The unique wool fashion of Imperial Yarn begins when our master shearers arrive on the ranch. Using electric shears, our experts can remove a fleece in one piece—and in only 3 to 4 minutes! Shearing takes place in the historic shearing shed located at the Imperial Stock Ranch headquarters.
Each individual fleece is carefully inspected, on a “skirting table” to classify the raw wool according to the diameter (fineness) and length of the fibers. Unusually dirty wool located on the belly or other areas is removed from the fleece. This skirting procedure prepares the fleece for custom milling.
Next the wool is washed in hot water with a mild detergent, removing grease, vegetable matter and dirt from the raw wool. Moving through a series of cleaning tubs, followed by clean-water rinses, the fleece is then dried. When wool is commercially processed, harsh chemicals or acids are often used during the scouring stage to rid the wool of all vegetable matter or debris. However, when wool is prepared by the hand-spinner or “custom milled”, as our wool is, no harsh chemicals are used. Not only are these methods more earth friendly, they also leave the wool in its naturally soft state. You may find a small amount of vegetable matter remaining in the fiber, which can be easily picked out during final use—during knitting, for example.
Our wool is dyed “in the locks,” or while still in the washing stage, to our very own set of color specifications. By dyeing the wool at this stage, we can take portions of various colors and blend those dyed fibers together during the next stage, called “carding.” This results in soft, uniquely blended colors.
Carding is a process during which wire rollers straighten out the fibers to prepare it to be spun. At this point, our various dyed fibers are blended to create the final Imperial Yarn color palette. The untangled wool fibers lie parallel and form a fine web of continuous strips or “slivers.” Carded wool is referred to as roving. Our 2 strand pencil roving can be used to knit just like other yarns and makes wonderful projects like our Leigh Radford Cravat or Evening Dusk Bolero. Sliver roving is used as fluffy, warm lining in various Imperial Yarn projects like our Thrum Slippers or Mittens.
The spinning process takes the roving and twists it into thread or yarn. Twisting the wool strands increases the strength of the yarn and creates the continuous, unbroken yarn necessary for weaving or knitting into cloth. The additional step of plying involves twisting multiple strands of spun fiber together, to create plied yarns (e.g. 2-ply or 3-ply).