Category: WoolProcessing

Selecting a Fleece

Using your Senses, and Good Sense!

Complete Raw Fleece Outside
Complete Raw Fleece Outside

#1: Sight

  • Color
  • Length
  • Crimp
  • Vegetable Matter
  • Moths or Other Bugs
  • Scurf
  • Dung Tags
  • Second Cuts
  • Breeding Markers



#2: Touch

Fleece, Skein and Swatch
Fleece, Skein and Swatch
  • greasy, or tacky?
  • staple length intact, or broken?
  • brittle tips?
  • matting?
  • fine textured, medium or coarse?

#3: Smell

  • fresh “sheepy” smell?
  • mildew, mold?
  • urine?
  • ram-smell?

#4: Intended Use

do you have a specific project in mind?

or are you spinning just for the joy of it?

Fleece Characteristics

The qualities in the fleece you select will, to some degree impact the way you’ll need to process it.


High-grease fleeces will require washing at higher temps, and perhaps multiple washes.

Very long fleeces are not suitable to be carded (unless they are cut). Better to use combs or flick card. Very short fibers cannot be combed very effectively. Best to card (hand or drum).
Variety of Fleece Types and Lengths
Variety of Fleece Types and Lengths
If multicolored, do you want to blend for uniform color, or preserve the different shades?
Vegetable Matter (VM, veg):
Some veg may be removed via hand-picking, but you’ll get best result from combing.
Can skirt out of fleece, or dye the wool.
Matted or weak tips:
Will require trimming of affected areas.


Eifon Shearing
Eifon Shearing
If you want to either use your wool for hand spinning or market it to others for that purpose, you should make sure your shearer understands your goals.
Some shearers are all about speed, and just getting the wool off. You want someone who is going to preserve the quality of the wool while it’s being removed. This means: minimal second cuts, keeping the fleece in one piece (if it may be judged).
Coco's fleece unwashed outside view
Coco’s fleece, unwashed, outside view

Skirting and Sorting

—Remove any kemp and/or hairy fiber, dung tags, matted wool, second cuts, wool less than 1.5 in length (you’re probably not going to want to spin anything shorter than that).
—Sort the remainder into categories (good, better, best). You will probably want to use these different grades of wool for different things.
Raw Multicolor Fleece, inside view
Raw Multicolor Fleece, inside view