The wool from the sheep in the area has always been treated as a waste product by the community. The Local Microenterprise Project has been experimenting with a new business idea to turn this waste product in an income-generating one. We have been working on refining the process for transforming the wool from dirty waste into a good quality, organic product for use in woollen garments and as a filler for the Hot Box Cookers (which in turn save on cooking fuel and save the forests!). The process is quite complicated and we are still assessing its viability for an appropriate micro-enterprise for our area. Thanks to the legendary Liesl of Bulungula Lodge fame we have gone a long way in the process although some refinements are still needed.


THE STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS FROM RAW TO SPUN WOOL:

Step1: Eish! These village sheep are dirty, dirty, dirty! The process starts with picking out twigs, seeds, faeces and big dry pieces of dirt.

Caked with dirt!

Picking out dirt, seeds, burrs, twigs....

Step 2: Soak for 3 hours in soapy water – just soaking, no rubbing as this will cause the wool to start felting and make it difficult to spin.

Soaking overnight

Step 3: Pour out the filthy dirty water, sort and remove any remaining twigs and pieces of caked dirt and soak in a fresh bath of soapy water for another 3 hours

Step 4: Soak in plain water overnight

Step 5: Sort and clean again and then lay the wool out to dry in a hammock for 3 days

Drying in a hammock

Step 6: More sorting and cleaning of any leftover dirt and bits. Then brushing (carding) with a metal-toothed comb

Nice, clean, organic wool!

Step 7: Hand Spinning into usable yarn with our home-made ‘spinning machine’ – cleverly designed by our resident inventor, JP van der Walt!

The spinning 'machine'

Spun Wool

Step 8: Dyeing – We are busy experimenting with a range of organic dyes: beetroot juice, ink berry (dark blue) and lichen moss (orange). Any tips/suggestions on how best to do this and other natural dyes to experiment with are welcome!