i was really lucky to receive a bag of portland fleece to experiment with, from angela recently.
as i've never washed raw fleece before, i thought i would do a little research first to try and avoid any unnecessary disasters!
the british sheep and wool book from the british wool marketing board says of portland that it is a rare breed, established in the uk in the thirteenth century. the fleece has a staple length of five to nine cm and the micron range is thirty one to thirty five.
running moon farm
twin willows farm
for their advice, which i kind of cobbled together and tweaked to come up with something i thought would work for me.
after waiting for m to go away for the weekend - don't think he would have been too comfortable with raw fleece soaking in our lovely, clean bath for hours (plus he's already expressed his distate of the smell - is it just me, i quite like the smell of raw wool?!), i set about the huge sack of wool!
rather than diving in and biting off more than i can chew as is usually my want - i must be getting older and wiser (now there's an odd thought!) i decided to only wash enough to fill three of my net wash bags so that i didn't overload the bath.
here's a few details/pics of my process ...
some music to keep me entertained while i worked away
and a little sustenance in the shape of home-made banana mini-cupcakes
raw fleece straight out of the bag
and then popped into net wash bags to avoid too much handling and accidental felting while washing
i then filled the bath with hot water only, added a few generous squirts of washing up liquid and gently dispersed it through the water (so as not to create bubbles) before gently placing each bag of fleece flat on top of the water, whilst resisting the urge to stick my hands in and swish it all about!
after walking away (to avoid the temptation of swishing and agitating!) for fifteen to twenty minutes, i came back and gently removed the bags from the water, drained the bath, and refilled with hot water and washing up liquid before gently placing the bags of fleece back into the bath
i did a total of four washes until (i got too impatient!) there were visible bubbles left in the bath - which means it's ready for rinsing. the bath was then filled with hot water only, the fleece (still in bags) was placed into the water and left for ... well, by now it was about half an hour at a time because i was distracted with making my pom-pom sheep for 'flock'!
i did a couple of rinses, adding vinegar to the final rinse to restore the ph of the fleece. the bags were then left to drip over the bath during the evening before i placed the fleece on the radiators to finish drying the next day - this last bit might be a no-no but i was impatient to get it dry so i could start work!
and now i have the most beautifully soft, creamy wool with a stunning sheen to it (the photo really doesn't do it justice!)