Yesterday I took the time to wash part of a fleece that I’d been given. Originally I’d bought a 1-lb bag of Lincoln fleece as a trial to see if I’d enjoy washing a fleece. I thought I’d blogged the process but apparently not. Anyhow, I followed the instructions on the Internet by Deb Robson One way to wash a fleece and for the most part the fleece did get washed but there were parts of it that weren’t so good so I wrote to the store owner who’d sold me the fleece to get his opinion on what went wrong and he very kindly sent out another pound of fleece along with a trial pack of Unicorn power scour, wash and rinse for free. Needless to say, moved by such generosity I had to order some sparkly gold Angelina, superwash BFL and some striped BFL (Blue-Faced Leicester) wool – lol, it was such a hardship.
The striped BFL is so soft I keep petting it every time I walk by. In fact given the cost of fleece and the labour involved one wonders why spinners process their own fleeces but I’m sure once I get into it I’ll find plenty of reasons. I have to admit there is something magical in taking a dirty hopeless looking matt of fiber and transforming it into a mass of pristine white fluffy goodness.
The store owner kindly split the pound into two lots so I have some Polworth which I washed yesterday and I have some brown English Leicester as well. I didn’t bother taking pictures of the process and now that I think of it I did take pictures the first time through with the Lincoln but since I’ve given you the link above I don’t think there is any point in putting the photos on since the link for the washing tutorial is brilliant.
These are the dirty tips of the fleece that didn’t wash out. The thing with washing wool is that you need very hot water to melt the lanolin off the wool. You also need soap to help loosen the dirt. If you start to agitate the wool then what happens is that you get a matted lump of fiber. So although I knew I had the dirty tips that weren’t washing out I didn’t do much with them for fear of felting the whole mass of fiber.
So trying to decide what to do about the tips I found another tutorial on youtube showing how to clean the dirty tips. Washing dirty fleece tips by Roo Bear
So I took some of the locks over to the sink and dunked them into the container of soapy water and then started brushing out the dirt from the ends of the locks. I then rinsed them and put them to dry. The locks actually take longer to dry than the stuff that was spun out in the washing machine. I did this with several locks before I realized it was going to take me all night to wash and rinse out the locks so I got to thinking what would be the difference between just waiting for the dirty tips to dry and then just brushing them out. I went to the forums on Ravelry and found out that this is what a lot of people do so I just left the whole lot and then later on while I was watching television I sat and combed out the remaining dirty tips of wool. There is a difference but not much. I think if I wanted pristine white then I might be anal enough to wash out each tip. Given that I’ve decided to dye this lot of locks I figured it wouldn’t make a difference in the appearance of the wool. I’ve also read that when carded you can’t tell any difference anyhow. You really have to look to see a difference but having said that I’m talking about this fleece and who knows; the next fleece could be quite different.
Finally I thought you might like to see the difference between the final combed locks up against the original raw fleece. Given the colour of the water in the washout I think the yellow in the raw fleece must be the lanolin.
Next time I post some fiber goodness I’ll put up a picture comparing the three different types of locks I have. The original Lincoln was really long locks. The Polworth was very short around 3 inches on average. I don’t know if that is normal or if I was given some shorter bits of the fleece. The English Leicester looks to be long as well so we’ll see.
Now that I think of it I want try dyeing the locks that I’ve just washed so I guess I’ll blog about that next.