Not only can they be raised for milk and as breeding animals, but they also produce some fibre. After a lot of deliberation, I decided that using the wool from my sheep for spinning (and fabric production) just wasn’t worth it.
I’d love to have the time to clean and spin wool to make my own usable fibre, but it’s just not something in the cards.
The first time we sheared our sheep, we were able to give the wool away to an aunt. This year, though, we had no takers – meaning we had to get creative and find some unique homestead uses for wool – that didn’t involve spinning it!
Here are some ways you can use the wool from your sheep so that you don’t have to let it go to waste.
Why You Might Not Want to Spin Wool (But Still Need to Shear) (But Still Need to Shear)
For a while, we wondered whether it would be possible to just avoid shearing our sheep. This way, we could avoid the added chore and clutter of excess wool. Unfortunately, for most flocks of sheep, that’s not a good idea.
There are some hair sheep that shed their fibre regularly, just like other types of animals. However, most sheep produce dense coats of wool that they are unable to shed.
Too much wool means a sheep cannot regulate its body temperatures as well. While some wool can act as insulation and help a sheep both cool and heat itself, too much wool causes problems.
Plus, when urine, faeces, and other debris get caught in the wool, it can attract flies and other pests. Bacterial loads can increase as well. This is why, before lambing, most individuals chose to shear their sheep, providing a more sanitary environment.
For our flock, or even most sheep, this does not generally apply. There are some breeds, however, which grow thick coats around their eyes. This can block their line of sight and make them more vulnerable to predator attacks or accidental injury.
The fact that spinning wool can be very cumbersome and time consuming, however important shearing your sheep is, still remains the fact of the matter. It then needs to be washed, carded, and processed once the wool has been separated from the sheep before you can convert it into useful yarn.
In the weeks before shearing, washing that wool becomes very difficult if you are not careful about keeping your sheep in a clean barn with completely sterile conditions. Even if your climate is immaculate, it’s still a long, drawn-out process to prepare wool.
The Classic Use: Wool for Garments Use
Applications for wool
Wool is traditionally obtained from sheep, or wool fleece, to be used in items such as garments and bedding. Wool has a texture and crimp that makes binding together easier for the fibres, making wool a material that is bulkier and more insulating than other fibres.
It has a high thermal tolerance, which ensures that it can be used in extremely hot and very cold climates for clothing worn by individuals. It is also more fire retardant than many parts.
Wool may also be made into felt, tweed, yarn, wool crepe, wool satin, and many other forms of cloth, depending on where it was picked from the flock, what kind of sheep it was from, and the nature of the fibre.
Wool is also used for items such as piano hammer covers, horse rugs, saddle cloth, padding, carpeting, upholstery, and more, in addition to clothing and bedding. It’s an environmentally friendly fibre that is used all over the globe.
Untraditional Wool Uses
Besides spinning, leftover wool also has many applications.
Remaining wool after shearing
Just because wool is flexible and ubiquitous, that doesn’t mean that to make the most of your supply, you need to use it in spinning! No, you can use it in other ways, and for those leftover bits drifting all over the place after shearing, these tricks are just as useful.
Here are some of this natural fibre’s other tricks and uses.
There are many businesses specialising in the manufacture of wool pads designed to mulch your garden. In order to benefit from the powers of wool, you don’t need to buy the costly pads, though.
Wrap wool around the trunks of your big plants or trees instead. It can prevent weeds while also helping to maintain soil moisture, because it has such great insulating properties.
- Isolation, insulation
In my neighbourhood, there are many Amish families who use wool as insulation. Even though most modern homes no longer use wool, before synthetic materials took their place, wool insulation was extremely common.
About why? It has outstanding thermal properties and can provide walls with an acoustic buffer as well.
There is a specific R-value of all insulation. This indicates its thermal resistance level. Wool has an excellent R-value rating because wool can easily absorb and then release moisture with ease. A side advantage of using wool as insulation is that while you instal it, it will not require you to wear any protective equipment either!
