The unique wool fashion of Imperial Yarn begins with shearing. Shearing takes in early spring. Using electric shears, the expert shearers carefully remove the fleece of each sheep, which comes off in one piece, ready to toss onto the skirting table.
Each individual fleece is carefully inspected on a “skirting table,” where unusually dirty wool located on the belly or other areas is removed, and the wool is "classed or graded" according to the diameter (fineness) and length of the fibers. The wool is baled by grade for shipping.
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. These methods are earth friendly, involving no harsh chemicals, leaving the wool in its naturally soft state. Imperial Yarn also "cards and combs" the wool prior to spinning, which helps remove any remaining vegetable matter from the wool fibers.
The wool is dyed prior to spinning in most of our woolen spun yarns. This allows us to take various colors and blend them together during the next stage, resulting in soft and uniquely blended custom heather colors. For most of our worsted spun yarns, the dyeing happens once the fibers have been spun to yarn.
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, prior to spinning, is referred to as roving.
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).