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Stages of Wool Processing

Stage of wool processing Roman Replica Modern

According to Wild, white
Any kind of wool should
Soay, Shetland, and Cheviot
work. Corriedale and
would be close (6-10). An
Romney are considered good
argument could be made for
Sheep Breeds for beginning spinners.
Jacob sheep or any of the
Merino has a reputation for
primitive or down breeds.
being hard to spin, and can be
Merino and other fine wools
a very greasy fleece.
should be avoided.
According to Wild, sheep
You can see sheep being
were generally sheared rather
Shearing/Clipping/Plucking sheared at various sheep and
than plucked by the end of the
wool festivals.
first century A.D. (23).
"There is little known about
There are various methods for
the process" (Wild 23). It
washing wool online, using
appears the fleeces were
bathtubs and washing
washed once clipped
machines. Merino wool has a
Washing/Scouring (although fine-wooled ones
lot more lanolin than Roman
might be washed before as
sheep appear to have had, so
well) with soap-wort (Wild
people need to wash it more
23). I would hazard that stale
than the Romans would have.
urine might be used as well.
A dog grooming comb or
I use Viking combs with one even a hair comb could be
row, the Valkyrie model. The used to single comb the fibers.
picture of a Roman wool If you just want to get the
comber appears to suggest the fleece to a spinnable stage,
use of a Russian style comb you could use cards or, if the
fixed to a table. locks are nice and open, tease
them out by hand.
I haven't seen any spindles out
CD spindles, like the ones we
there that copy the look of a
used in the workshop, are
Roman one. I think, though,
easy to make and quite cheap.
that the toy wheel spindle
comes closer than a lot of the
If you want to buy a spindle, I
Spinning commercial ones.
have been happy with my
bottom whorl Louet and
You want a spindle with some
ecstatic with my Golding.
rim weight. The ones
There are many spindle
described in Wild seem to be
makers out there, all with
smaller than the common ones
passionate devotees.
Online list of resources:

Roman/Classical Fiber processing

Barber, E. J. W. Prehistoric Textiles. Princeton University Press, Princeton: 1991.
Barber, Elizabeth Wayland. Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years. W. Norton & Company,
New York: 1994.
Moeller, Walter O. The Wool Trade of Ancient Pompeii. E. J. Brill, Leiden: 1976.
Wild, J. P. Textile Manufacture in the Northern Roman Provinces. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge: 1970.

Modern Technique Books

Amos, Alden and Stephanie Gaustad. The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning. Interweave
Press: 2001.
Delaney, Connie. Spindle Spinning from Novice to Expert. Kokovoko Press: 1998.
Raven, Lee and Traci Bunkers. Spin It: Making Yarn from Scratch. Interweave Press, 2003.
Spin Off (magazine)

Diz- a disk with holes pierced in it, used to draw wool off of a comb.
S-spun- Yarn or thread spun to the left; the twist is in the same direction as the diagonal of an S.
VM- 'vegetable matter.' This is non-wool matter found in a fleece. It may be 'processed' or
Z-spun- Yarn or thread spun to the right; the twist is in the same direction as the diagonal of a Z.

colus, -i (or -us), m. or f. - distaff
fusus, -i m. - spindle



Processing Loss
50 g. of Corriedale wool; was marked as having high VM (vegetable matter) content
47 g. picked (locks pulled open, grass shaken out)
33 g. washed (many rinses)
25 g. combed (loss of neps and VM)

Lydia Haile Fassett