A wool roving is a piece of wool which has been combed, drawn into a clump, and then twisted slightly to hold the fibers together and to prepare them for spinning. Spinners who start with their own raw yarns can create rovings themselves, and they are also available commercially from companies which specialize in providing tools and supplies for spinners. In addition to being made from wool, rovings can also be made from cotton, silk, and other fibers which are used in the production of textiles.
To prepare a wool roving, the wool is combed to remove impurities, washed, carded to pull the fibers so that they are oriented in the same direction, and then gently twisted. Rovings can also be dyed; when yarn is dyed before it is spun, the color is deeper, and penetrates more fully. Rovings are generally around the length of a hand, and sometimes longer. The wool roving may also be looped back on itself to create a compact pile for storage.
When a wool roving is prepared, but not twisted, it is known as a sliver. Flattened rovings are known as batting. While rovings are generally used for spinning, they also have other uses; batting, for example, can be used to stuff things, and rovings can also be used to pad animal beds, or for various craft projects. Generally, rovings are very soft and fine, and they have a lofty, springy texture.
Some crafters like to spin their own yarns, but not to process wool from scratch, which is why it is possible to purchase prepared rovings from some wool companies. The advantage of homespun yarn is that the spinner can control the color, composition, width, and texture of the yarn. Some people also simply enjoy the spinning process, and the look of homespun yarn, which can vary from very smooth and even to more coarse and rough. It is also sometimes cheaper to spin one's own yarn.
People who want to learn to spin wool can sometimes take classes at colleges or art studios with textile departments, and it is also possible to apprentice with a skilled spinner. Learning to spin takes time, patience, and practice, but it can open up a whole new world of crafting for people who work with yarns. Many spinners learn the entire process for handling wool, from shearing to spinning finished yarn, although they may opt to start with a wool roving when they spin on their own, because wool processing is time consuming.