Wednesday, June 27, 2012

scouring fleece

True confession: before today, I had never washed a sheep fleece. From a spinner's perspective, this is akin to being a cook and never cracking an egg. I had managed to avoid it to date by paying the fiber mills to do it for me, mostly because I have done so much fleece handling that by the time it comes off the sheep that I really don't want anything more to do with it.

Plus there's the whole time issue.

Today I decided to bite the bullet, in preparation for yet another farm product. I read the wisdom of the internet until I couldn't procrastinate any longer, and then jumped in with some semi-junky fleece that it wouldn't be a problem if I ruined. Feel free to skip to the next post if you have no intentions of ever washing sheep fleece!


I filled my utility sink with HOT water (luckily the water out of our tap is 150 degrees F, the minimum needed for this project), Arm & Hammer laundry detergent and Dawn dishwashing liquid (about ¼ C of each), and then gently stirred before lowering in the fleece.

Everything I read suggested it would take about three or four pans of hot water. The fleece I had was so dirty that it took over ten; I must admit I lost count. I put laundry detergent in the first pan only; the remainder were either dish detergent or plain water until it was finally clean. I made sure the water was always very hot so that the lanolin would not congeal back onto the fleece.

When the water was almost clear, I put the fleece into my dedicated barn washing machine to spin out the excess water, then laid it outside to dry in a shady spot. What, you don't have a dedicated barn washing machine? Mine is our top loader that couldn't keep up with the family laundry any longer, but is still good for the occasional load of sheep coats.

The finished result is much fluffier and cleaner than when I started: still quite a bit of VM (hay chaff, etc.) though a lot less brown!

Onto step two, hopefully sometime next week, to try and remove more of that junk while getting it ready to spin. I will probably divide it into two color piles, because the difference between the two fleeces is much more obvious without all that dirt! When I started the project I thought it was from the same sheep, but obviously not.

1 comment:

  1. You can save a lot of washes by putting the fleece in a bucket of water and letting it soak overnight or longer. It loosens up so much gunk. The water after the soak is really gross...dump it on your plants. DON'T add any detergents to the soak...they might weaken your fiber with being exposed to them longer.