Rhymes With Fuchsia

Friday, February 17, 2006

Fun With Fleece

A few months ago my friend Anne announced at knitting group that while exhibiting her utterly gorgeous felted bags she had fallen into conversation with the owner of surplus fleece, who proposed to give it away to anyone willing to go get it. Naturally I piled the entire family into the van and drove posthaste about an hour and a half into the wilds of central Massachusetts. Thus did I become the proud owner of eight trash bags containing about 40 pounds of raw Tunis sheep fleece.

This week I decided it was high time to address myself to it. I pulled out a random bag, took it inside, spread it out on the kitchen floor and began skirting. I found that it had been pretty well skirted already, being relatively free of mud and poop although full of vegetable matter.

My friend Roxie had given me the following advice about washing fleece:

Take the cleanest parts and pull them apart with your hands to sort of fluff and open the fibers. Separate one fleece into at least six separate piles (depending on the size of your tubs. Using a top-loading washer, I could manage a quarter of a small fleece.) Then lower them into a big tub full of the hottest water you can manage. If you pour the water onto the wool, it will felt slightly where the water agitates the fibers.

Cover with quilts and let sit till the water is cool. Lift the wool out to drain, wipe out the gunk, and repeat till you no longer find mud in the bottom of the tub. Then repeat using lots of Dawn dishwashing detergent.

So I did that, only I used a big Rubbermaid tub instead of a washer, on the theory that my washer might rebel if asked to deal with that much crud. The tub sat in my kitchen, snug under its quilt, the rest of the day and overnight. By yesterday morning it was cool, and I removed the fleece and emptied the tub. The water was quite dirty, but no dirt had settled to the bottom of the tub, so I proceeded to the detergent part, leaving that overnight as well. This morning I removed the fleece, rinsed it thoroughly, and hung it to dry.

It doesn't exactly look inspiring, does it? It is (trust me) 500 percent cleaner than when I began. I'm hoping the VM falls out during the carding.

Lessons learned so far:

  • I begin to understand why shepherding is not an occupation traditionally held in high esteem. Let's just say sheep are not heavy users of Irish Spring.
  • A big tub full of water and wool is heavy.
  • It's going to take me a really long time, not to mention several cases of Dawn, to work my way through 40 pounds of this stuff.

Anybody want some fleece?


  • The offer to come down and use the drum carder still stands, ya know.

    By Blogger Carole, at 12:41 PM  

  • It looks like nice, washed fleece, as in, just like the fleece some other poor woman I know washed up (come to think of it, Lynn still has my carding combs). I think it'll be deeply fabulous after carding. But I am, as you well know, the most deeply confused non-spinning spinner on the eastern seaboard.

    Your Olympic sweater rocks! I'm beginning to think mine is the product of some really deranged fantasy...then I look at Harlot's Hardangervidda and think, oh. She has yet to encounter the yoke patterning. I'm not as twisted as all that after all.

    By Blogger Liz, at 2:09 PM  

  • I can only take the blame/credit (?)for putting you in contact with the shepherd. However, I have no clue how to get it from the sheep into neat little balls with a dye lot printed on the label. Good luck, my thoughts are with you. As for knitting group, I feel for you and you know I'd rather have been with you.

    By Anonymous Anne, at 10:12 PM  

  • Um. No thanks. Full up on fleece here ;) Have you read the Harlots Ahzerbaijani (sp?) fleece incident? I think it's in maybe late November or early December. Very funny. Along the lines of the Irish Spring bit...Have fun with it.

    By Blogger Ann, at 8:56 AM  

  • The fleece looks great. I too am washing and carding my own bag of wool, but struggling to get all those little tiny pieces of hay out. I've gotten all the big chunks out, but have almost decided to just leave those teeny tiny little pieces in there, because I'm finding them impossible to remove. Maybe it adds to the character??

    By Blogger Jocele, at 12:16 PM  

  • You could always end it out to be processed, ya know. A lot less aggravating than washing 40 pounds yourself with just the rubbermaid tub.

    By Anonymous Lola Lee Beno, at 7:22 AM  

  • Yeah...hay and grass and crap doesn't so much "fall out." More like "sticks in there with tenacity and is nearly impossible to get rid of." Is there anyone who hasn't been tempted by the gift fleece? My willpower will be much stronger the next time around.

    By Blogger Ragnar, at 9:44 AM  

  • I too have been tempted by free fleece. I have 2 bags of llama fleece that need to be cleaned and I don't even have a spinning wheel. ACK. Whats a fiber-aholic to do?

    By Blogger krisknits2, at 8:40 PM  

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