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Fiber weekend – Merino Roving vs Carded Wool

I asked people on my Instagram if they would like to know more about fibers I work with and it was a unanimous YES! I am not a huge expert on any type of fiber, but I do have experience that I accumulated through carding, spinning, knitting and embroidering which I would love to share with anyone who is interested. I figured – weekends are great for longer materials, such as blog posts, also – there are so many fibers I work with, so tune in every weekend to read about them on my blog.

A thin piece of hand dyed merino roving

I present you – merino roving. This is something I use in every single yarn I make. This is the highest quality and longest wool fiber that I purchase in white and then hand dye to give it some color.

Why does it matter how long the fiber is? Because spinning gets very hard if fibers are short, it might slip from my hands and disappear into the bobbin, and it is pain in the butt to keep pulling it out of there every minute or so. It is a lot more work with short fibers and, naturally a lot less with longer. Actually, do don’t even have to spun roving – it looks like a very chunky, fluffy and even strand of yarn as it is, only problem with it being fragility. But spinning, of course, adds strength.

To sum up, merino roving gives the yarn such qualities:

  • Warmth (merino wool is considered warmer than regular sheep wool);
  • Durability and strength
  • lightness (merino roving traps a lot of air, which makes the yarn look fluffy and puffy)
  • softness (it’s fine, it’s long, it doesn’t stick out much)
  • easy to spin (ouh man, it spins like butter!)
  • price (good quality and properties usually come at a higher price).
A commercially dyed piece of carded wool

Another fiber that I use a lot is carded wool. So it might seem ironic after I just spent 3 paragraphs explaining how superior long fibers are, because carded wool is usually super short, therefore it can not come in roving. Carding helps short fibers to somewhat get oriented to the same direction, but it is still pretty entangled in order to stay in one shape. It is still very easy to take apart by hand, even the thickest bat of carded wool is.

But it is still wool and it is still warm, breathable, it has great moisture absorption properties and acts just like your usual wool. But… it is cheaper and it comes in so many colors, which usually doesn’t increase the price that much.

So how does this fiber find it’s place in my yarn?

  • it adds color (adding up to 20 % of carded wool gives it plenty of subtle color, yet doesn’t visibly negate merino roving properties)
  • it adds texture (it cards differently from other fibers, therefore it looks and feels differently when I spin and in the final product)
  • it doesn’t break the bank and allows me to charge less for my yarn, than I would normally had to charge if I worked with pricier materials.
hand spun carded wool yarn

I didn’t know all this when I started spinning. I made quite a lot of rough, bitting yarn using purely carded wool. It was hard to spin, the result wasn’t very even (due to short fibers being much harder to work with, especially for a newbie) and often my yarn would break when I tried to take it off the bobbin. Spinning, adding twist, helps to keep those short fibers together, but rewinding yarn, washing etc., it all untwists it a bit and it can fall apart.

All in all – wool is still one of my favorite fibers to work with, be it merino or sheep wool. It is amazing how many different varieties and types of wools there are, I barely tapped into that vast universe of wool! Same sheep produces different fleece depending not only on the breed, but also it’s age, living conditions and/or diet, so no wonder the world of wool is so rich.

Hope you found my basic notes on these two types of wool somewhat informative and interesting. Join me next Saturday for the thoughts and notes on various silk fibers that I use in my yarn.

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