Friday, May 28, 2010

Washing o' the fleece

Since this is my first fleece washing experience, I had lots of mistakes to make and things to learn. This post is not an all-inclusive how-to about how to wash a fleece. It is a post about my misadventures one hot, steamy day in May.

The yellowish blob of fiber tucked in the blue sheet was the Coopworth fleece in such dire need of a bath. So early one morning, I girded my loins, rolled up my sleeves and dove right in. With my handy dandy Spinning Bible in hand, I heated the water, added the soap and plunked a lingerie bag full of fleece in the water. It was sent through two baths with soap and 3 or 4 rinses (I can't remember how many now), all according to the proper procedures and instructions in the Spinning Bible.

Mistake number one: Must open up the fleece and fluff it up or it won't all come clean. This first bag of fleece was washed and rinsed completely, then taken out to the deck to dry when I discovered all kinds of VM and dirty tips hiding out inside. So a good half hour was spent fluffing it up and picking out the debris before sending it back to the tub for a whole new cycle of washing and rinsing.

Since subsequent rinse water is not as dirty, I was sending bags of fleece through in a train. Basically you just add soap to mostly clean rinse water and start the next batch through before draining the tub, refilling and rinsing the first batch. With organization, you can train quite a few bags of fleece at a time, draining and refilling only as needed. This conserves water and energy because each tub of water is used multiple times.

Mistake number two: Don't try to wash too much fleece at once. Bag #2 was bigger than the first and it didn't get clean the first time through, either. So it had to be divided into smaller bags and be sent through the process again. So much for saving energy and water because two batches were now having to go through double washings.

I eventually had a good system down to get everything through the washing and rinsing cycles. I'd learned my lesson on the first two bags of fleece and was making steady progress.

Mistake number three: Don't over agitate the fiber, trying to get it clean. After having to rewash the first two bags of fleece, I got a little more aggressive with my swishing and the last few bags came out slightly felted. Not so much that it is not usable but enough to make fluffing it for the drying rack more difficult. So much for saving time by getting it clean the first time.

In spite of it all, I was pleased with my progress. Approximately half of the fleece made it through the first day and now that I know a little more, the second half shouldn't take quite as long, nor as much water and energy. I guess you could say it was well worth the effort in the end.
And isn't it so pretty and white now?

Now to get it carded up before July 3. Yikes! Guess there will be a few mistakes lessons in that little process, too.


Tonyia said...

gorgeously white. Great job!

Lynne said...

Thanks for sharing your experience.

livnletlrn said...

Oh, look at that big batch of fluff! So much potential!!

Ellen said...

Oh, it is lovely! I learned washing fleece from a book and it too quite a while to get it right. Can't you put one of those teens or almost teens to work washing wool for you? If it works for the Amish . . .

The natural knitter said...

Lorraine, It looks great - I have a carder machine if you'd like to borrow it.

Rani said...

This is so cool. I can't wait to watch this entire process. Great post!!