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Making WoolyWire

September 13, 2014 , In: Fiber, Jewelry
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I am often asked about the creation of WoolyWire. What may on the surface seem like a simple product actually entails many steps, from processing raw fiber to final application on wire. My daughter Nellie Thomas – the creator of WoolyWire – describes the process. I think you will find it as fascinating as I do. ~ Karen Totten

Obtaining and Preparing Fiber

The first steps involve cleaning and preparing fiber.

Most of the fiber comes from wool, from sheep like the one in the photo below.  I obtain fleeces from fiber shows, and I also reserve fleeces every year from sheep that I know produce good wool. The ones I like to reserve are at Nistock Farms in Northern NY. My two reserved sheep are Pearl, a full-breed Cottswold, and Ash, cross-breed Cottswold / Border Leicester (I don’t have pictures of Pearl and Ash, but below is a picture of Duke from the same farm). When sheering time comes, I am guaranteed fleeces from my reserved sheep. I also use other fibers, like angelina, bamboo, and silk.

 

 
Fleeces ready to be processed.
 
 
 Once I have cleaned the fiber, I sort it and prepare it for dyeing. In addition to wool, I dye other fibers as well, such as bamboo and silk.
 

 

 

 
Next, I sort all my dyed work start assembling color and texture palettes. This is preparation for making an Art Batt…

 

Making a Art Batt

Here’s a picture of my drum carder; the fiber is placed either in the tray in which the smaller drum will pull the fiber onto the larger drum or the fiber can be placed directly onto the larger drum. Typically finer fibers such as angelina, bamboo, or silk will be placed directly on the larger drum:

This is the fiber gathered in preparation for making the batt; it is helpful to plan a color scheme ahead and have all of your fiber ready next to the carder:

Here is what the fiber looks like once I have it all on the drum carder; it is a lot like painting!

Here is what the batt looks like having just been taken off the carder:

Here is the batt being prepared to be rolled for neatness:

Finally, here is the batt in its final stage, ready for spinning:

 

Spinning WoolyWire

I don’t have a picture of the above batt made up into WoolyWire… but here is a different one I made and the Woolywire I spun from it:

 
 
My trusty spinning wheel… and my mom’s pup Casey. =)
 
 Next I felt the WoolyWire so that the fiber stays put on the wire. Then finally, comes cutting and packaging.  Lots of steps from sheep to final product, but so much fun to see the end result.  I especially love working with color. I hope you enjoyed this little behind-the-scenes glimpse of WoolyWire!

Nellie Thomas

Nellie Thomas is a fiber and jewelry Artist who has perfected and trademarked the technique of fiber-spun copper wire used for jewelry design, and developed the jewelry design component known as WoolyWire (tm). Her work has been used by talented designers the world over, and featured in numerous popular beading and jewelry making magazines. WoolyWire can be found at WoolyWireEtc.com and at LimaBeads.com.
  1. Reply

    I love WoolyWire, so I really enjoyed a glimpse into the process of making it. Thanks!

  2. Reply

    Oh, I never imagined such a long and laborious process behind the making of wooly wire, now I have new found respect fr it. Thanks for the insight

    • Alice
    • September 14, 2014
    Reply

    What a treat to see all the steps used in making woolywire! And how fun is it to know the exact sheep you are getting the wool from. Thanks so much for sharing this fascinating process with us.

  3. Reply

    Very interesting!! I absolutely love the fiber right out of the dye! Gorgeous!

  4. Reply

    That is really cool! I love all of the pretty colors and learning some about the process, so pretty!

  5. Reply

    Wow! That sure is a lot of fascinating steps! I love love WoolyWire!

  6. Reply

    I'm very impressed with the process used to make your whoolywire. It's such a unique material and I've often wondered how it was made. I guess it's time to add some to my hoard er collection of craft supplies!

  7. Reply

    Thank you so much for taking us through the design of WoolyWire. I have quite a bit of it that I have to admit to hoarding since I love the colors. I really need to break it out and start playing with it.

  8. Reply

    Thank you everyone for your lovely comments! – Karen and Nellie

  9. Reply

    thanks for sharing this process — what a wonderous thing!

  10. Reply

    Thanks for the tour! You have created a brilliant, beautiful product that adds a whole new artistic dimension to jewelry design! Love it!

  11. Reply

    How wonderfully amazing! Thanks for sharing a glimpse into your process!

  12. Reply

    I have definitely wondered how in the world this was done. Thank you for the "tour", I'm in awe!

  13. Reply

    I love the sneak peak behind your process Nellie and now appreciate my Wooly Wire even more!

  14. Reply

    This was so fascinating to read, Nellie! I like that you pointed out how painterly it is to combine the different colors in your batts. You have a great eye for color. I'll refer people to this post when they want to know about the WoolyWire in my designs.

  15. Reply

    Fascinating! I would love to follow Nellie around and watch her through the whole process!

    • Donna
    • September 16, 2014
    Reply

    Interesting, loved the process and the fiber is wonderful!

  16. Reply

    Thanks again, folks, for the nice comments. Glad you enjoyed the post! =) – Nellie

  17. Reply

    How fabulous to see this! I was already impressed by the two of you and your work, now I'm even more so! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to learn more about the WoolyWire story and process!

  18. Reply

    This is a wonderful post. I did not realize how much work went into it. Thank you. I have been intrigued by woolywire for a while now and I want to try it. I looked for it at bead and button but I did not find it. I should have wrote down where it was being sold from here but I did not.

    • Reply

      Hi Becky – we were not at Bead & Button, but were at Bead Fest. It's available online at WoolyWireEtc.etsy.com and at Lima Beads. 🙂

  19. Reply

    So COOL!!! I have always been fascinated with process since I was young. It gives me such a great feeling of understanding and appreciation. Thanks for sharing Karen and Nellie! Love how hands-on this is and how it IS like painting with fibers…

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