Pip waiting for us at the shop door of Cushendale Woollen Mill

 

Arriving on a sunny day with the last of the wool from this years Irish harvest of Zwartbles Wool. First the wool must be weighed, so that I know what each Zwartbles Breeder has produced.

Philip Cushen Weighting A Bag of Wool

 The wool is then carried in it’s bags to the cleaning room. Here the wool is sorted and put into huge containers where is will be cleaned of all it’s remaining field dirt and fecal matter.

Sorting Wool Dirty on Left Clean on Right

When emptying the bags we have to hand pick out straw, baling twine, brambles, hay and big dags of fecal matter. This is hard slow work which is why we ask breeders to shear on a clean board, roll on a clean surface and bag into a clean bag. Next year we will be more strict about clean wool and rejecting any with too much dirt in it. I would really like the Zwartbles breeders to take pride in their wool and not treat it like dirty laundry.

Zwartbles Wool Stuffed into Cleaning Container

Once the container is full and stuffed to the brim with dry wool the top presses the content down to where the wonderful pure waters of the river Duiske comes in.

River Duiske Water is Pumped In From the Bottom

 

Once the container has been filled with water a mild wetting-out agent is added to help wet down the wool which cleans off all remaining field dirt.

Pouring a Liquid Mix for Wool Cleaning

Pouring the Liquid Mix to Help Wet Down the Wool

 The water must get to the correct temperature so a thermometer is held over the churning water wool mixture to test for correct heat. The machine wets down the wool for about an hour.

 

Wet cleaned wool

Wetted Down Wool

 Once the wool has been wetted down it has to be spun dry.

Dirty water Drains off Wool

Water Drains off Wool

Firstly, water is drained out as much as possible before being moved to the spin-dryer.

Wet wool wash finished

Wet Wool Lifted out of Machine

 The wet wool is lifted up and wheeled across on an overhead beam trolley dripping on slatted floor rolls.

Wool Dripping as it across to Spinner

Dripping Wool as it Crosses to Spin-Dryer

cleaned wool rolls to spin dryer

Cleaned Wool Rolls Across to Spin-Dryer

When the wool reaches the spin-dryer it must be tipped by hand.

Wet Wool Loaded into Drier

Wet Wool Loaded into Drier

 

A Steamy Job Moving Cleaned Wool

A Steamy Job

The wool is very heavy when wet so only half can be put into the spin-drier.

Half Wool Loaded into Drier

Half of Wool Batch Loaded into Spin-Drier

 The wool must be tucked in and pulled so that there is a balanced weight in the spin-drier.

 Wool Weight must be evenly balanced

Wool Load Must be Evenly Balanced

Tucking in the Wool

Tucking in the Wool to Balance the Drier

 

Lowering Spin Drier Lid

Lowering Spin-Drier Lid

The roar and rumble of the spin-drier is like a powerful jet engine starting up. It is heavily bolted to the floor as it’s force is something to be reckoned with. Once the wool has been spun partially dry the first load is taken out, again by hand, and put into a bucket trolly.

Unloading Dry Wool

Unloading Partially Dried Wool

Then the second half of wet wool is brought over and loaded into spin-drier.

Second Half of Wet Wool

Second Half of Wet Wool

 

Once the wetting container is empty of wet wool it gets reloaded with the just partially dried wool. So all the wool goes through this process once again to make sure all field dirt has been removed.

Loading Wool Back into Washer

Loading Wool Back into Wetting Out Container

 

Once the wool has been through this process twice it is then taken to a big drying cupboard where it is left to dry in warmed air for two days. It is most important that the wool is allowed to dry slowly, as this preserves the quality of the wool fiber. In this photo the Zwartbles wool is sharing the drying space with Hanks of wonderful dyed blue Mohair yarn.

Zwartbles Wool in Drying Cupboard

Zwartbles Wool in Drying Cupboard

4 Responses to Cleaning Zwartbles Wool at Cushendale Woollen Mills

  1. Dee Sewell says:

    Love this post Suzanna! Would love to have had a longer tour around the woollen mills. It’s actually spurred me on to finish the jumper I started last year (but am a bit stuck on) so that I can make one from your wool :)

    • suzanna says:

      So glad you enjoyed this part of the tour. I will be writing up the next stages as we get to them. I hope you finish your jumper in time to start a new one with some pure wonderful rich dark Zwartbles yarn.

  2. Gloria Ross says:

    Thanks for sharing this. The size of the machines is
    amazing. The small mills that many of us use in the US
    do not have these gargantuan machines. I guess this mill
    is processing lots of fleeces. Can’t wait to see more.

  3. Great post S.
    Looking forward to seeing the results of this collaboration and sharing it. I think it is a great story of mixing your love of the land, Zwartble sheep, craft and micro- enterprise in contemporary Ireland!

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