Whimsical and Homespun Art Creations with a Little Rural Living Thrown In

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cleaning a Shetland Fleece

After watching several "How to" videos on cleaning raw wool, I have two of Farmerboy's Shetland ewe fleeces washed.  The tension going into this project was edging towards high, since my experience has always been in felting wool... And I certainly did NOT want to see that for an outcome with these. 

Is my way the right way?  Or better yet, is there a right way?  All I can tell you is that happily the process below worked for me.  NO felting!! :)   

The following method works great for the Shetland fleeces.  If working with other breed's fleeces, a search of the internet may serve you well as some of the finer fleeces may felt with the slight agitation.  All breeds are different.

Here is the raw Shetland fleece from Lego.  The first task is to remove as much vegetation as possible and to "skirt" the fleece.  Skirting the fleece is removing any animal waste aka poop.  I was lucky.  The gentleman that sheers the sheep does a quick skirting prior to bagging.   The little pile to the top of the photo was all that I pulled off. :) 

UPDATE:  To make the cleaning process much more productive, I have purchased some large plastic tubs from a local hardware store.  I place a fleece in each tub and run cold water over the fleece until it is soaking.  It was amazing how much dirt comes out in the water.  The tub can be dumped and refilled to be dumped again prior to the next step.  The cold water will NOT felt the fleece. 

*NOTE*  I was in for a surprise on Lego's fleece.  Ever since I have known her, I thought she was a cream colored sheep. ;)

Here is a photo of my fancy processing equipment:   4 buckets, some original Dawn dishwashing liquid and rubber gloves.  Total cost was 7 bucks-- thanks to the local Dollar Store. ;)   All buckets are filled with my hottest tap water to help soften the lanolin for the Dawn to remove.  The first stop for a hunk of fleece is the bottom bucket that is mixed with a generous amount of Dawn.  The second bucket has a little Dawn mixed in.  The third and fourth buckets are a clear water rinse.  As long as the water in all the buckets are kept hot, the wool will not have a temperature change and felt.  In each soak, I would squeeze and rotate the wool in the bucket.  At the end of a soak, I would squeeze as much water out of the wool before depositing it into the next bucket. 

**If you notice a color change, that is because this photo was taken while washing Ariel's fur-- not Lego's.  ;)

Here was my surprise with Lego's fleece.  It is a beautiful white with blue gray and black.   I had to change the water in the buckets several times with her fleece.  The lanolin was so heavy and held the dirt so well that she appeared to be a completely different color. 

As you can see, I used an old clothes rack to hang the fleece outside.  The clothes pins came in handy to secure the fleece in the breeze.  Fortunately, the birds weren't taking an interest in the potential nest building materials! :)

Here is Ariel's fleece.  It is a lovely brown with a gauzy grey/white.  I am not sure if I will mix the colors in the roving or separate them.  It almost has a cobweb appearance to it while hanging. 
The next fleece will be Brick's.  His fleece is a wonderful cinnamon brown.   I will be anxious to see how it washes up.  Each fleece will get its own mesh laundry bag.  A cheap holder at $2 a piece.  They will be staying in them until I decide on a drum carder to process the wool with.   I must admit... I never thought doing the wash could be so much fun! :)