I am fortunate to live close to the Canadian Co-operative Woolgrowers in Carleton Place, Ontario. A few times a year I make the short drive to the co-op to pick out some fleeces. They are housed in an old stone building which is bitingly cold in the winter. When you enter you can see bags and bags of wool, more wool than you can imagine being in one place.
The co-operative grades and markets close to 3 million pounds of raw wool each year. That’s a lot of wool. Each of the three general classes of wool (fine, medium and coarse) are sold wherever the best prices are available. Much of it goes to China. Most of the wool at the co-op is dirty, full of hay, seeds and other stuff that comes from living in a field and never brushing your hair all year. But the wool sorters keep promising fleeces aside for hand spinners and this is what I have come to see.
The wool is divided into bins for coarse, medium and fine. Fleeces are just tossed into the bins and require persistence to extract. I have been known to climb into a bin to root around and find the best wool. Sometimes you can find a treasure there; sometimes there is nothing really good.
Prices are bargain basement ranging from three to five dollars a pound if you are buying less than 50 pounds of wool at a time. If you really like wool and buy a minimum of 500 pounds the price decreases to two to three dollars fifty per pound. I don’t expect to ever need that much wool.
The last time I visited the woolgrowers in March I came home with 21 pounds of wool including a 10 pound very black fleece that I am guessing is some kind of down breed cross, a seven pound grey fleece of similar heritage and a few pounds of a lovely fine white fleece.