I tend to see products for market along a “spectrum of saleability” with raw materials at one end and increasingly refined products at the other. Raw materials generally have a smaller market since they require further processing to make them useful. Very refined products also have a small market because they have so much value added that they are expensive and they may also have very specific uses. To have the greatest market appeal a product should be somewhere in the middle to keep the price down while having the greatest utility to the most people.
With wool, most people want the initial work of cleaning and carding done because that really is a lot of work without the right equipment. At that point your product is going to have more interest because many spinners don’t really like spinning wool “in the grease.” However, even spinners are really working towards yarn to make whatever they ultimately want to make. Getting the wool into yarn drastically increases potential customers, but your product is now on the cusp of getting kind of expensive for anything larger than socks, hats, and other small garments. A handmade sweater is fairly expensive even without putting a price on the time to make it. So perhaps yarn is the right point to stop processing ones raw wool and to put it in front of customers.
Despite these consideration, I really want cloth made from our own flock. I am not a knitter, although Lynda is a prolific one, and knitting is simply not the right approach for many items. I can see myself as a weaver, although that is currently on the long list of skills to acquire. Luckily, my work at the Battenkill Fibers Carding and Spinning Mill has put me in touch with Lilly Marsh, a weaver in Queensbury. We got a chance to visit Lilly and her husband Mike to see her workshop and to start to get a sense of direction towards our own cloth.
First of all, there is a hell of a lot more to know about weaving than the difference between warp and weft. Which of course is obvious, but I was surprised at the amount of variables there are to consider and just how much of a mechanical machine even a simple loom is. Essentially any piece of cloth is composed of threads that criss cross each other yet the possible variations are pretty much infinite. The truth is, I came away with more questions than answers and I feel like we have only dipped a toe into this field.
One detail I’m glad to know is that the right yarn can be used to create a variety of cloths. This is possible by having one type of yarn spun, keeping a portion as single ply, and then making double and triple plies from the rest. Through different combinations of warp and weft numbers and thread types we can make soft and comfy to rugged and hard wearing. Which is great since we would like to use our cloth to make garments, blankets, and bags.
The next step is sorting our wool clip into colors and types which is probably going to have to wait until warmer weather because that is bare finger work in a large area.