Sunday, 3 August 2014

Handspinning (Part 2 - Washing)


My first two fleeces arrived. One was a Shetland and one a Texel-Shetland cross. The Shetland was very soft compared to the Texel cross which had a much more coarse texture. I decided to process the Shetland first.

Dirty sheep!




The fleece came in a plastic bag which I was advised not to store it in. There was a definite odour of sheep although most of the vegetable matter had been skirted before postage.

Bath Time

I put the wool in a garment bag and washed with warm water and soap flakes. The first batch of water was incredibly murky. Repeated the wash and then rinsed a few times until the water ran clear squeezing the wool out between water changes but I shouldn't have done this. The less handling the better as I ended up with a fair bit of matted wool. Even after the bath I'd ended up picking two dead bugs out (eww) and loads of grass bits. 

The clean wool before combing

I have since read some other people's advice for washing and it involves a soak in cold water overnight, then washing with soap in a very hot water bath allowing it to cool to room temperature before removing by picking the corners of the bag up, letting the water drain, then chucking into the spin cycle on the washing machine. I noticed that most of the dirt dropped out on the cold overnight bath and that the water went quite a cloudy white on the second bath with soap water. Unfortunately my washer's spin cycle uses rinse water so I wasn't able to try that. 

The Shetland in a soap bath after an overnight soak

Since the Shetland matted quite easy and it seemed to get jumbled together in the mesh bag, I bought a plastic basket from a pound store and punched some holes in the bottom. I then laid the individual locks all facing the same direction into the basked and placed that in the bath. The holes let the dirt and water drain away and I found that the wool didn't matt this time. 


The basket helped keep the wool from matting

I also tried using Fairy liquid and Woolite on the subsequent washes instead of the soap flakes which seemed to leave a little bit of a residue. Either seemed to work well.


Smaug the Woolly sleeping atop his flaxen hoard

I suppose there is no one way to wash wool and I'll eventually find a way that works well for me and for the type of fleece being washed.

Next week I'll talk about combing and carding the wool ready for spinning. See you then.

- Miranda



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