One of the people I met is Carolyn. She lives rather close to me and is a friend of Deb’s. BTW, Carolyn spins at the speed of light! Last Monday Deb and I went to Carolyn’s house for some fibery playtime. Deb wanted to know how to wash a fleece and I did too. I have several fleeces that I’ve had for many years that are very dirty and need to be washed but I’ve been afraid of washing – you know – wool felts and all. Carolyn looked at my dirty fleeces and asked how long I’d had them. She wasn’t impressed with the answer, apparently leaving fleeces dirty for well, maybe, 10 years is bad for them. Procrastination usually doesn’t pay. One of the fleeces was black and the opinion was that it might be good compost. Sigh.
Deb and Carolyn washed Deb’s llama fleece and I learned the technique that Carolyn uses. It worked and the fleece didn’t felt at all. First we spread it out and looked for how much crud was in it and tried to remove as much as possible. This one was very clean and didn’t need much work at all. Then, Carolyn filled her washer with hot water and added some detergent, if the fleece is very dirty use a little more. Carolyn is a seat of the pants kind of person so there are no absolutes here. Then she added the fleece and carefully poked it down into the water, left it to soak for a while and then set the washer to spin only and spun it out. The fleece was removed from the washer and the washer was filled again with hot water but no detergent. The fleece was put back in and soaked and spun out again. Repeat the process one more time for two rinses. If the fleece is very dirty she said you might need to do the wash process more times. The fleece then needed to be laid out to dry on a screen or something like it. Deb has carded some of the resulting cleaned fleece and said that it wasn’t felted at all.
So emboldened by this success I decided to try it on my own. What better fleece to experiment with than the potential compost fleece! If I failed, well, it would still be compost. My first mistake was to look at it and decide it was just too yucky a job to spread it out and remove the crud. I just threw it all into the hot water and tried not to gag. A sheep fleece smells, well, like sheep. And this one really smelled when it hit that hot water. I used a fair amount of Orvis and soaked it for about 15 minutes. When I spun it out, you should have seen the water. It was then that I discovered that I didn’t have a black fleece but a much lighter brown one. I did two more washes with detergent – I used tide in the last two washes, and I rinsed it twice. By the fifth time the water came out of the washer it was mostly clear. That was one dirty fleece. Every time I removed it from the washer I tried to pick some of the crud out of it. Even so when I laid it out to dry there were some nasty things still in it. I’ll leave it to your imagination what those were but the word begins with s. Gag, yuck, blech!! I can’t believe that way back in my youth I actually wanted to be a farmer’s wife!
One of the other things that Carolyn helped me with is to get over my fear of my drum carder. I have a Louet Junior. It’s a very small carder and I bought it because it was much cheaper than its bigger cousins. Drum carders are expensive. This one makes a batt that is kind of like a roving. It will take me a long time to card the fleece that I just washed. The fleece is carding fine but it has a lot of vegetable matter in it – straw and such. I don’t have the patience to pick it all out and carding isn’t meant to remove it. Some does come out as I card it but I’ll be left with wool that has more VM than I like. I’ll see how it looks when I spin some. Any ideas of what I can do with the resulting yarn. Maybe a wool rug? The fleece still might make it to the compost pile!