Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Washing Raw Wool

Washing fleece is something I really enjoy. It is one of those tasks that I put off (as evidenced by the dozen or so languishing in our former dining room) but, once I get started, it makes me very happy to take a greasy, muddy mass of wool and turn into a clean, fresh smelling, soft pile is a true joy. Spinning wool that I've processed is about my favorite thing of all things involved in preparing wool and spinning.

Everybody has a different system and mine is no better and no worse. I use water that I heat on the stove until it is steaming. I use a combination of Dawn and Ecos for the wash cycles; I use vinegar in the first rinse and clear water in the last rinse. Thus, the wool gets soaked in at least 4 times. I add a third wash if the fleece is greasy and I'll do a pre-soak in cold water for a day or two if the fleece is extra muddy.

Here are some things that I don't do. I don't agitate the wool and in fact, I try to barely handle it. I don't buy a fleece that is full of hay or other chaff. I have been through my share of those and while satisfying, are a little more trouble that I care to deal with.  Last, I don't worry. I used to fret about felting. Well, I've felted wool a time or three but the since the sheep keep growing their wool.......there's always more to be had.

To get the excess water out of the lingerie bags that hold the wool during washing, I use Alden Amos' method of swinging the bag around and around. That gets the majority of the water out then, to the basement to dry (outside in warm weather). I did invest in salad spinner and I'll report on that after I use it. Spinning wet wool in New England winter weather is anything but pleasant.

Here a picture of some pretty CVM-Romeldale that I'm washing:


If you are just starting out, I'd suggest starting with something like Romney. Their wool tends to be low in grease and is pretty forgiving stuff. (Note: grease is  aka lanolin when discussing sheep fleece.)