Thursday, November 12, 2015

Two bags full

Carding the brown fleece

What to do with mystery fleeces?

They were left over from a fleece sale in Ohio. No one claimed them and neither had any  identification except for a tag on the brown fleece labeling it 'MED.'

Hand spinners are avid shoppers and will happily spend good money on fleeces but....only when they are 1) well-skirted, 2) clean and 3) labeled by breed. One was well-skirted and clean. The other was a mess.

I started with the brown fleece--the well-skirted, clean one. The shepherd had priced the eight pound bag of medium wool at $88.
Unknown 'white' fleece fibers

I laid it out on the table and was rather dismayed to find that it didn't unroll in one piece like a well-prepared fleece does. It was in chunks, which made for an interesting jigsaw fleece puzzle. 

Next up, the white fleece. The fiber is lovely, with a long staple and fine crimp, but shame on the shepherd. It was a mess from beginning to end. Not only had it not been skirted, it was filthy. The  back end of the sheep was in the middle, which served to spread the fecal material liberally throughout the fleece. And the parts lacking black bits were heavily contaminated with vegetation. 

Only because the wool looked nice, I picked through it and  discarded about half. I ended up with two small  piles, each less than two pounds. One I labeled No. 1 as the best of the lot. The No. 2 might be usable if I can get rid of a lot of the vegetable matter.

I carded a bit of each to see how they would spin and for their felting capabilities. I spun both in the grease and both fleeces passed the tests. So neither graces the garden yet.

Scouring a filthy fleece

The lanolin-laden wash water 
My favorite fleece expert at Winter's Past Farm suggested that I might be able to clean up the more contaminated parts of the filthy white fleece with some heavy duty scouring. I did some research, specifically in The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning," which is a wealth of information on all things pertaining to spinning. Then I got started

Scoured fleece
I filled my roaster with 120 ℉ water and added Tide detergent and Dawn dish soap. I then added about 3/4 lb. of fleece and gently moved it back and forth. After 10 to 15 minutes, I removed it, drained the excess water and then rinsed...and rinsed...and rinsed it. 

After gently squeezing out as much water as possible, I put the fleece to dry on an upside down plastic grid storage cube.

I haven't mentioned the lanolin. I have referred to the fleece as white, but it was so laden with lanolin that it looked yellow. One hot water and detergent bath wasn't enough to get rid of all the lanolin by a long shot, but the results are significant.

The fleece is so much improved that I plan to scour the No.1 fleece sections, as well. 

I haven't decided what I'm going to do with these mystery fleeces, but when I decide, you'll be among the first to know.

Any suggestions?

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