Washing the fleece

Since I haven’t uploaded any pictures of us carding, i thought i might explain how we washed our wensleydale-cross fleece.

I have had experience washing only 2 fleeces before, with my friend Gen. The first was Speckles. Speckles was some kind of targhee blend that had really crimpy (frizzy)
wool. She must have lived on the range because the amount of dirt in her fleece was too great to be from some normal farm sheep. we also suspect that her name should have been a clue to how dirty this sheep was, since the wool was actually white. Lordy, she was dirty. you can read a bit about our adventure washing
her in one of my earlier posts. The general idea with washing a fleece is to use water hot enough to dissolve the lanolin (the natural oil in the wool), but not to temperature shock or agitate the wool, as both of these things can cause felting. The fleece is usually contained in mesh bags and put in a large washing container. Then there is some soaping, some rinsing and then a little vinegar to shine things up.< For our first washing of Speckles, gen and i used my washing machine as the big container. we didn't let it go through the wash cycle, but just let it fill up, soaked the wool, and then let it spin out. Speckles was so dirty, however, that waiting for the washer to fill was a real waste of time when the water would instantly turn dark brown. we decided to use 5 gallon buckets filled w/ hot water for the initial rinses. this has become our preferred method, and is what we started doing for the Sheep to shawl fleece. This fleece was pretty dirty too. In fact I questioned wether not the wool was going to be white when it was clean. It turns out that it was nothing compared to speckles (did i mention that speckles was really dirty?).
Dirty Fleece

Step one
Gather locks of the fleece and put them in mesh bags

Step two
Put the bags of fleece in 5 gallon buckets filled with hot water and Dawn (it takes grease out of the way!)

This is a really easy way to get most of the loose dirt out. We poke the bags just a bit to get them submerged, but resist the temptation to stir.

Step three
Repeat the rinse…. Take the bags out of the bucket, pour the dirty water out, fill the buckets back up, put the fleece back in. Do not pour the water
directly on to the fleece bags.
this could felt it. Do this until the water is just a bit dirty, and a few soap bubbles survive on the top. Also remember to not let the water get cool. this will redeposit the lanolin back on to the

Step four
Fill up the washer (hot water!). Stop the washer (perhaps by leaving the lid open or pulling out the button on the dial) and turn to the spin cycle, but leave it off. At this point you could add more soap, add no more soap, or add vinegar if you think this will be the final rinse.

let the wool sit in here for about 10 minutes, then spin it out. If this is not your final rinse, repeat step four. if it is, go to step

Step 5 It’s drying time! Carefully open the bags, and spread out the wool to dry , preferably in the sun. We spread ours out on giant tupperware lids, but some type of cloth or mesh frame would be

Ta-da! That’s it. Now you are ready to get carding, flicking, or spinning!

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