Uses for wool include furniture and pillows for filling
In carpeting, wool is often used, but can also be used on upholstery. In reality, many public transportation and aircraft industry companies use wool for their seat upholstery. Next time you are on an aeroplane, take a look!
In items like furniture stuffing and covers, wool can also be used. It’s used in everything from cushions to lampshades, wallpapers to curtains. Why not use it as filling in a throw pillow for the sofa if you are trying to find a way to repurpose your surplus wool on your homestead?
I can think of many DIY projects where a cheap filling would be welcomed, such as these DIY cat beds, an envious DIY daybed for those lazy Sundays, and projects for sewing.
Fertilizer is one of the best wool applications that you may not have heard of! It takes a while to break down, but it adds beneficial nutrients, including calcium and sodium, when you throw wool into the compost pile. It is around 9% nitrogen, 1% phosphate, and 2% potash, too.
When you think that most wool is probably still filthy if used for fertiliser, keep in mind that you can still add beneficial nutrients from the sheep droppings to your garden beds.
Two options are raised garden beds and a keyhole garden bed where additional ‘filling’ such as wool can be put to great use. They won’t just bulk up the area to be filled, but it adds nutrients to the soil when it breaks down.
- Treatment for Skin
One of the great uses of lanolin for wool is
Lanolin is one of the many by-products of raising sheep, including burn-free fertiliser (their poop!) and, of course, the sheer pleasure of the hobby, which you can’t miss. Lanolin is an oil that is produced by wool-bearing animals’ sebaceous glands. Lanolin, also known as wool wax or wool grease, is commonly harvested by manufacturers and used in different ointments.
Lanolin is, in fact, an excellent cure for moms who are breastfeeding and appear to suffer from sore and broken skin on their breasts.
- Reinforcement Brick
There is still research being done on this, but developers have found a way to render bricks even stronger using a mixture of seaweed and fur. This is an eco-friendly alternative that is not only healthier but also economical for the environment.
- Material for Cleaning
Uses for wool include its use as a spill washing rag
For unintended spills and messes, keep some wool on hand. You also know how absorbent wool is, which makes it incredibly easy to clean up even difficult messes, such as oil spills, by using wool.
- Material for Packing
Wool is lightweight and insulated, making it a perfect material for packing. If the wool you saved is reasonably clean from shearing your sheep, consider saving it to use the next time you send a box.
- The Firefight Perhaps this one does not apply to everyone, but it is worth noting. You may want to consider donating your wool if you know someone who is looking for fire retardant garments. All wool has a high degree of flame retardance, but merino wool is particularly effective. Currently, for firefighters’ uniforms, this material has long been the material of choice. Besides using wool for its flame retardancy, when it is exposed to high temperatures, wool does not shrink, melt, or stick to your skin. When it’s burned, it often doesn’t release toxic chemicals or smells into the air.
- Hügelkulturkultur : Hügelkultur is a gardening process in which you basically create a raised garden from the ground up. Before covering it with soil, you’ll add all kinds of “waste” material, including logs, branches, food scraps, manure, grass clippings, typically everything you would normally put into a compost pile, to the heap. The ‘waste’ inside the heap decomposes and releases nutrients, making the compost pile meet a fertile raised garden mound… well, meets awesome!
Uses for wool include throwing it into the construction of your hügelkultur-this is something I have achieved with great success. Connect some wool to the bottom of your bed with hügelkultur. You’ll find that, with very little effort on your part, it helps preserve moisture and builds fertility.
Plus, there is no need to clean it!
Benefits of Wool use
The wool around a homestead has many applications. Not only is this a natural, renewable resource, but it’s an automatic byproduct of your efforts if you’re already raising sheep. Shearing, when done right, does not harm sheep, contrary to common opinion. It is therefore also a humane fibre that you can grow at home yourself.
A perfect way to decrease your dependency on the outside world is to use wool. It’s not only biodegradable, but it’s also environmentally friendly. Wool is 100 percent renewable, unlike other fabrics like polyester, and has many uses outside of only giving you something to wear.
Why not give it a try if you’re not raising sheep yet? Even if it’s not your thing to spin and knit, you’re sure to find another use for this versatile material.