Wool roving generally refers to wool fiber that has been processed but not yet spun into yarn. It is used on a spinning wheel to create yarn. Wool roving is sometimes called spinning fiber or top. There are many forms, colors, styles of roving available for sale by craft and hobby shops. All of the roving processing styles aim to organize the fibers so they are all aligned the same way for use on a spinning wheel or commercial yarn spinning machine.
Commercially processed wool roving comes from Peru, South America, Australia, New Zealand. These geographic areas are great for wool production because of the wide open land availability. Most commercially processed wool roving comes in a thick rope like form about 1-3 inches thick and is wrapped in a tight ball called a bump. Bumps are generally 22lbs-30lbs for easy handling by craft and spinning shops. This style of roving is put through an acid bath to remove any vegetation and then combed before carding and then drafted into thick fluffy roving.
Locally processed wool is usually worked in small batches and is less refined. Often the combing process is skipped and the wool is processed on a drum carder and the end product is a small batt or rolag. This batt or rolag is generally 1-8 ounces and 10-12 inches wide depending on fiber density and wool type. A strip is then peeled off for spinning on a wheel or felting. A drum carder is a fiber straightening device that has 2 to 3 drums with thousands of tines or teeth on each drum. Drum carders for personal or hobby use usually just have 2 drums where industrial carders can have dozens of drums and are quite large. At Paradise Fibers we love American wool like Potluck Roving which comes from Ferndale, WA and is locally grown, processed and dyed.
At Paradise we have commercially processed roving as well as locally hand processed wools in our wool shop. Ashland Bay is one of the largest distributors of hobby fibers and wool roving in the US and offers dyed roving in solid and multi colors. These dyed fibers come in standard merino which is very popular for felting artists and spinning.
The best wool roving for felting is Carded Corriedale Wool Roving. Corriedale is a medium coarse wool with 3-4 inch staple length and is more reasonably priced than Merino. The Carded wool roving preparation allows more variety of staple length to remain in the wool and is less costly to process since it is not combed. Also the carded wools are typically very popular for learning to spin on a drop spindle of spinning wheel as the variety of long and short staples encourages to fiber to grab each other more frequently and is more forgiving to spin. Most wool will felt but Corriedale wool roving felts better than most other wool breeds and thus is very popular with needle felting artists.
Pencil Roving or pin-drafted roving is another preperation that is less popular and often found at specialty wool shops. Pencil roving is much thinner than standard commercial roving and typically around a half inch thick. Louet northern lights pencil roving is a popular wool pencil roving that is multi-colored and great for spinning into thinner style yarns on a wheel or drop spindle.