Part 3 – Clapdale Wool: Carding and combing

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’ve so far written about the background to our project, gathering the wool and the scouring (cleaning) process during which our 573kgs of raw wool became 346kgs of scoured wool. We ‘lost’ 227kg which was mostly organic matter – soil, muck, dirt, flora and fauna!

Now this clean wool is taken to the next factory in Yorkshire to have the fibres aligned by carding and combing.

Carding and combing (and gilling)

Carding and combing takes the tangled mass of scoured wool and does two important things – aligning the fibres so the wool can be spun and removing further impurities or short fibres.

For Clapdale wool we are producing a ‘worsted’ spun yarn which has the fibres more aligned than the alternative ‘woollen’ spun yarn where some fibres stick out of the yarn for a much more woolly or ‘fluffy’ yarn. As Clapdale wool uses fleeces from reasonably coarse Northern sheep breeds, worsted spinning will make the most of the fibres and create a softer yarn than woollen spinning would. If you can imagine a single strand of wool fibre, the side of this wool running along your skin is softer than the end of it poking at your skin – obviously just one strand of wool fibre you would hardly feel, but with many strands of wool, the more aligned they are the softer it will feel.

Using worsted spinning means that the wool tops we supply – the end result of the carding and combing process, like very big balls of wool – need to be sufficiently carded and the fibres aligned so that the spinner can create the required worsted yarn.

Carding is the first stage which separates the fibres into a very thin sheet, just like a spider’s web, and just as delicate. This is done by carding machines with wire teeth and rollers to create the ‘carded sliver’ of wool.

A fine wool ‘spiders web’ is created by the carding machine

Combing as the name suggest combs this carded sliver to align the fibres. Together with ‘gilling’ – blending together of the carded slivers – these processes put these fibres together many times over, whilst also straightening the fibres and removing any remaining bits of dirt or short, broken hairs (the ‘noil’ – see below). By the end of the process, you’ve got a strong and durable wool top.

Combing and gilling wool
Combing and gilling condenses the wool even further


The waste produced by the carding process created 39kg of ‘noil’ – mainly shorter fibres that are unsuitable in the final wool tops. Our total weight of wool is now down to 300kg from 573kgs at the beginning which is what will go on to the spinners.

The noil is not wasted though. We fitted it into the back of our car (just about while leaving in the baby’s car seat!) and are using it for a variety of purposes – stuffing cushions, giving to our local craft group for needle felting and other projects, and we’ve even had a request from a customer making viking reenactment shield padding for some scoured wool .

Wool tops go for spinning

We now have ‘wool tops’ with shorter fibres removed as well as additional impurities, these go on to the nearby spinner which you can follow in Part 4.

blog edwith carded top
Edward Sexton proudly holding up the finished Clapdale Wool top, created by the carding and combing process prior to spinning


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 3 – Clapdale Wool: Carding and combing