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?  :)

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