Well I’ve been busy and have finally gotten all of my raw fleece washed. I’d finished up the Shetland in the previous blog and then started in on some Polwarth and a Border Leicester x Wensley cross. We won’t go there about the Polwarth but I did take a lot of photos of the beautiful Bl x Wensley fleece I received from Vickie at Vickie’s Raspberry Hollow. This was the second fleece I’d recieved from them and it was a beauty.
I’d bought the whole fleece, the blanketed portion and the unblanketed portion. I wanted to make an Aran sweater and had no clue how much I needed so ended up buying about 7 pounds of raw fleece. I think it’s an over-kill but better safe than sorry. For the blanketed portion of the fleece I used the same method shown in the previous post about the Shetland fleece. I arranged locks in the tulle bags and cleaned them using power scour. Here’s a couple of pictures of the locks arranged in rows on the bed where they are finishing up drying. I also have a full duffle and knapsack full of just locks. I was going to take a picture of them piled on the bed but turns out I’m too lazy to take them out of the bags and then stuff them back in.
Washing and combing the unblanketed portion of the fleece.
This section of the fleece was much dirtier than the blanketed portion, which you’d expect. There was a lot more VM as well but not too much (unlike the unmentioned Polwarth).
This mass of fibre collects at the back of the comb. You have the fibre loaded in the one comb and you hold this in the one hand while making passes with the second empty comb. You’re basically transferring the wool from one comb to the other. While this is happening you are straightening out the fibres so each pass gets easier and the gnarls and chaff will get stuck and collect at the back of the comb that the wool is being transferred to. Enough passes will collect most of the VM, I found three worked for me.
A diz usually has many holes in it. You use the size of hole according to what size of roving you want to spin from. The largest hole on this diz is for blending fibres off a hackle. The brass is nice and smooth so the fibre doesn’t get caught up on it and the metal won’t crack from having the wool tugged through it. The motion you use for pulling the fibre through the diz is to hold the wool behind the diz and pull back about 2-3 inches (depending on the fibre length), stop pull the lengthened wool through the diz, grab hold of the new roving behind the diz and pull again. You keep repeating this until all the wool on the comb is used up.
Waste wool from combing about 1/3 of a garbage bag filled. I know some might try to recomb this to get even more roving of shorter fibres but given how much wool I have (locks in duffle) I can’t be bothered. This stuff has a lot of nepps and chaff as well so not worth the effort to me.
So what I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks of washing wool is you basically get what you pay for. The unblanketed stuff is cheaper but it’s dirtier and has more vegetable matter in it. A lot of the dirt is going down the drain with the lanolin and because it’s got VM in it you have to comb it to get the stuff out so you end up losing a lot of fibre. I paid more for the blanketed portion but what I got were clean locks that I can spin from without losing any fibre to combing. I could probably drum card these as well although seeing as how long they are it’d be fiddly but I cleaned the blanketed Shetland and didn’t loose any to waste and that can definitely go on the drum carder no problem. I really think it’s worth it to spend more money per pound for a blanketed fleece because in the long run you don’t loose as much fibre and you save time, dare I even say it works out cheaper?
I have yet to spin the combed fibre but I’m hoping it’ll be as nice as I’ve heard it is otherwise why clean and comb my own because as far as I’m concerned it’s cheaper to buy roving by the pound rather than wash my own. Now having said that I guess it depends on where you get your fleece and how much it costs but labour has to figure in there as well. Anyhow it’s been interesting.