Washing a Shetland Fleece

Last Friday I received my shipment of fleece from Bob and Vickie. They are a couple I met in a group on Ravelry – Raspberry Hollow’s Mohair and Wool appreciation society group and as the name suggests it’s a bunch of like-minded people who appreciate all things mohair and wool. Bob and Vickie raise mohair goats and different breeds of sheep to sell the fleeces to spinners. They can be found at Vickie’s Raspberry Hollow if you care to look.

Anyhow I had reserved a shetland fleece from a little ewe called Monkey and another fleece from an ewe called Sis. Today I finished washing Monkey’s fleece and thought I’d show some photos of the process. First off however are a couple of pictures of a sampler yarn that I spun in the grease. One of the ladies I know on Ravelry suggested I try spinning in the grease so I did just to say I had. Some things I found about spinning in the grease were:

1. You can spin a very fine single, this is because the lanolin in the wool helps to hold the fibres together so it’s easy to get down to a fine yarn.
2. Because I wasn’t really worried about the fibres drifting apart I found it easier to spin a bit faster.
3. It’s easy to overspin especially when plying. I found because the fibres stuck together I didn’t have a good grasp on how tightly I was plying. I’m sure it’s just a case of practise but a tip was given to me that if you ply in the grease then having a small bowl of water to dip the ply in to clean it would help the spinner to see what was happening.
4. Dirty wool is kind of gross but that’s my own personal opinion. It was kind of neat to spin in the grease but that feeling was offset by the ugh factor.

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Greasy hands from lanolin on wool.

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Single on the bobbin.

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Plied yarn.

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Comparison of washed yarn and fleece, some people have said that it’s hard to wash out all the dirt and lanolin so I thought I’d do a comparison.

Next up are a series of photos of the fleece being washed.

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Rolling the locks into a piece of tulle.

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Set up on the bed.

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Spreading apart the tips. This fleece was a coated fleece so very clean and I found that by spreading the tips the Power Scour did a better job of cleaning the lanolin off of them. Time consuming but worth it because the tips got clean the first time around.

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Three puffy tubes of wool pinned shut with stainless safety pins.

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Wool settling in to soak in a container of very hot water with a squirt of Unicorn Power Scour.

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Foaming action of the Power Scour, this stuff does a really good job of cleaning with no suds.

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Rinsing the wool.

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Fibres with lots of crimp.

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Different part of fleece and different crimp.

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Locks drying on a rack.

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What two and a half pounds of wool looks like on the bed, notice the kleenex at the foot of the bed. In the middle of that is the waste I had, two turfs of wool that had some seeds and then other bits of seeds and alfalfa.

The fleece was a coated fleece and you pay more for that but when I washed it I kept marvelling over how clean the wool was and how easy it was to get the lanolin out of it. I dont’ think there was any dirt in the tub just residue from the grease. I’ll have to see how Sis’s fleece washes up as I have the blanketed portion plus the uncovered bits as well but I’ll save that for another day.

The one thing I found interesting about this fleece is that it isn’t strictly white there are some grey parts of fleece in there. Some of it looks grey and some of it is white with black hairs so it looks grey. I’ll have to see how it spins up. Other parts of the fleece are white. I found teasing apart the tips of the locks time consuming but it let me see the different parts of the fleece close up. I’d read that a fleece isn’t the same all over and spinners will sort through a fleece to get similar locks of wool to spin for a project. That was certainly true for this fleece, parts of it were more coarse and other parts finer. Then there were the different shades of of the fleece as well. I’m going to have to go through and sort out all the like bits and then decide what to spin.

Post Edit: Something I was reading tonight in the forums is the fact that sheep live in the barn and as such can be exposed to parasites, bacteria, poop etc you get the idea so it’s a good idea not to wash your fleece in the same area that you prepare your food and eat, just a thought. Gloves might be a good idea as well, definitely not spinning in the grease any more. Also got told tonight that pouring disolved lanolin down the drain is bad for the pipes because it’s a grease and could clog them so I guess it’s washing the fleece outside now for me.

I’m just blogging about my experience not saying it’s the correct way to do things so anyone reading this do your research. Hmm, did I just print a disclaimer, yeah I think I did.

Karen

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2 responses to “Washing a Shetland Fleece

  1. Great post! I love seeing other peoples work processes to see how they vary from mine. I don’t tend to open out the fleece lock by lock to wash it. I simply skirt mine, and take off the stuff I don’t want on it. I then simply toss big handfuls of the fleece into tubs of soap, then rinse, etc. I’ve not tried drying mine on a flat rack either, I really should get some of those. I use a couple of clothes horses in the yard. I can’t wait for summer again when I can get my fleece washing done. It dries so quickly in the hot sun. (When we get hot sun here that is!)
    I don’t think I have tried spinning in the grease, mainly due to the ‘ugh’ factor :p I might try it though, just to see what it is like.

  2. I think only this fleece worked for opening it lock by lock. The next fleece I looked at is different and there is no way I’m going to be able to do that. Like you I’ll probably just wash handsfuls of it and try to keep the lock formation.

    As for spinning in the grease I’d advice you to wash your hands afterwards and make sure you don’t touch your face with your hands as we don’t know what’s actually on the fleece. I make sure I wash my hand well each time I touch fleece, might use gloves next time.

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