Tag Archives: sheep

I’m washing a fleece!

I’m not too sure what came over me, but I found a farmer not too far away who sells whole Zwartbles fleeces. So I bought one. I’m not too sure if I thought that all through totally. The fleece is sitting in our bathroom (no windows) for a while until I could get started, wrapped up in three garbage bags, still stinking! I don’t have a garage or garden, not even a balcony where I could leave it outside. So I better get started soon.

I started looking for info on how to wash the fleece, different people do it different ways, so I tried to find the one most suitable to me. I knew i had to do it in small batches. I don’t even have space to spread out the whole fleece for the skirting. I don’t have an American top-loading washing machine with vertically mounted drum, just a European front-loading horizontal mounted drum. So decided to scour the fleece in the bathtub. I didn’t know how fuzzy this is gonna be, so I make sweater bags out of thin muslin like Amelia suggests in Ask the Bellwether (great information on the page, you should bookmark it). Then I read a lot in Alden Amos’ Big Book of Handspinning. He recommends a bathtub, too. He says lots of water is important. He also tell you to move the fleece very very slow through the bathtub, up and down, to get the water stream slowly through all the fibres in the fleece. As for detergent I think I found somebody on Craftster recommend just plain Fairy dishwasher liquid, since it is the best for dissolving fat and also cleaning out the dirt.

I started by packing about 350g fleece into the one muslin-bag and put it into the hot water (about 125°F) with a good dash of green Fairy (quite a lot of fairy, added after the tub was filled a bit more than half, until the water appeared slightly green). Nothing happened at first, but when I started to slowly move the pack up and down the length of the tub (with a speed of about 40 seconds per tub length), all the dirt came out and I had diarrhea-brown water. I was quite surprised how much dirt was in the fleece, because when I picked those few handfuls out of the bag to put it into my muslin bag, I thought that I must be lucky because there was no VM and hardly any other visible dirt on it. Oh well. I emptied the tub, and filled it now with fresh water, hot enough to dissolve the lanolin and another good dash of Fairy. I added  put the fleece in again, let it sit for about five minutes, then super-slowly moved it up and down the tub 3-4 times (with a stick cause the water was too hot), pulled it out at the shallow end of the tub and let it sit on the rim to let it drip out a bit.
Then I filled the tub a third time, hot clear water only, no detergent, and rinsed the fleeces in clear water, again slowly moving the fleece up and down.
I put them into my washing machine for a quick spin and then spread them on my kitchen table (covered in layers of newspaper) to dry.

The locks feel nice, I only think that sheep had quite some dandruff. Most people say to throw a scurfy fleece away, but after they were completely dry and i shook the locks open a bit, lots of the dandruff came out. It only looks as if the dandruff is in the middle of the length of the lock and where the most dandruff sat there seems to be now a lighter and thinner spot. You can even see it on the photo. Oh well, I have no idea what that is and how bad it really is. I’ll see how much I can get out and if it is too crappy I can maybe use it for some felted  coasters or so.