Couple spins wool the old-fashioned way

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

A $1,500 men’s three-piece wool suits contains $15 worth of wool, a Corona sheep rancher says.

Lloyd Maness and his wife, Sue, talked about wool as part of the New Mexico Wool Growers Association during the first day of the 17th annual Ag Expo Tuesday at the Roosevelt County Fairgrounds. In the midst of the newest agriculture technology, the couple turned wool into thread the old-fashioned way — with foot-pedal-powered spinning wheels.

Lloyd, who took up spinning about 1 1/2 years ago, said he could spin two ounces of thread in three hours. It takes four ounces to make one sock.

“If you want to make your own socks, it’s a little time-consuming,” he said. “But you’re guaranteed quality instead of quantity.”

Sue said the family has about 300 fine-wool sheep. Lloyd said they sell most of the wool commercially but hold back a few fleeces for their own use.

To become clothes, Lloyd said, raw wool goes through a scouring process, which washes it and removes lanolin, the natural oil in wool. Then the wool is combed to get the fibers in line, and roving, which turns the wool into a light rope, follows.

After roving, Lloyd said, the wool is spun into thread or yarn. From there, industry may make it into clothes, carpet or yarn.

If people don’t process the wool commercially, they can choose how much lanolin to leave in the wool. The more lanolin in a wool product, Lloyd said, the more waterproof it is.

Wool can be dyed in the roving process, after spinning or as the finished product, he said. Commercially processed wool is dyed with chemicals, but hand dyers used various part of plants or “just about anything,” Lloyd said.

“Also, you can dye with Kool-Aid,” he continued.

Mix the punch with vinegar, add the wool and microwave five minutes on high.

The Maness family began spinning wool about 10 years ago.

Sue was the “wool grower on duty” at a display at the New Mexico State Fair in Albuquerque. She said she saw othe women spinning and wanted to learn, so she “started agitating for a wheel.”

“From there, would you believe that spinning wheels multiply like rabbits?” Sue said.

Spinning wheels require looms, which also multiply and have equipment that does the same, she continued.

Lloyd said the couple’s son spun with the first wheel for a time before Sue used it. After watching them for several years, Lloyd decided to join in.

“I just decided to do it,” he said.

With the thread the family makes, Sue weaves, crochets and knits. She makes blankets, shawls and pink ribbon caps for breast cancer patients.

“I make quite a bit,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoy it.”

Wool Fast Facts:

• One wool sock requires four ounces of wool.

• One men’s three-piece wool suit requires eight pounds of wool.

• One sheep can produce eight pounds of usable wool between shearings.

• Wool is waterproof when it contains lanolin.

• Wool is fire resistant.

• Wool is cool in the summer and warm in the winter because the fabric “breathes.”

• Wool clothes pull moisture away from the body and dries from the inside out.

• The only difference between today’s spinning wheels and those 1,500 to 2,000 years old is that today’s have a second foot pedal.

• The first spinning device was a “drop spindle,” which is a stick with a disc near one end. The user spins the wool by attaching it to the device, dropping the drop spindle and stretching the wool.

• There are three types of wool: fine, medium and coarse. Fine wool is used for clothes, while medium and coarse wool become carpet.

• There are 250 types of sheep in the world. Depending on the breed, they may be raised for wool, meat or both.

Source: Lloyd Maness of the New Mexico Wool Growers Association