Carding Kihnu sheep wool

Earlier in the month, we heard a recording of combing Rough Fell Fleece.

This is the sound of hand-combing the washed fleece of the Kihnu sheep, which is one strain of the Native Estonian sheep breed.

Estonian Native sheep are from the North European Short-tailed family, and they have a double coat. This means they have short, soft, woollen fibres close to their bodies, and longer, coarser guard hairs on the outside of their fleeces. Because of this double-coated fleece and the shortness of the fibres which come from Estonian Native sheep, there is not really an established tradition of combing wool fibres in Estonia. In the UK, many sheep have long wool which is appropriate for combing. Combing lines all the fibres up in parallel to one another, prior to spinning. Deep-teethed combs are employed to align the fibres in this way. In contrast, carding – which is the established method for fibre preparation in Estonia – results in having fibres which are neat enough to spin with, but which will not lie in straight, parallel lines as combed fibres do.

Combed fibres prepared for spinning are generally known as sliver, while carded fibres are arranged into a rolag.

Here are Liis and Felicity making rolags for handspinning with hand cards. They are also discussing the need to change batteries in the sound-recorder, and the traditions of hand spinning yarns in Estonia.

Combing Rough Fell wool

This is the sound of hand-combing the washed fleece of the Rough Fell sheep, which is grown in Cumbria, in the UK.

The Rough Fell fleece is strong and characterful and once fetched a very high price for the stuffing of Italian mattresses because of its bounce and strength.

The wool grown in Estonia which is used in Mooste is also good for stuffing mattresses and wool-filled mattresses, pillows and duvets are important outputs for Villakoda, in Mooste.

This recording of Rough Fell fibres was created by attaching contact microphones to wooden wool-combs. You can clearly hear the scratchy qualities of the fibres themselves, as they are combed.