Hand Dyed merino wool roving in a braid

About Wool Top, Roving, Batts & Rolags

Tops, Sliver or Roving?

hand dyed merino wool roving braided in a stack of 3

Many people are confused by these terms – What’s the difference?

Roving, Tops, Rolags and Batts, 

blue hand dyed merino wool carded batt for felting and spinning

Some of the terminology we use in felting and spinning world can be a little confusing to say the least! With influences from other countries and terminology morphing and changing over the years, it's no wonder lots of people are confused.   

So I will try to explain what some of these mean and how to make or use them. Some terms we interchange like top and roving although these are two different things that are often seen as the same.


Hand Made Wool Top

These have been hand made from raw fleece where the fibres washed and are combed through wool combs which look a bit like giant hair combs and all done by hand. The fibres are all aligned in the same direction and there is very little air in between. Dedicated spinners will make their own top and spin a worsted style yarn with it. 


Commercial Wool Top

4 stacks of braided hand dyed merino wool tops in various colours for felting and spinning

These are all done by a machine in a wool processing mill. The large commercial machines will do all the hard work for us including the washing and re-align the fibres in one direction and remove most of the short fibres as well. When we say wool top we mean the fibres have already been washed/scoured, carded then combed into one long length ready to spin, dye or felt with. This is how my hand dyed wool top is made. These are the same wool top that I use for all of my wet felting and spinning.

Tops are combed preparations, where the fibres are parallel and short fibres and rubbish are removed. The result is a long strand, without twist, from which a commercial worsted yarn would be spun. This is the ‘top’ quality preparation. 


Wool roving

Wool roving is actually wool that has been through a mill on a carding machine and some of the fibres have not been re aligned. Sounds like its the same as wool top? The difference is that they are more fluffy and when you spin with roving you will get a fuzzy style of yarn. An easy way to remember is wool top are nice and uniform and smooth, real roving are fluffy and fuzzy.

Roving is a long, even strand of carded fibres which have been drawn out, then slightly twisted. It can be spun as is into a soft, thick yarn, or drawn out further as it is spun. In a roving, the fibres are facing different directions and have different lengths.

The terms Roving and Top are often interchanged.



Rolags are fun! they are made on a blending board or hand carders. They are great if you want to blend small amounts of fibres together for your spinning and felting. All you need to do is lay out thin layers of fibres on the blending board in long stripes and when it is full roll them off from one end usually using 2 square long sticks to roll and pull them off. They resemble batts but are much smaller.



(not slyver) is a carded preparation which is gathered together off the last drum of the carding machine into a long strand, without twist. It still contains any short fibres, as these are not removed in the carding process and the fibres are mostly parallel.



Wool Batts

Batts are made on a carding machine, a lot of people have a hand crank portable carder to make them at home. The fibre is fed into the carder via the feed in tray and is wound or cranked and is fed onto a drum with tines all over it.  Red merino wool batt for spinning and felting | Sally Ridgway | buy wool for felting onlineThe little tines or teeth will separate the fibres and blend them with what ever you feed in next. Batts are one of the best things for art yarns because they are big fluffy and usually full of lots of different luxury fibres like Mulberry silk etc.If you have access to a carder, I strongly recommend having some fun with it. Gently spread out your fibres along the feed in tray and start winding the handle. 


Raw Fleece

Raw fleece is just that, raw, straight of the sheep's back. Some small specialist wool growers will supply raw fleece for spinners. A good raw fleece suitable to be spun in the grease (un washed) should be very well skirted to remove any short cuts or those areas around the bellies, crutch and underarms. A fleece with lots of bits of rubbish, twigs and other vegetable matter in it should be left. Raw fleece can be carefully washed by hand before spinning or felting if preferred. This image is from the 2019 Campbell Town Show.


Wool Locks

Tasmanian English Leicester Lamb Locks Raw Fleece 100 grams| English Leicester Wool Tops | Sally Ridgway | Shop Wool, Felt and Fibre Online

Wool locks are fun as well. They are the cute little curls that some breeds are known for. They make wonderful and interesting yarn when spun and can also add texture and detail to felting. I generally use Tasmanian English Leicester Lamb Locks which I hand dye for my art yarns and art batts. 

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