The sheep which provide the wool for Aragon Yarns are our own flock of Romneys, otherwise known as Kents, which is an ancient breed with its origins in Romney Marsh. Romney Marsh in an area in the south of Kent in South East England which juts out into the English channel.
It takes a shearer a couple of minutes to shear the sheep, using electric clippers similar to those the hairdresser uses. It takes a year for a sheep to grow a full fleece, and then each fibre is about 4 inches long. The wool fibres are of medium micron count (thickness) which means Romney is a very versatile wool. It also has a good lustre, which gives an attractive sheen to the yarn. The fleece weighs around 2kg from a 4-month old lamb and 4.5kg from a fully grown ewe. The fleeces are rolled up and put into large sacks called wool sheets, which take around 20 fleeces each.
The fleeces are then compressed into large square bales which weigh around 300kg, and sent to be washed. Wool straight from a sheep is very greasy as it contains high levels of lanolin, and is likely to also contain other matter like dirt, twigs and straw that has got caught up in the sheep's fleece. The process of washing is known as 'scouring'. Our fleeces are sent to Biella in northern Italy where they are carefully washed in spring water from the Alps. Once it is washed and dried, the wool is carded and combed so that all the fibres lie in the same direction. The wool is formed into a long sausage called a top or a sliver, and then spun into yarn.
Depending on the finish of the yarn required, the wool can be dyed at the top stage, or after it has been spun in the hank stage. The hanks are then wound into balls and labelled. Our colours are inspired by the farm, as you can see by their names.