What Shade of Red is Wool, Earns Worland Student National Recognition


Callie Klinghagen shows her agriscience project on wool and how the different grades take dye. Her project earned her a place at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, KY, last November.


Editor’s Note: A story about Callie Klinghagen’s research project first appeared in the Northern Wyoming Daily News, October 15, 2015. Additional information for our story was provided by Klinghagen and by FFA Advisor Grace Godfrey, Worland.


Thumbs-up to Callie Klinghagen, Worland High School student, who represented the Chief Washakie FFA chapter (Worland) at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, KY, last November.

Klinghagen, FFA chapter president, was interested in wool and how dye colors are affected by the different grades of wool. Her project — “What Shade of Red Are Ewe?!” — addressed how lanolin affects the dye process.

“I wanted to see if the lanolin would change the way the wool dyed,” she said.

Klinghagen obtained wool samples from the University of Wyoming Wool Laboratory for her test. She hypothesized that the wool that would do the best would be the ones with the most crimp (that is, wools graded as fine. To test her idea, she tested six different grades of wool.

“After the wool was washed and dried, I had to dye it,” Klinghagen said. “I followed the instructions on the dye and watched as the different grades received the dye very differently. When all the wool was finally dyed and dried, I washed it again, following the same procedure as before, to determine which grade of wool keeps its color best,” she said.

Klinghagen kept samples of each grade of wool at all the stages of the process to make accurate comparisons. At the end of the experiment, she concluded that the finer the grade of wool, the better it took and retained the dye.

In our grading system, the higher grades are those that have the most crimp in their fibers, she explained in her report. The grade is determined by the diameter of the wool fibers. The higher grades tend to have longer staple length and a smaller diameter. They are softer and more durable,” she noted.

Klinghagen explained that she had little knowledge of wool, its properties and benefits, before she began the project. “Since the beginning of time, people have been using wool because it is such a quality resource,” she wrote in her report. “Wool is great in clothing because it resists wrinkles, stains and changes in wear and shape. It is also flame resistant. It is great for all seasons because it creates a layer of air between the wool and the skin.”

In her report, Klinghagen noted that there are three wool grading systems used today — blood, numerical count and micron. The oldest is the blood, an English system, not commonly used any more. It is based on six grades — fine, 1/2 blood, 3/8th blood, 1/4 blood, low 1/4 blood, and common & braid. Fine wools are the fine and 1/2 blood, she explained. Medium wools are 3/8, 1/4 which include the crossbreed wools. The lowest of the blood grades are the long wools, or common & braid wools.

The numerical count system uses 14 numbers, from 36 (lowest, coarsest) to 80 (finest). This count is determined by counting how many hanks (560 yards) of yarn can be spun from a pound of wool. For example, the 72 count grade will yield 40,320 yards of yarn from a pound of wool.

The final and most intricate system is the micron system, which accurately measures the average diameter of the yarn. A micron is 1/25,000th of an inch; and the smaller the micron diameter, the finer the yarn. The fine grades have a micron count under 17.70 while the coarsest grades have a micron count over 40.20.

Klinghagen’s report details the steps she took and the equipment used to do the experiment.

“The interesting thing about the higher grades of wool — they were superior at all the steps along the way. “They were cleaner after the first wash, had vibrant color after dye, and also a vibrant color after the final wash. When the wool was laid out, it was very evident that the quality of the dye process progressed as the grades got higher.”