Sheep are normally sheared once per year. In the course of the year the fleece picks up a great deal of dirt and other undesirable matter. In addition, the sheep secrete lanolin, which is also held in the fleece.
Scouring removes this undesirable material, which is a very large percentage (by weight) of greasy wool. Lanolin can comprise 10% of the weight, and vegetable matter and other debris as much as 40% or even 50% of the weight of raw wool.
Our first batches of greasy wool yielded about 53% clean fiber by weight, which means that 47% of the weight was not useful to us. More recent batches have yielded closer to 60%. The highest-yielding clip from the upcoming Batch 9 is estimated to yield 75%, which is the best yield (estimate) of any clip we've ever purchased.
Lanolin is an extremely useful by-product of the scouring, and is sold to cosmetics firms and lubricant makers, among others. But the other material scoured out of the fleece is waste.
Most companies that make garments buy their fabrics. And most companies that don't buy their fabrics will buy clean fiber. It's mostly only the largest names in the wool business that buy and process their own greasy wool. WeatherWool is quite unusual in that, even though we are a very small company, we source our fiber from the ranches ... and we source only the fiber that is the absolute best for our purposes. This approach costs a lot in calendar-time, effort and cash, but it's the only way to achieve our goal of the finest All-Purpose Outerwear.
After we purchase the wool from the Ranchers, scouring is the first step in the process to create Fabric.
Scouring -- preparing the wool to be spun into yarn is the critical initial step in our manufacturing process and Ladd Hughes, manager of the Bollman Scouring Plant in San Angelo, Texas, scoured our first few batches of wool. There are only two places in the USA that scour wool on a true commercial scale, and Chargeurs in South Carolina is the other.
Our wool is very specialized, expensive stuff, and we cannot have contamination from other lots of fiber. So, Ladd scoured our wool first thing on Monday morning, after the line has been thoroughly cleaned over the weekend, and before any other wool is processed. This timing ensured that no contaminating inferior fiber was present on the scouring line when our wool was cleaned. We paid extra for the special treatment, and we appreciate the extra effort. Thanks Ladd and Bollman!
Incidentally, the Bollman Family has an honored name in American business, going back to the Bollman Hat Company, founded in 1858 and still making hats. The folks running Bollman Hat Company also founded American Made Matters.
The bales typically weigh several hundred pounds each.
where it will be cleaned of debris and about 98% of the natural lanolin (oil).
As WeatherWool has grown, we have become large enough that we can work with Chargeurs USA, who has scouring equipment more compatible with fine, long-staple fiber, but who also has large minimum-size requirements for custom (separate batch) scouring.
27 July 2022 --- Ralph