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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Tutorial on Washing Stubbornly Dirty Wool Fleece Locks ~ Polwarth

Since my quilting and fine art stations aren't set up in my studio yet, I began a wool experiment to try and get some stubborn grease and dirt laden Polwarth locks clean.  My first try at these locks, using a new system (I will share in another post) for cleaning Shetland, was mediocre at best for these overly grease ridden locks.  I needed to find a less intrusive way to clean the locks, since Polwarth is a fine breed and can be relied on to felt when it gets agitated.
After reading several articles, I decided to try a lock by lock method.  It is said to work well with many of the fine greasy wool breeds:  Cormo, Merino, Polwarth etc. .  After my last bout with the fleece, I was ready to throw it away as bad.  Maybe, I let it set to long.  (It was a fleece from last year.)  So with nothing to loose and throwing basic knowledge to the wind, here is my scouring experiment.
Necessary items:
Two cups.  I used the cups from my liquid Tide containers... making sure the residue of detergent was all gone! 

A tea kettle.  This requires the hottest of water.  Got to melt the lanolin fast!

Original Dawn.  The newer versions of Dawn will damage the wool fibers.  The upside, Dawn original can be bought super cheap at the DG.  :)

Some dirty Polwarth locks.  These were bought and shipped from England in 2016 and left to sit in a sealed pillowcase in the garage all winter.  I honestly thought they were unsalvageable.

Now let's get cleaning!  Fill the cups up with hot water directly from the tea kettle (Keep the tea kettle warming at all times.  Add water as needed to keep the process moving along.)  and add a squirt of Dawn to give the water a blue tint.

 How do you like my orange gloves?  Orange is my favorite color.  I vow to have a Mini Cooper some day in this color... *sigh* ;)  Sorry, back to the topic.    The water is really hot, and you will be working in close proximity to it... Use the heavier gloves!  The lighter latex gloves for my Shetland method will not work. 

As you can see, I fanned the dirty tip thinking it would aid in the cleaning process.  With another lock, I left the grungy tip in tact.  Neither lock cleaned faster than the other.  So additional prep work -- not worth the time!

This girl cannot handle a camera and swish, so trust me on this one. ;)  Hold the lock like in the above photo.  Swish the end in the first cup.  (If you have crusty cruddy tips like my locks, hold it in the water a few seconds before swishing to loosen the pasty lanolin.)  If the tip looks clean, turn the lock around.  Hold the lock on the clean end and swish the dirty end in the other cup. That's it!

I made my first cup "the tip end" cup.  A few tips can be washed in it with a little freshening from hot tea kettle water.  Then, my cut end cup came over and became the tip cup for a few more additional washes prior to being dumped.  A rotation of cups makes for less waste of water. :)

Okay, here is where the cardinal rule of wool washing is thrown out the window.  Let water directly from the tap (can be from the cold side) run over your lock.   What are you crazy???  It's going to felt!!!   Yes, that is what I said. No, it is not going to felt.  Run the water over the lock like in the photo.  The soap will come right out.  You will not need to swish it.   Just a nice stream running down it.  Now, hold it by the other end and repeat...

Lay the lock on a towel.  Fold the towel over and give it a good squeeze.

Here are those locks after the cleaning process.  Can you believe these are the same locks?   No compost heap for these babies. 

Look at the finished product! The Polwarth fluffs right up on its own.... Squishy soft!!  I couldn't be happier with the end result. 

My final thoughts...  You might think this process will go slow, but take it from someone that has washed loads of wool, this process hums right along with no mess.  Granted, you will not turn out huge bags of fleece in an hour, but you won't have to lug any heavy buckets around either.  Plus, the end result is clean non felted locks from a fine wool sheep.  Locks that are ready to flick and spin.  It will be my "go to" for all of the finer breeds.  It just makes sense.  Now, I can go to my raw Polwarth storage bucket, pull out a bowl full of locks and wash enough to spin a skein on my Matchless.  How convenient is that?  :)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Time for the Flea Markets!

