The Language of Wool Fiber
Every subject has its own vocabulary, and wool is no different. If you know specific terms, you will be able to communicate more productively, either as a buyer or as a seller.
Apparel Wool - Wool suitable for manufacture into apparel fabrics.
Bellies - Short and often times defective wool from belly of sheep.
Blood - Denotes fineness: "more blood" means finer wool.
Break -The fibers are weak at a certain point, but strong above and below the weak spot; opposed to “tender”, which signifies a generally weak fiber.
Breech (or Britch) Wool - Coarse hair fibers on lower hind legs; generally the lowest quality wool of the entire fleece.
Bright - Light colored wool relatively free of dirt and sand.
Brittle - Harsh, dry, "wire-like".
Bump – Approximately 16 ounces of roving wound into a large soft ball.
Canary Stained Wool - A yellowish coloration which cannot be removed by ordinary scouring methods. Certain types of bacteria growth are believed to be a contributing factor.
Carbonizing - Removal of burrs from wool by immersion in sulfuric acid.
Carpet - Wools too heavy and coarse to be made into apparel; suitable for carpets and rugs.
Character - A general term describing the total of all characteristics that make wool attractive to the eye such as color, crimp, brightness, and sound tip.
Color - The actual color of the wool; a bright white to cream is most desirable; canary stains, brown or black stains are undesirable.
Combing - Manufacturing process in which the short fibers (noils) are separated from the longer fibers which are combed into a continuous strand of parallel fibers called top.
Condition - Refers to the amount of grease and dirt in a fleece 'heavy condition" means heavy shrinkage.
Cotted - Fibers that are matted together.
Crimp - The natural waviness in fibers: distinct crimp - crimps are sharp and clear - fine wools have more crimps per inch; bold crimp - larger crimp spaces widely apart - coarser wools have fewer crimps per inch.
Dingy - Wool that is dark greyish and lacks luster.
Doggy - Short, harsh, coarser than type should be; lacks crimp and elasticity.
Felting - The process of locking wool fibers together to make felt.
Frowzy - Wool that is dry and lifeless without distinct crimp due to weather and or poor quality.
Grading - Separating fleeces into groups according to fineness and length.
Grease Wool - Wool as it is shorn from the sheep, before any processing.
Gummy - Grease wool that has excessive amounts of yolk which has set and is stiff and sticky.
Handle - Refers to the actual feel of the wool; a good "handle" has great resilience and softness, fineness, length, and is pleasing to the touch.
Hank - A 560-yard unit of wool yarn wound on a spool or reel.
Kemp - Chalky white, brittle, weak fiber which may be mixed with normal fibers in a fleece; kemp will not take dye and is objectionable.
Lanolin - Refined yolk or wool grease.
Lock - A tuft or group of wool fibers that cling naturally together in the fleece; also known as a "staple".
Lofty - "Full of life", springs back to normal position, very elastic, and bulky compared to its weight.
Luster - Natural gloss or sheen in a fleece; very desirable.
Open Fleece - Fewer fibers per square inch; opposite of dense.
Pelt - The skin of the sheep with wool still attached to the skin.
Pulled Wool - Wool removed from the skins of slaughtered sheep.
Purity - Refers to the absence of dark fibers, kemp or hair.
Quality - Refers to the degree of fineness.
Raw Wool - Grease wool in natural state before scouring.
Roving – A method of processing fiber into long ropes which eases spinning.
Scouring - The actual separation of dirt, grease, and vegetable matter from grease wool; usually this is done in a hot, mildly alkaline solution followed by a rinse.
Second Cuts - Short pieces of wool that result from the shearer clipping off the wool left from a previous stroke; these short fibers are what make a wool sweater or fabric “pill” – very undesirable.
Shrinkage - The weight raw wool loses when scoured, expressed as a percentage of the original weight.
Sorting - Most fleeces contain more than one grade of wool; as grading is the classification by fleece, sorting is the classification of wool within a fleece.
Soundness - Freedom of the fiber from breaks and tenderness; relates to strength.
Staple - (has two meanings) 1. The length of a lock of shorn wool. 2. The longest length wools within a grade.
Tender - Wool that is weak and breaks anywhere along the length of the fiber due to poor nutrition or sickness.
Top - A continuous strand of partially manufactured wool, which previously has been scoured, carded, and combed; an intermediate stage in the process of worsted yarn.
Virgin Wool - Wool that is used to make fabric for the first time; not reprocessed.
Woolen - Large amounts of shorter wools, such as noils, wool wastes and reworked wools are used in addition to virgin wool; woolen yarn is not combed, hence fibers lie in an uneven fashion.
Worsted - Longer length wool fibers that have not been processed before are made parallel during combing into a product called top, then spun into a worsted yarn.
Yield - Opposite of shrinkage; the percentage of clean wool fibers after scouring.
Yolk - The combined secretion of sebaceous (oil) and sudoriferous (sweat) glands in the skin.