding mordanted yarn
    • smells like LDC (overboiled vegetables)
  • Woad
    • fermentation process done over a long period of time; pH and temperature are important (similar to a sourdough starter)
    • wool/yarn/fabric does not need to be soaked in mordant before being dyed with woad
    • smells a little musky and funky (but less smelly than sourdough starter)


Carding involved dragging the wool through hairbrush-like contraptions to remove remaining plant matter and separate the strands to make it easier to spin. This took quite a bit of practice, but, once people got the hang of it, seemed to go pretty quickly.


I didn’t get any exact (or even estimative) quantitative data from this section. I spun for most of the time we had to do so, maybe an hour and a half, and I’m not sure how much yarn I actually produced. I produced a decent amount, but some people probably produced about a few feet. All of the yarn also varies wildly in thickness, even among spinners.

Spinning with the different types of wool was enjoyable. We had three types: longwool, jacob, and soay, decreasing in fiber length. Since the fibers of the longwool were the longest, it was easiest for this type not to break, but the jacob was easier to pull apart to get a thinner yarn. The soay was certainly the most difficult, as the fibers were so short.


Weaving on the frame loom involves separating the threads each time you pass the shuttle through and is quite slow. In about fifteen minutes, two people did seven rows. This would be faster with practice, but was slow as we got in the hang of it.

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