Thursday, July 28, 2011

This is the way I wash my fleece.....wash my fleece....still washing fleece

Last week I downloaded and read my first ebook, Keeping Watch: 30 Sheep, 24 Rabbits, 2 Llamas, 1 Alpaca, and a Shepherdess with a Day Job Kathryn Sletto.  I was inthralled and very entertained by the book.  The author described her efforts to raise fiber animals and inspired me that I needed to wash and get to work on my Shetland fleece.  After reading about her Shetland sheep, I got to work on my little fleece.  It is too hot to do this work outside, which is my preference.  So I covered our dinning table and got to work.

First I spread out the fleece to take a look.  This fleece wasn't in a good solid piece so it was a little more complicated to locate areas which need to be removed.  Sometimes fleece are on piece and it is easy to see where the head, legs and bottom are located.  This fleece had been handled a lot when we had our spinning group fleece sale.



I skirted (removal of unusable, dirty, veggie matter and dung tags) a lot of it off.  New fleece processors (and I fell into this category not long ago) tend to want to save EVERYTHING.  But trust me remove the nasty bits - it just isn't worth trying to keep very dirty parts.

I scour fleece with two times - once more if it is really dirty and then do two rinses.  Each of these cycles is 15-20 minutes.  Set a timer, you do not want your water to go cold.  When the water cools the lanolin will resettle on the fleece and get even tackier.  I divide my fleece up into laundry mesh bags (available at Target, etc) 4-8 oz at a time.  This all depends on how big your tub is and your bag.
The easiest way I have found to wash fleece is to fill a bin with tap water - the hottest that comes out and add a squirt of Power Scour.  Be sure to remove the fleece before dumping the water and running the hot water again.  Agitation = felt.  I have washed fleece in the sink, but it isn't my preferred method.  

After the final rinse, I press out as much water as I can.  Then I take the bags outside and swing them around to fling out extra water (like a manual spin cycle).  I open the bags and the lay the fleece out to dry on sweater racks.  

You will learn what way works best for you.  Each spinner is a little different.  Remember people have been washing dirty fleece as long as they have been spinning them.  Our modern technology hasn't altered the process much.

Tips for new fleece buyers:
1. purchase a covered fleece.  Sheep that are coated have cleaner fleece.  Clean is relative however so you can expect some veggie matter.  
2. Purchase a skirted fleece.  It is just easier to not have to learn what to look for and remove dung tags.
3. I'd recommended started with a fleece with an approximate weight of 2-4 lbs
4. Personally, I'd avoid fine wools (merino, cormo, etc) as they have higher lanion levels and may be more challenging your first time out of the gate.
5. Don't over think the process.  If you can hand wash garments, you can hand wash a fleece.  

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