Part 2 – Clapdale Wool: Scouring, the cleaning process

Using 100% British Wool yarn and tweed has been an important part of our business since we began 35 years ago and we’re proud to manufacture all our jumpers right here in Britain.

However we’ve always wanted to go that step further, and so in 2021 following a grant from the Yorkshire Dales National Park we launched our Clapdale Wool Project. This innovative project will use wool sourced within 5 miles of Glencroft’s warehouse, paying farmers more for their fleeces than they currently get. We’ll use all the breeds on these fields – Dalesbred, Teeswater, Texel and Blue Faced Leicester – to produce a wool that directly relates to the local area. We also hope to kickstart a circular economy for wool, with 10% of profits fed directly back to local farmers.

We wrote about the background to our project and gathering wool fleece from our local farmers in Part 1 – Making Jumpers From Our Local Yorkshire Sheep. We finished that blog post with the wool sitting in the top floor of our stable warehouse, having been weighed and the farmer’s reimbursed at a decent rate per KG. The story continues…

Scouring – An overview

The first step in the processing of wool from the fleece that’s come off the sheep’s back is ‘scouring’, cleaning the wool of all the organic matter (soil, grass and poo!) as well as removing oils such as lanolin.

unscoured greasy wool
Our wool fleeces before scouring with a generous helping of leaves, mud and sheep poo

The high percentage of lanolin in raw fleece is why it’s often referred to as ‘greasy wool’ before it’s scoured. Wool will always maintain some natural oils, but you don’t need the percentage that is in the greasy wool, indeed if there’s too much oil still in the final yarn it struggles to go through some commercial knitting machines.

All this organic matter and natural oil will have been included when we weighed the raw fleece and paid the farmers. This is why during the scouring process you also ‘lose’ a percentage of the weight – it’s lost as organic matter and oil that is removed.

In fact it’s not ‘lost’ or discarded at all, the scouring plant sells or recycles all this waste, some of it going to fertilizer, some even to animal feeds.
Woolmark have a great page in more technical detail about the scouring process.

Scouring in bulk

We have collected 571kg of wool for this pilot project. We deliberately sourced over 500kg of raw wool as this is the minimum the commercial scourer we wanted to use – Haworth Scouring – would accept. We were keen to use Haworth as they were based in Bradford, West Yorkshire which keeps the journey local, and being a massive commercial operation capable of 1000 tonnes per week, the scouring costs work out as reasonable as possible. We also hope to increase the volume of wool we process in future years (to 3-5 tonnes) and so working with a large commercial scourer is essential for the ongoing commercial success of our venture.

This was not our first visit to Haworth Scouring as we had a tour with British Wool a few years ago which you can see in the below video. Much of the 100% British Wool we already use in our knitwear is also scoured at Haworth Scouring by different yarn manufacturers. (This video includes their carding and combing business, which we didn’t use – that’ll be in part 3!)

Loading the van and taking the wool to Bradford

Moving over 500kg of raw fleece is no easy task! We had previously rebagged the fleece into 30-50kg sacks, recycling our old sheepskin sacks in the process, as seen in part 1, and stored it upstairs in our stable barn.

Luckily our stable barn still has the old upstairs hay door, are you thinking what we’re thinking? Yep, that’s right, we lobbed the bales out to the road below, where we carried them over to our van hired for the day.

It turns out that the capacity of a long wheel based van is about 570kgs of wool, well if you leave a bit of space to move around in it.

Van full of bales of wool

It’s 40 miles to Haworth Scouring from Clapham. We dropped the 15 bales out of our van and a skilled forklift operator whisked them away, first to the scales where they were weighed in, and then onto storage in preparation for fitting them in for scouring as single lot.

The wool is scoured as a single lot, which means the wool from our 15 bales goes through the scouring plant together, getting mixed up along the way. However there is also no one else’s wool going through the scouring plant at the same time, so we know the final output is just our own wool.

This is why there is a minimum quantity of 500kg, as you can imagine in a big plant like this it’s just not practical to process less than this amount.

The technical bits

In order to pay the farmers the right amount we split the five breeds and cross breeds we were using (Teeswater, Dalesbred, Mule & Texel, Blue Faced Leicester) into different bales and weighed them. We could then ensure the farmers received the right payment for the wool they provided.

Clapdale Wool, Lot 1

Bale   Number Weight (KGs) Breed / Our   reference
1 43.85 Texel & Mules
2 47.55 Texel & Mules
3 37.4 Texel & Mules
4 33.05 Texel & Mules
5 46.45 Texel & Mules
6 38.75 Texel & Mules
7 43.35 Texel & Mules
8 36.3 Texel & Mules
9 41.3 Texel & Mules
10 38.85 Texel & Mules
11 47.7 Blue Faced Leicester
12 15.25 Texel & Mules
13 48.2 Teeswater
14 38.25 Dalesbred
15 39.65 Dalesbred
Total 595.9

Haworth Scouring produce documentation that follows this wool through their process to a final dispatch note telling us how much wool we have been left with.

Scouring documentation
Before and After Wool Weight

From a start weight of 573kgs greasy wool we ended up with 346.8kgs of scoured wool. That’s 60.5% left, with 39.5% of the weight lost as oil and organic matter. It sounds a lot to lose but this is about the average loss when scouring British Wool and what we had allowed for in our calculations.

This final 346.80kg will be collected by the company doing the next stage of our process – carding and combing. Read about that in Part 3!

Next steps

Follow the journey across our series of blog posts about this unique traceable wool project, from the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.


Part 2 – Clapdale Wool: Scouring, the cleaning process