June 26, 2011

fleece project, part 1

So, last night I got home after having a wonderful day at Wolseley Wool and I decided to finally take the plunge and try washing my first fleece. Some friends of mine own a sheep farm in Scotland, so they spend part of their year here and part of their year there. A few weeks ago they asked if I was interested in having a fleece from one of their dear sheep. It came to me wrapped in plastic:

Which, when unwrapped...

looked like this...

full of lanolin and straw and fabulous sheepy goodness. So I re-read the notes I'd taken from several sources on how to do it, and then I prepared my stuff: rubber gloves, nylon laundry bags (like you wash delicates in. people other than me, at least. I have no 'delicates'), clear dish detergent (you can't use 'soap'. it will make it felt), and my laundry room sink. I'm grateful, yet again, for having a double laundry room sink. But you could do it in your tub. It's pretty messy, though.

I weighed the fleece before unwrapping it and it was about 5 lbs, 10 oz. I divided it into 5 roughly equal portions and then put the first one into a laundry bag. I filled the sink with the hottest water I could, then added about 1/2 cup of detergent. I put on the gloves and swished the water just enough to mix it without making a lot of bubbles. Then I added the fleece bag and gently lowered it so it was covered. I was careful not to agitate, swish, etc, as this would cause felting. I left it there for about 15 minutes until it had soaked through but the water hadn't had time to cool. You don't want that.

The water was pretty dark brown after the 1st wash. I lifted the bag, let it drain, put it in the adjacent sink, and then emptied and re-filled the 1st sink with hot water and detergent. Another 15 minute soak which took most of the brown out. Then I did 2 similar soaks in water without detergent. Then I put the bag of fleece in my washing machine and just put it through the spin cycle, which took 90% of the water out of it without agitating it. Then I took it out of the bag and laid it over whatever I could find in my laundry room to dry.

I repeated with the other 4 bags, this time doing 2 together at a time, since the first bag's process took over an hour. (My children and dog were at the lake, so I had some time. Keeping the dog away from the wool this morning has been a challenge.)

After washing it all, it is now fluffy and sweet smelling and gorgeous:

Next segment: carding wool.

Hope you're having a great weekend. :)


  1. oooh, i love seeing this done step by step. and your timing is perfect -- on friday the subject of sheep-shearing was being discussed when i showed up for a meeting, and i mentioned being a spinner. TWO people offered me fleece from their sheep! i may have to give this a try...

  2. I love all the different shades of brown. So pretty. Thanks for sharing how you prepare the fleece for your project Chris. I've never seen the whole process before and can't wait to see it all. :)

  3. That is so weird, seeing it come out the package like that. pretty cool though seeing the step by step process minus the dirt and smell :) - SP

  4. it probably didn't smell,but that is what i imagine from the pictures... -SP