Friday, December 4, 2015

Lucy's First Fleece - Part 2

I left Lucy's newly shorn fleece in its bag for a week or so while I gathered up courage to deal with it. I researched all the many ways of washing a raw fleece. Every web site that I visited had different advice for exactly how to clean the fleece. My initially simple flow chart had become rather convoluted and confusing by the time I closed my computer. 

The best advice of the lot was, "Enjoy the Process"
Unrolled, the fleece stretched across the table-tennis table in the sun room. Ideally a fleece should be skirted outdoors, but I needed to protect it from my dogs and the wind. 

It was enormous and a bit smelly. It smelled like sheep. A fleece is divided into different quality wool depending which part of the sheep it comes from. Obviously the worst fleece is closer to the legs and tail end of the sheep, while the longest, cleanest locks are around the shoulder area. 

 It was full of bits of black jacks, fine dried grass, mud, lanolin and even some sheep poop. 

I picked over a few locks of wool and left them soaking in a bucket for a week. All that happened was that the remaining black-jacks germinated. 

Overwhelmed, I directed my attention to my birthday-present Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel, still in pieces in its box. My son and husband enthusiastically joined me in Project Assembly. We spent an afternoon putting it together ... halfway. I decided to first wax the wood before it was set up. 

Then we left it for a week while I researched how to spin. I had already had two spinning lessons from the friend who sold me the wheel. The first lesson was fairly successful, but I was all thumbs for the second. Daunted by the idea of mastering my coordination, I turned my attention back to the dirty fleece. 

I gathered up some small sections of the dirtiest poor grade fleece and washed them as well as I could. It was inconsequential if I ruined it. I used hot soapy water and then clean warm water to rinse the locks. All the washing water went to the drought-stricken garden, so I only washed as much as I could fit into a bucket at a time. We all took turns carting buckets of water out to the rose bushes.

It is really easy to felt the locks of fleece together if you agitate them or change the temperature too quickly. So I was as gentle as possible. You can't spin felted wool. Once the washed fleece was dried it came up squeaky clean. I think, in my enthusiasm, I had scoured every last bit of lanolin out. Next time I wash fleece I will experiment with baby shampoo instead of dish washing detergent.

Look at the difference between dirty and clean fleece.
Even after washing, there are still black-jacks to be picked out, and a few stains.

I am working really slowly though the fleece. Picking out the vegetable matter is very time consuming, I unsuccessfully tried washing it out but it seems the only way to do it is the tedious way. If you happen to visit for a cup of tea, you may just find me picking tufts of wool while we chat. That's what comes from having a sheep who thinks she is a pig. 

Mooka and Huckleberry are quite content for me to take all the time in the world to wash the fleece piece by piece. 

... to be continued

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