Saturday, March 10

fun with fleece!

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.

thanks to:
running moon farm
fuzzy galore
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!)
i can't wait to start making with it - more pics and chat to follow :)


Angela said...

Well done Tracy, I think I'm more impatient then you, it's so hard not to swish. The wool looks lovely

Fiona said...

Oh my. You're brave. I can imagine my family would object to a bath of raw fleece. But it does look lovely now you've washed it.

Elizabeth said...

Wow, that looks so nice and clean with no bits of hay! Do you have a drum carder or will you do it by hand?

Ali said...

What an fascinating post Tracy...when I first started playing with felt I was only interested in the colours...then I became more familiar with the textures and how things knitted I am a bit more curious about what happens before the tops are your post has appeared at just the right moment.
You were certainly more patient that I would have been!
Looking forward to the next stage!
Congratulations on being Miss March and good to see your ad in UK Handmade too!

narkeymarkey said...

thanks angela, to be honest i had to walk away and then keep my hands busy so i didn't swish!

hee hee fiona, i think my other half would have objected too had he been here - best to wait till they're out of the house :)

i was lucky that it was so clean to start with elizabeth. drum carder is still on my wish list, so it'll be hand carders while i catch up with my tv watching :)

hi ali, i think i followed the same path as you! to start with, i found it so much fun playing with the different colours of commercially available wool but now i'm more interested in using different breeds and finding out what each one has to offer.

plus, there's a certain something about making a finished object from fleece you've washed and carded yourself :)