Kristi Langhus with fleece

Kristi Langhus of the Argyle Fiber Mill inspects a fleece for cleanliness.

ARGYLE, Wis. -- Processing fiber involves a number of steps at Argyle Fiber Mill. The process starts with weighing fleeces. Next comes removing vegetable matter and manure from the fleeces. Fleeces are then washed in 175 degree Fahrenheit water with a citrus-based soap to cut natural lanolin and oils.

Depending on the breed of sheep, as much as 25 percent of the weight of a fleece will be unusable, said Kristi Langhus of Argyle Fiber Mill. She weighs each fleece again before placing it on racks to dry, generally for about 36 hours.

The fleece is then put through a picker machine that opens locks of wool and fluffs the fleece. The machine blows that fleece into a closet where it can be blended with other fibers.

Fleeces are then reconditioned with a synthetic lubricant to reduce static and help fibers stick together for spinning into yarn.

Coarse hairs are separated from fleece in a fiber separator along with any remaining vegetable matter. Short or poor-quality fibers that can’t be used in yarn are used as mulch or for use in pet beds.

“We’re Norwegian; we don’t waste much,” Langhus said with a smile.

Fleeces are then fed through a carding machine, which combs the wool and aligns strands of fiber for the production of roving or batts. Rovings can be processed into yarn or bagged loose.

Rovings pass through a drawframe for blending and lengthening. The fiber is then ready for the spinning machine, which twists the roving into yarn. Single strands of fiber are created on the spinner and can be of varying thicknesses. They can be plied together to various ply yarn.

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Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin.