Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fleece Washing Day

It's raining out, I've hurt my leg and can't drive (beyond the critical MD visits etc) or spin, I've combed all of the fleece I had been spinning when I left off at the end of last week before hurting myself, so the best thing to do is start washing the fleeces I bought at MDSW this weekend.

Starting off with a small (3.5) very well-skirted, fairly short but gorgeous white Border Leicester fleece.  Here is the sales slip with all the details (okay, you really don't care but for me to include this is a major step towards actually keeping track of what I have from whom! and in this case it actually matters, according to this the shepherd is an unlisted MSBA member, so if I were to make something from this and choose to enter it at next year's MDSW skein & garment competition, it counts as Maryland wool, which has special awards and categories, but ONLY if I have kept a record for myself that it is indeed Maryland wool).

And here is step one (after some basic picking-over and double-checking):  soaking to get out all the suint (sheep sweat) and mud:

Yes, it's a bunch of wool in tepid water in a utility sink.  But to some of us it's magic.

Okay, a few hours later I came back and drained the filthy water out.  Then I refilled the tub (this fleece was very well behaved, I was able to just shove it to the far side from the tap) with water as hot as I can run it.  If I were washing a fine wool fleece, more prone to felting and more full of lanolin, I wouldn't do this and I would also add even hotter water from my coffee urn to bring the temp up higher than the 120F my water heater is set at.  I add Unicorn Power Scour (or if I'm out of that, blue original Dawn dish soap).
Filling the sink with the hot water
Added the scouring agent

Can you see how red my hand is from the hot water?  Smarter fleece scourers use rubber gloves...

If you find stained sections (I don't know if you can see the green in these, probably left over from breeding marking) or areas that are still just filthy or discolored or damaged, just pick them out and discard them.

Close up
After a few minutes, it's time to move the fleece aside and drain it well again.  Don't let it sit in the water cooling, the lanolin will just re-deposit on the wool.  Refill the tub immediately again with hot water for a rinse; I add 1/4 C vinegar as I find it really improves the hand and removes any residual stickiness or gumminess.  I didn't bother taking another photo at that point because it would just be again a sink full of fleece in water, though.  
I let this sit and cool completely for a few hours, to room temperature.  

Next, I drained it all out and then put it in the washer on "spin" only.  And now it's drying:

A little VM still there but essentially clean!

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