Making the Broadcloth

As soon as the fleece is sheared from the sheep, it is washed and picked clean of vegetable matter, and the fibres are slightly separated. The dyers then use their knowledge of local plants and lichen to turn it into a rainbow of colours. (Hence the expression "dyed in the wool", meaning something that is long-established.)   The dyed fleece is then combed or carded between two wooden paddles covered with coarse metal teeth, to detangle it and turn it into soft rolags. These short fluffy clouds of coloured fleece are fed one after another through the hands of the spinner as they are twisted by the spindle or spinning wheel and become yarn.   The yarn is wound around wooden pegs, or a niddy-noddy, to form a skein or continuous loop, so it cannot tangle up. It is then gently soaked in warm soapy water to remove any remaining dirt, and hung up to dry in the breeze.   Once dry, the weavers work their magic and turn it into broadcloth using the appropriate colours to create the desired pattern.   When the cloth is finished, it's still stiff and full of lanolin, the natural grease in sheep's fleece that makes it warm and waterproof. One of the benefits of woollen clothing: the fleece wicks moisture away from the skin whilst simultaneously keeping you warm - but the lanolin needs to be removed first.   Ammonia is used to break down the natural grease. It's readily available, since it's a key component of urine.   The cloth is soaked in stale urine, and then stretched out on a tenter frame, using hooks known as tenterhooks, to dry. Once dry, there is a final step to the preparation of the cloth, and it is a sacred one to these islanders: the Waulking of the Cloth.