Explaining the difference between core wool, carded batts and roving

Cleaned Dorset Horn core wool
Close up of washed and scoured core wool

As a beginner to needle felting back in 2012, I really struggled in those early days because I was confused by all the different types of wool that are available.

Different breeds of sheep, different processes that the wool goes through, different needles to use.... a bit overwhelming!

So in this blog, I shall describe the different wool processes to enable you to confidently choose the best wool for your project.

I mostly make 3D animals so my experience lays there, so if making 3D shapes is what you are wanting to achieve, then read on.

Dorset Horn cleaned core wool
Core wool from a Dorset Horn breed of sheep.

This was a fleece that I bought raw (it had been skirted, so the dirty soiled edges of the fleece had been removed) and it was reasonably VM free (VM is the abbreviated term for vegetation matter).

I washed it, (which is quite a labour of love!) and hung it out to dry in the sunshine. It was light and fluffy when it arrived in the post and remained so.

This fleece was easy to process and I was left with core wool, which is essentially a lump of washed fleece. It's lumpy, stringy and great for stuffing into nylon tights for building up body or other 3D shapes. It's also the cheapest way to buy wool. You could card and dye it from here if you wanted to do that for yourself.

The next stage from core wool, are carded batts. Carded batts are what you get when the washed and cleaned wool is run through a drum roller. Woollen mills do this on a grand scale. When the wool is put through a drum it sorts the fibres out a little so they still lay in a criss cross fashion so they aren't all bunched up and lumpy.

Carded batts are brilliant for building up 3d shapes. You could even use it as a base to wet felt as the fibres are short and open which lends itself well to binding to itself and other fibres.

Carded batts come in natural wool shades and also in dyed colours depending on where you purchase your wool from. They are great for building up shapes as it felts so readily saving hours of poking at wool rovings (merino rovings being the worst due to the long silky fibres!).

They are also tame enough to wrap wire armatures too, something that would be quite a challenge using core wool. If you want to go one step further though for ease of use, try the carded sliver...

Carded slivers are taken off the drum in slim lengths as opposed to great big sheets like the carded batts. The batt is passed through a piece of equipment with a small hole which gives you a long length of fibre known as a sliver.

Slivers are great because they are in manageable lengths and it's easier to pull off

long thins strips to wrap armatures (wire skeletons/frames used for larger pieces of work). They still have the same lofty, criss crossed short fibres that make working with batts so easy, and depending on where you purchase them, they come in a range of colours and amounts.

You can use them to build up the main body of your work and then blend them together with other colours to create different shades, or just use them in the colours they come in to add a top coat to the batting. However, don't get slivers confused with roving or tops. These are heading back into difficult territory!

Wool roving or tops have been processed further so the fibres are laying in the same direction. This can make them trickier to use building up body shapes as the felting needles work more efficiently if the wool fibres are crossing over each other in different directions. You can use them to build up your projects and rovings are easier to source to buy, but they are more challenging to use.

A lot of sellers will sell you multi -packs of beautifully coloured Merino wool (sometimes in tiny amounts that are of no real use) which are fantastic for adding as a top coat for furry animals or for wet felting, weaving and

spinning, but for the beginner trying to create a small 2D project it is not much fun at all! Merino is so soft and silky and quite fine when it has been processed into rovings or tops as they are sometimes known. If you want to use Merino, go back to carded Merino batts which are easier to use.

So, I hope that helps explain what you are looking for when you purchase wool to needle felt with. To summarise, use carded batts or slivers because the fibres will bind together more readily and quickly. This will give you a more pleasing result and give you confidence to keep practising your new found hobby and develop your skills.

If this has inspired you to try carded batts and slivers, you can purchase a range of colours from my online shop https://www.thewoollyrabbit.co.uk/shop

If you'd like more useful hints and tips like this, just sign up to my newsletter and receive these tips straight to your inbox!

Who am I?

I’m Elaine, and I started The Woolly Rabbit to help, inspire and encourage others to learn the relaxing and rewarding skill of needle felting.

Starting with needle felting workshops in 2018, I began to design needle felting kits and quickly grew an online shop selling felting wool, needles and other needle felting bits and bobs,

There are helpful videos and free tutorials available on my YouTube channel and a blog that answers commonly asked questions. I hope you enjoy following the video tutorials and maybe even join me in a workshop someday. In the meantime, enjoy your felting, enjoy the process, experiment and try not to stab your fingers!

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