As promised, here is installment one on how to wash a fleece. Today’s focus is on using the washing machine. Yes. If you inherited a top load washer, you can wash a fleece in it! Carefully. Very carefully.
As you most likely know, fleeces felt with agitation. Therefore, it’s more soaking and rinsing a fleece in the washer than “washing” the fleece in the manner a that your lovely machine was designed for. Stay close. Watch it like a hawk, and every thing will be fine.
I personally prefer to wash fleeces with low vegetable matter, low lanolin, and low yuck factor this way. Also, I try to keep the fleece between two and five pounds. Over or under, and my mom’s washer tends to become unbalanced.
1. Fill tub with hot water and turn off machine.
2. Add your soap and swish lightly.
3. Submerge your wool and close the lid.
4. Wait about 30 minutes
5. Put your washer on spin – SKIP AGITATION!!
6. Fill with hot water and turn machine off. If you think your wool is still mucky or greasy go ahead and repeat steps two through five. If you’re happy let your wool soak in this rinse water.
7. Spin again
9. Place in a sunny spot laid out on a screen or on a rack to dry.
It’s not as scary as it sounds. Just remember that agitation is what causes felting. As long as you keep it to soaking and spinning you’ll be fine.
Welcome to the first installment of our series on spinning a raw fleece into scrumptious, yummy yarn. This week focusses on your WHY in the why prep your own fiber question. Next week will be on Why Fiber Prep Matters. The next three weeks will be the exploration of how to wash fiber. Yep. Three weeks of just washing before we get into the knitty gritty of how to prep the washed fiber for actual spinning. So hit the follow button, because this is going to be a long series with allot of info!
So, let’s start with WHY you might want to prep your own fiber for spinning. I began my own journey into fiber preparation for animal welfare issues. I also thought it was rather silly to buy roving imported from Australia and New Zealand when my own country is teaming with perfectly good wool sheep. I’m a huge believer in supporting my own economy as well as reducing pollution through my purchases. When I started learning about HOW animals are sometimes treated in the wool industry I decided the best thing to do was to find a shepherd or two, ask some questions, and make sure my dollars were adding to my personal integrity. Once I found a few local ladies who produce ethical wool, I purchased not one, but five small fleeces.
I’ve also found that the quality of my finished yarn is typically better than when I use commercial roving. I have a great deal of control with a fleece because I can sort out spine, dominant, and britch wool. Each category of wool has different qualities and uses. Even the skirting can produce a nice yarn with the correct prep. For me, this is a big WHY in my preference to prep my own fiber.
Many people think cost is a big why. This can, or cannot be true. Much of my highest quality wool sells for $30 a pound. The typical eight ounce bag of roving sells for $20. That’s only a ten dollar difference between the raw wool and the ready to spin commercial roving, and you still have to do work. However, you also might be able to pick up an entire fleece for $10 from a farmer who just wants to cover the cost of shearing. Heck, I’d pay in wool for someone to muck out my barn. There are options out there.
Finally, a big WHY for some people is that the actual process of prepping wool can be relaxing and enjoyable. I’m not saying washing wool is enjoyable for me. But the picking, carding, and combing is an enjoyable aspect of the process. Plus, taking a raw fleece that smells of sheep and barnyard and turning it into a gorgeous sweater yarn is a big reward.
What is your WHY? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.