Friday, September 26, 2008

Life of Yarn - Washing the Fleece

The Life of Yarn series is my attempt to share the process from fiber (on the animal) to finished yarn. Each is just a glimpse into a moment in the life of yarn and yarnmaker. Most everyone knows that fabric comes from yarn or thread which comes from cotton, sheep or synthetics. But how does it really GET there? From farm to cloth? In the next few week’s I’ll be working through and documenting this process. Today: The Fleece.

I purchased the fleece from Hobby Knob Farm, during my last farm visit.
Coopworth fleece

It's a Coopworth, shorn just last March from one of Elizabeth's herd. It's around 7 lbs and I loved the locks, even dirty:
A lock!

When I was ready to wash it, I spread it out on my back "porch". My cat was fascinated:

My "backyard"

I was a little nervous I'd ruin it, so I gathered all the bits around the edges that were dirtiest and washed those first. The fleece had already been skirted, which means all the dung tags (uh, poop) and really dirty stuff around the edges had been removed before I bought it. But I found the dirtiest, shortest locks and put them in the washing machine.

cleaning the fleece

Here's where my fleece washing differs from everyone else. Usually you fill the washing machine up with the hottest water, but, well, my hot water line isn't hooked up to the washer (we always wash with cold water), so I had to get a little old-fashioned. I took my big dyeing kettle, filled it up with hot water and put it on the stove. When the water got really hot, I added it to the washing machine. It took about 2 kettles to get enough water to fill the washing machine, so I only washed the fleece with hot water once. I added a shot of Dr. Bronner's shampoo (all natural, organic ingredients!) and then left it alone for 2 hours. I came back later, drained the water, filled it up with tepid water and let it sit again for 2 or 3 hours. After these two rinses I couldn't believe how clean and white the fleece was!

Clean lock

No dirt, no grime and so much brighter white than I expected.

clean fleece

I put the fleece back outside, on an old, clean rug to dry.

After it was dry, I brought it in and dyed it, more on that next week!
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