Sunday, April 25, 2010

Washing a wool fleece

Let's talk washing a wool fleece.  Buy a big container of Dawn Dish Detergent and have several large containers such as buckets ready to go.
Step 1. Skirt fleece.  Remove the dirty, matted wool, around the bottom of the fleece.  Also remove the belly wool, it is usually thin and has alot of vegetable matter (vm).  Around the neck and the nasty manure tags and yellowed area on the butt should also be removed.  If you have lots of burrs or stick tights, remove as many as you can or if very heavily contaminated fleece, remove fleece.  (It hurts to toss all this wool but if you don't you will end up contaminating your whole fleece....skirt it now or pay for it later!
Step 2.  Sort your fleece.  Sometimes the wool is courser on the hips of the sheep and finer on the upper shoulders, just  separate and put the finer wool in nylon bags and the courser wool in different nylon bags.  You can see the bags that I use.  They are zippered bags that I found at Walmart in the laundry section.
I then fill large tubs (I set up my sinks) or 5 gal buckets with rain water or clean soft water and I put in some Dawn Dish soap.  I then lay the wool on the water and force under the water, just don't agitate...that causes felting.  I usually let this wool sit in these buckets or sinks for a day or over night.  Warning...the water usually turns a brown and stinks.

This is what I use for my skirting table, 2 frames with wire and clamped together with skirted fleece in between and let a strong breeze blow out some of the vm and second cuts.  This frame is laid on top of 2 saw horses to make a sorting table.  Second cuts will fall through.

My next step is to raise the sacks of wool out of the water if in buckets or I drain the wash tubs and on nice days I hang them on the clothes line to drain but I also have an old washer that I use to spin the bags, NEVER WASH or AGITATE wool in a washer.
Now I am ready to put the wool in very hot soapy water , again just let the wool in the bags submerge in the hot water.  (the water has to be almost a boiling temp in order to break down the lanolin that is on the wool.  If this lanolin is not removed now, the wool will get gummy in time....and it is almost impossible to remove this stickiness and the fleece and all of your hard work is lost.  Let the wool set in the hot soapy water for about 30 minutes and again drain.  I put it back in the old washer and just spin it.  If the water is still dirty looking, I put the sacks back in hot soapy water and let it set again until the water is almost clean looking.  Drain again and this time I take it out to the table and take the wool out of the bags and shake and fluff the wool...vm will fall out, then I put it back into the bags and submerge the sacks in clean rinse warm water with a 1/2 c. vinegar.  If the water looks pretty clear, I spin it again and take it out of the bags and shake and fluffy and lay it back on my sorting table that I have sprayed off and cleaned before putting the freshly washed fleece on it.  I often pick up the wool, turn it, and fluff it up and pick out any vm that I can see while the fleece drys.
I store my wool with a small sack of lavendar in the container, but I really don't like to let the wool sit very long.  I either sell it or spin it into yarn or send it to a processor to have them to spin it into yarn.  Letting wool sit around is a good way to get a bad case of moths, insects, and any other varmits.  When I know a fleece is very dry, I do put it in large plastic containers...I lift the lids frequently to be sure it is not collecting moisture or if I put my hands in and play with the wool and they come out shiny like they have oil on them, I wash the wool asap to remove that lanolin.  Some sheep have lots of lanolin in their fleeces and sometimes it is necessary to wash more than once but remember that these fleeces are usually finer wool  and these wools felt very easily, so handle or agitate as little as possible.

1 comment:

  1. I love how you let Mother Nature help with the work - she can do great things but sometimes here the wind will carry your work to the next state...


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