The following is a response to a post by SnailSpirals, (Entry Feb 14, 2009) the original intention was to leave a comment on her blog, but it turned out a bit too long for a comment. I am posting it here. If you are a spinner and like to work with fine fleeces go over to her blog and read her entry first. Then come on over and read my response. As I wrote in response to her, the whole thing is in first person but I am too tired tonight to change it. Go on over read and come back.
Very interesting experiments, however, I think you are headed in the wrong direction. I agree that the primary cause of the problem was insufficient washing, namely the lanolin was not washed out entirely and the carder was set too fast and the carding cloth was to rough for the fleece, specially the Merino component of it. I have not worked with raw Merino fleeces but I have done so with Rambouillet. The saga was similar, lovely and expensive fleece turned into a pile of neps. What ends up happening is exactly what you described the fiber springs back on itself and forms the neps. There are two alternatives for salvaging the fiber: have it combed or pindrafted by the Zellingers the down side to this is that they require a minimum weight per order and with one fleece that is next to impossible. With mine, I went through a very similar process as you described and concluded that the best thing was to spin from the roving but drafting the neps as I went. The ones I was unable to draft I simply picked out. The resulting yarn was awful at first: curly beyond belief. I washed the skeins and put 1 lb weight on each skein hoping to get rid of the curl. As soon as the yarn was dry, I took the weights out and I had curly yarn again. You can see the yarn in this picture:
It is more noticeable in the green skein. The yarn sat undyed for ages, then I dyed it as you see in the picture and put it on the loom. I thought I was going to end up with some kind of textured fabric. Well surprise! The fabric came off the loom and I fulled in the washer a bit. You can see the results in this picture:
If you look at the blanket in detail there is not one nep to be found, and it lays nice and flat. The curls from the yarn are long gone. What is more interesting is that before I dyed it I knit a square and tried fulling it in the washer, it would not felt! I washed it with a load of jeans x several times, no fulling even. The only reason the blanket fulled so well is because the weft is alpaca wool blend. I think the Rambo did not full because the fiber and the yarn were washed over and over and over again with soda ash, ammonia, dish soap and as I recall one of those fancy fleece scouring soaps. Rambo as Merino tends to felt very easy because of the softness of the fiber. This one did not. I was tempted more than once during the two years I played with this fiber trying to come up with something to save it, to just throw it away. Am I glad I did not, this blanket is my husbands all time favorite. Give the spinning a try over stretching (drafting) and putting in a bit more twist than you would normally aim for. I think you will be surprised at the results.