Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fleece Prep

I bought two bags of fleece at the Iowa Sheep and Wool this past June.  Today I am finally getting a chance to start cleaning them.  I'm starting with the bag that is from a sheep that is a 3/4 BFL, 1/4 Romney cross.  I got it from Lamb Lane Farm.  It has a really nice crimp to it and a nice staple length.

To start, I scrubbed my sink really well and put a kettle of water on to boil.  To prep fleece you need really hot water, hotter than most home water heaters are set for.  I got out my dish soap, (Dawn dragon fruit scented) and filled the sink with hot water and a generous squeeze of Dawn.  It is a good idea to add the soap after the sink is full of hot water, that way you don't get mountains of suds.

Really clean sink and Dawn dishwashing detergent

There really is no need for this pic, I just really like my stove.

Hot water and Dawn, add the soap after the sink is filled to prevent lots of sudsing.
I added the boiling water after I filled the sink 2/3 of the way with hot tap water and soap.  This helped mix the soap well without making it suds a lot.

Then I added the fleece.  I have 3.25lbs in this particular bag so I divided it into four equalish portions.  I will process the fleece in 2 batches.  The fleece floats a bit because the lanolin in it doesn't allow the fleece to become waterlogged fast so I pushed the fleece into the water gently.  You need to handle a wet fleece carefully so it doesn't felt.  Then I let the fleece sit in the water for about 45min.  You don't want to let the water become cold though or the lanolin can settle back into the fleece.  Wool needs 3 things to felt, lubrication, agitation, and heat.  The water and soap act as a lubricant and the water is very hot so if you manipulate the fleece to much during this stage you can felt it easily.  I just gave it a gentle push under the water and left it alone. 

Fleece floating due to the lanolin.

After soaking for 45min, the water and fleece are the same color.

At the end of 45min I very gently took the fleece out of the water, let most of the water drain out of the fleece and put it in a bucket.  Then I started a new kettle of water while I dealt with the next stage which is spinning the water out of the fleece.  For this part I put the fleece in my washing machine and set it to drain/spin.  Since the washing machine doesn't add any more water in this phase and the fleece cools quickly I don't have to worry about it felting.

Wet fleece right from the sink.

Getting ready to spin the water out.

Spun out and fluffier.
Spinning out the fleece can be skipped but it is a very easy way to get most of the dirty water out of the fleece.  You need to soak the fleece in hot soapy water at least 3 times so the more dirty water you can get out of it between soakings the more effective each soaking will be.

While this batch of fleece was spinning out I set the other batch to soak.  Then I put the second batch in to spin and soaked the first batch for the second time.  This time the fleece sank into the water almost all by itself because a good portion of the lanolin was gone.

Second soaking, see how much cleaner the fleece is already?
After the second soaking I will spin it out and give it a third soaking.  Then I will evaluate the fleece and see if it needs any more soap soaks.  When it is as clean as I think it will come I will soak it in hot water rinses with no soap.  It will get 3 or 4 of those, spinning out the fleece each time to get the soap out.  Then I will set it to dry on sweater racks in my shower that no one uses.  It's a convenient place because it has a drain and a shower door that I can shut to keep my dogs away from the fleece.  Animal fibers are just way to much temptation for them.

When the fleece is clean and dry I will measure it to see how much weight the fleece lost with the lanolin gone.  That information isn't terribly useful, I'm just curious to see how much lanolin weighs.  I will be sure to let you know incase anyone is curious like I am.

1 comment:

  1. Wow ! Congratulations, it seems to be a gorgeous fleece ! Mine are very very dirty and full of VM...
    Thank you so much for the photos : it gives good advices and show how to proceed !