Although the weather cannot decide what season to be in, the flea markets are kicking off for the year.  I missed the one day Fiber Expo to kick off the season due to an extremely bad cold back in April.  I even swapped to have the day off a month ahead of time! Aaargh!!  Remaining positive, I took a CTO day for the first Friday of May hoping for good weather for a 3 day flea market in What Cheer, Iowa.  We were blessed with  the most beautiful day.  It was a fun and relaxing time.   I am still somewhat nervous about purchasing much, until we get the studio room underway... But the nervousness evaporated as we walked around! ;)
A large apple basket was a necessity buy.  During the Fall season at Farmer Boy's place, I kept having to borrow a basket to tote apples back and forth.  Now, I will have my own to haul with. :)  

This was hanging on the side of a pick up truck bed.  It had some items on top of it.  I honestly was surprised that I hadn't seen it on our first walk through.  A gentleman looking at it drew my attention to the lovely pattern.  Once he left, I went to look it over.   The vendor yelled over, "A dollar and it's yours!"  I don't have to be told twice and made the deal.  The lady selling thought it was maybe an oversized pillowcase... she just wasn't sure.  She picked it up at a sale.  Upon inspection, done in the next row over, I confirmed it was a large vintage feedsack.  Nice bold unwashed colors still stitched up with the old original thread.  Couldn't you see an old feedsack dress made out of this one for a toddler?  :)

For three dollars, I just couldn't pass up on some glass topped jars.  They will come in handy in the studio.  I have loads of smalls to store in them.

A lesson in the art of purchasing at a flea market:  If you really like an item, don't put it on a list... buy it!  There were two sisters looking at these feedsacks.  I was slightly disappointed at not getting there first, since green lettering is my favorite. :(  But I walked around checking out the other items from the vendor, as both ladies discussed what could be made with them.  The vendor finally said to the women that she would do 3 sacks for 6 dollars, since some of them had staining and holes on one side.  Wow!  Yeah, a few were a little damaged but the print was on both sides and these were huge.  The ladies kept talking, then decided they would add them to the list of things to come back for later and walked off.  You can see the result of that scenario.  I acquired all 5 sacks along with one plain for $12.00.  I couldn't have been happier.

Mr. Hollow picked up a vintage tooth pick dispenser, shaped like a Wood Pecker, from the same lady.  As he walked ahead of me, the two ladies were cutting back into the booth after deciding they would get the sacks after all.... Ten minutes too late...

It doesn't happen often.  The unicorn of the vintage glass Christmas bulbs.  You know... The one that I do not have YET in my collection.  Will you look at this? 

The vendor had two but only one had a cap.  I know, I know.  I could have used one of my hundred extra caps at home right?   But, it was my turn to be stupidly tight.  This baby cost me $4.50.  I will go with the thought that it adds to the excitement to have "one of one".  Well, unless the same vendor has the other one when we go in August! ;)

This was part of the mitigating factor to my tightness.  I dropped $12.00 for these Shiny Brite mini icicle ornaments.  Holy Toledo!!! They will look so cool on my mini Shiny Brite tree!!

Last but not least... I was looking at street signs for my studio.  There was a huge "slow" sign in orange and this "55 speed limit" sign.  The lady said she cut me a deal on two.  The "slow" sign really wasn't hitting me right, so I went with the one that caught my eye.  It makes me think of all the trips I have taken through out my life and the ones to come.  Maybe Farmer boy can work his magic and make a cabinet out of it with some barn boards for art supplies...  Hmmmm...

All in all, I think it has been a great start to the flea marketing season.  I will blank out the horrific cold episode and focus on the positive!  Unfortunately for a large group of vendors, this weekend was suppose to be the flea market at the fairgrounds in Pecatonica, Illinois, but our unpredictable weather decided to bless us with an overabundance of rain.  I cannot remember ever having 3 days of rain on a Pec weekend.  But then, I have never seen a winter and spring like the ones we have had this year.  Who knows what the rest of the year will bring?