Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Washing fleece

So, I guess I must start somewhere and what better place than at the beginning!

I really like making things from scratch and processing a raw fleece into yarn is an excellent example. Here's a picture of the dirty, sticky, odorous raw fleece fresh out of the box from which it came.

The fleece usually comes rolled up, so I first unroll it over a large tapestry or bed sheet and then pick off the nasty, dirty bits, which in this fleece there aren't many. All of that brown dust will come off during the washing process.

I like to preserve the lock structure of the fleece, so I carefully pull them off from the main fleece and begin stuffing them in some order into mesh sweater wash bags. I got these from Walmart. I like to stuff each mesh bag so that the locks don't move around too much in them.

I stuff 4 mesh bags, or about 2 lbs or so this way. When all the stuffing into mesh bags is done, I begin to fill up my top loading washing machine with hot water only. I have the machine set for large load.

Once the filling is done, I first stop the washer and then I add about 0.5 cup of Dawn Original concentrated liquid dish washing detergent to the tub and gently stir with a wooden spatula (designated for "wool only"). I try to avoid making bubbles as much as possible since they will prevent the wool from sinking.

After the detergent is thoroughly suspended in the water, I begin to add the mesh bags. I push them into the water with the wooden spatula until all bags are submerged, being careful not to agitate them too much. I close the lid of the washer and let the whole thing soak for ~30 minutes.

I then set the washer to drain and spin out. I remove the wool from the machine and refill it with hot water. This time I add only ~0.25-0.3 cup of Apple Blossom scented Dawn dish washing liquid detergent. I hate the smell of the Original stuff (which cleans better) and this last soap wash really gets the last bit of lanolin out. I place the bags back into the tub and soak for another 30 minutes, then drain and spin.

Lastly, I perform two 30 minute soaks with hot water (no agitation), draining and spinning in between. The water in the last soak will be clear. I place the mesh bags near my gas stove and let them dry for a couple of days.

I have not gotten any felting this way. Some people gradually lower the temperature of the rinse water to adjust for the room temperature in which the fleece sits while the tub is refilling. I do my washing in a pretty darn cold area (especially in the winter) and I do not change the water temperature of the last two rinses. I simply make sure not to move the mesh bags around too much while they are in the tub. I mostly process merinos and merino crosses and they hold up very well.

I hope this snippet on washing fleece is of help to someone. I learned from reading a lot of other people's blogs and books and, of course, by trial and error. The above has worked for me.

Next post will be about combing wool.


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