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Storing and Processing Wool

Learn how to make the most of your fleece by caring for and storing it properly so that you can get the best result.

| April/May 2020

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Once you become a shepherd for sheep, goats, or other fiber animals, you’ll have a renewable source of raw product every year. However, the fleece shorn from the animals will stack up if you don’t process it.

Thankfully, you don’t need to process fleece every year. You may only raise three animals and not meet the minimum weight requirement for incoming fleece at the mill. In that case, storing fleece for up to two years and then processing it is a good option. If stored correctly, fleece can be kept for years and still process nicely.

Cloth, paper, and canvas bags — even pillowcases — are all preferable over plastic bags for storing fleece, though plastic bags are convenient for collecting wool at the time of shearing. Any bags made of poly cloth aren’t recommended, as poly fibers will degrade the quality of the wool if pieces of fiber are left in it. In addition, should you choose to sell to a wool pool, poly fibers aren’t acceptable. Plastic bins with lids are OK to use; they allow air to circulate with the fiber and keep it clean. Regardless of how you store your wool, I recommend skirting it to remove dirty sections and large pieces of vegetable matter.

When storing, don’t compress the fiber too tightly in the bags. Over time, that can result in matted fiber. Mark each bag or box with the animal’s name, year sheared, weight of fiber (if needed), and any other information you care to note.

Processing Wool

A lot goes into making a fine yarn before you purchase it. The sheep shearer and I work closely together during shearing to remove the fleece in good condition and transport it from the shearing field. Both the shearer and the mill owner give me feedback that helps me improve the fleeces from my flock. Evaluating the fleece and listening to feedback will help you grow a better fleece the following year.

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