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How To: Wash a Wool Fleece

Natural Kids: How To: Wash a Wool Fleece

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How To: Wash a Wool Fleece

As a knitter, I have a deep and abiding respect for the amount of work involved in transforming the wild and crazy fleece from the back of a sheep into a neat and tidy sweater. Liz takes on the second step (the first step is getting the fleece off of the sheep) in this recent post on her blog, The Sitting Tree.

I've been waiting all summer for the temperatures to cool off enough so I could wash this dreamy raw Romney fleece I purchased back in May. I got really lucky this time, that I didn't have to do much prep work of picking any straw or burrs out of the wool.

Washing wool is much easier than you'd think, it just takes a long time and smells up the house, causing the husband and children to run for the hills. (Personally, I love the smell of a fresh fleece and always start this project when I need a little time alone!)

So here's how it goes... First, run a tub of very hot water. After you've run the water, add a couple liberal squirts of Dawn dishwashing soap, swishing it around to mix the soap in while trying to avoid the sudsy bubbles. (as you can see I failed the swishing part of the demo) Next, carefully lay your fleece in the hot, soapy water. Now this is very important ~ Do NOT agitate your fleece or you WILL felt your wool ~ trust me! When the wool fibers are shocked by a sudden change in temperature along with movement, their microscopic scales open up and lock onto other neighboring fibers causing the artist heartbreak, tears, tantrums, and undoubtedly a few unseemly words! Just let the wool soak up all the water and you'll be fine...

You don't want to let the water cool off too much or the lanolin will harden again, so after about 15 minutes, drain all the water out and rinse the tub. Carefully pick up the fleece and set it in a colander to strain while you fill the tub up with hot water and soap again. Gently lay the fleece back into the water and let soak for another 15 minutes. You can keep doing this as many times as you need until your fleece is clean. In the past, I've tried using laundry bags to wash the fleece, but found that the inside wool takes a lot longer to clean and laying the fleece out flat uses a lot less water!! This is after the second soaking:

Do a final rinsing soak with hot water and put it in a colander to let as much water drain out as possible. Spread the fleece on a towel and set it outside in the sun to dry!

After two whole days rotating in the sun, it was finally ready! I spent the afternoon in my outdoor studio carding some for the spinning wheel, and the rest I'm going to make into a batch of hand~dyed & felted soaps for the upcoming holiday fair...

Beautiful yarns and patterns as well as finished mittens, longies and soakers are all available in Liz's shop, The Sitting Tree. "I'm inspired by everything nature, and try my darndest to make sure my products reflect the love and respect I have for mother earth."

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Blogger germandolls said...

I love the part about needing "alone time". So funny. I should get me a fleece just for that...Will you do a tutorial on carding too? I'd love to see how the carding is done!
Thanks for this great fun post!

September 30, 2010 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger The Sitting Tree said...

I cleaned out the basement and realized I have two more fleeces to wash! I may just have another weekend to myself...
What a great idea, Thanks! I'd be glad to do a tutorial on carding next week.

September 30, 2010 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger woolies said...

Those sheepies can get pretty dirty! :)

September 30, 2010 at 11:08 AM  
Anonymous cutelittlething said...

wonderful! I have this one bookmarked, really love the whole process of wool "from start to finish." you get to be the conduit from the sheep farmer to the end user~and how great is that?

September 30, 2010 at 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Kerstin said...

oh yeah-I love the smell of wet wool fleeces soaking too! : )

September 30, 2010 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger mrsbeccijo said...

Amazing the work that goes into, but so lovely to make something from start to the finished product!

October 1, 2010 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger kat (kats in the belfry) said...

thanks for this!

October 1, 2010 at 10:21 AM  

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