I recently posted a video on Instagram of me conditioning some clean picked wool prior to starting to card the wool. This post garnered a lot of questions about why I do this and what the conditioner I use is. I thought I would dive in a little deeper here.
First the why? When processing wool static can start to build up between the fibers. This static will cause issues during carding (and spinning) and not allow the fibers to process as well. During the dry summer and winter days this becomes more of an issue. Conditioning the fiber is a way to combat that static. In addition it adds a little moisture back into the wool just like when we condition our own hair.
Now the what? At the mill I use a specific type of commercially processed conditioner. Have no fear, prior to owning the mill I did condition my fibers as need and wanted to let you know you can do this as well. I scoured (no pun intended) through all of my wool books and confirmed that the easiest at home recipe for carding oil is a 50/50 ratio of olive oil and water. Mix it up and add to a spray bottle so you have it on hand. Give it a good shake before you start to use it each time and be sure to have the nozzle set to mist.
And finally the how?
My best advice is to play with the conditioning oil as needed. If it is a dry season you may want to automatically condition the wool prior to starting to card or comb it. You can do this by having your squirt bottle on the mist setting and lightly misting the wool. I generally fluff the wool a bit after spraying to disperse the oil. Then let is sit for an hour or so to absorb. The wool will absorb the oil! Then resume processing.
You can also lightly mist as you go along. The only issue with that is that the wool may feel a little damp.
My best advice is make the mix up and do some experimenting to see what will work well in your climate!
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill. I create hand spinning fibers from locally sourced wool and teach others online how to hand spin their own yarn.