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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Once the wool has been wetted down it has to be spun dry.
Firstly, water is drained out as much as possible before being moved to the spin-dryer.
The wet wool is lifted up and wheeled across on an overhead beam trolley dripping on slatted floor rolls.
When the wool reaches the spin-dryer it must be tipped by hand.
The wool is very heavy when wet so only half can be put into the spin-drier.
The wool must be tucked in and pulled so that there is a balanced weight in the spin-drier.
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.
Then the second half of wet wool is brought over and loaded into spin-drier.
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.
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.