How To Wash A Wool Fleece

I was recently given a huge bag of fleece to try my hand at processing. I’ve never washed a fleece before, and TenGoodSheep‘s tutorial looked like a pretty risk-free way to start (because it’s very unlikely that I could felt a fleece in cold water.)

I started by spreading out half of the fleece and picking out all the large manure tags, leaves, and too-dirty-to-wash wool.

raw fleece.jpg

Next, I used the hose to fill up a Rubbermaid with cold water, and submerged the fleece.

cold soak.jpg

Almost as soon as the wool touched the water it started releasing dirt and all sorts of murky nastiness. I let it soak each time for at least 10 minutes before I dumped it out and refilled the Rubbermaid. I think I dumped and refilled at least 3 times, probably more like 4 or 5, until I was happy with the cleanliness of the wool.

You can see the difference in between each soaking in this photo.

collage.jpg

After the cold soaks there was a major difference in the dirt level of the fleece, but it still felt greasy because the lanolin hadn’t been removed. The purpose of the cold soaks was just to remove all the dirt, and the next step is using very hot water to melt out the lanolin.

Here’s some of the raw fleece and cold soaked fleece for contrast. Quite a difference…

difference.jpg

The water needs to get above 140 degrees in order to melt the lanolin, and my tap water doesn’t get that hot. At first I tried running hot water from the bath into my Rubbermaid and supplementing it with a pot of boiling water, but that didn’t get hot enough. Then I tried boiling a pot of water, adding a spoon of dishwashing soap, and letting the wool soak for 20 minutes. That worked beautifully, and left the wool almost lanolin free. The only problem with that method is that it would take so much time to heat up one pot at a time on the stovetop.

So, I borrowed a friend’s turkey fryer! I can do it outside and avoid heating up the house, and it gets so much more done that doing it on the stovetop.

_MG_6172.JPG

After the wool is cooled, rinsed, and dried I started the process of getting the clean wool into a usable form. I had read somewhere that putting a fleece in the dryer on Air Fluff helps get the very small veg matter out, and because this fleece had a lot of that, I decided to try it. It did help, but the real secret to getting the veg matter out is using the hackle. It really opens up the lock structure and allows the dust and veg to fall out, plus it removes all the short, neppy fibers.

hackle.jpg

And then I ran it through the drum carder a few times, (another step which helps remove veg junk), and now have a lovely, spinnable batt! I still have to finish processing the rest of the fleece, so I will have quite a few more batts when I’m done.

batt

Thanks for reading! Please follow my blog for more how-to and fiber related updates!

Advertisements

DIY Hackle

Have you ever heard of a cake breaker? Me neither. A few weeks ago I was walking down the kitchenware aisle at our local thrift store, and a giant fork happened to catch my eye. I picked it up because I originally thought that I could make a wool comb out of it.

cake breaker

No one quite knew what it was intended for. (we thought it was for holding meat down while its being cut) After some time on Replacements.com, we found out that this utensil is specifically used for angel food cake. Its supposed to be really good at cutting the cake without squishing it. Who knew?

I decided to make a hackle out of it, so I ordered another off of Amazon to make a 2 pitch hackle.
The other cake breaker is here:http://www.amazon.com/Animewild-R-M-Cake-Breaker/dp/B000FRUNXM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408905724&sr=8-1&keywords=cake+breaker

The supplies I used are here:

supplies

  • Mahogany Wood, or any hard wood
  • Cake Breaker
  • Liquid Epoxy
  • Chisels
  • Wipe-on Polyurethane
  • Power Sander

I measured a groove about half an inch wide and a little less than that deep. I used a chisel to cut the groove.

I used a saw to cut off the heads of my 2 cake breakers (one was sterling silver!)

Than we used liquid epoxy to set the metal heads in the groove. It got a little messy, but sanded off nicely after it dried.
We used a bulk epoxy that we had originally used for another project, but I think a small tube of 2-part liquid epoxy would work. Those small epoxy packs can be found at hardware stores or auto parts stores.

Here’s the epoxy I’m talking about: http://www.amazon.com/Gorilla-Glue-4200101-Epoxy/dp/B001Z3C3AG/ref=pd_sim_sbs_indust_6?ie=UTF8&refRID=13KRHAC7D1Y4XZ13RM7M

epoxy unsanded
epoxy sanded

Then I applied 2 coats of a wipe on polyurethane finish, and taadaa! A hackle!

finished outdoor  top white
finished white

I am going to make another one, 12 inches long. The tines on this one are about 4 inches wide, and while it works, I really need more room to make roving that is long enough to be useful for spinning. My experiment cost under $10 to make as I had most of the supplies on hand and I got the satisfaction and enjoyment out of coming up with idea to make something and having it work!