Custom Felts

Sunday, 23 July 2017

How to wash raw sheep fleeces.

Well heres my way...

have approx 60 fleeces all ready to be sorted. I'm going to be busy this summer.
 I store them in potato sacks ( bought from ebay. Is there anything you cant buy from ebay?) 
Its much better than using binbags as the fleeces don't sweat.

So the first thing is to open the fleece, sometimes it comes in a roll from the shearer.

The edges of the fleece are dirty and not worth using have plenty of time and energy! So pull these off. This is called skirting although I could think of other names for it!  Then check the area between the shoulders, this area gets a lot of weather and can sometimes, already be felted. Get rid of this too, although I use it to line my hanging baskets, its much better than moss! 

Next check the fleece for any areas with lots of what Is known as VM vegetable matter eg, grass, dead insects, bracken, ( it can be sharp watch your hands) i have even found barbed wire in the fleece! 

Below is a Jacob fleece and Sprout, my border Terrier who loves anything sheepy.

The next thing is to find something to wash them in. I use my husbands building tubs but if you are washing smaller quantities, a washing up tub or bowls would be fine. Or your bath..
The first thing is to soak the fleece. I do this in warm water, not hot, just to let some of the dirt come away from the fleece. I like to leave them for at least a few hours and depending on the British weather, it can be a few days! 

You can see some are dirtier than others. You never know until you soak them.

Next drain the water away and gently hand squeeze your fleeces.
Now fill your vessel with hand hot water BEFORE adding some detergent. I use washing up liquid. 

Add the fleece and make sure it is emerged in the water. Don't agitate it too much as this will start to felt the fleece. 
You should be able to see the the lanolin come to the surface.

You can leave this overnight before draining and squeezing once again.
If the water is this dirty, repeat the washing process.

Next rinse a couple of times using warm water until the water is clean. 
Here I have one soaking, one ready to rinse and two ready to spin.

For the next stage, you can let the fleeces dry naturally but it always seems to rain where I live. So what I do is put the fleeces into laundry bags ( not full fleeces of course) and put them on a spin cycle in  my washIng machine.
Here they are drying in the conservatory.

And now dried, waiting to be carded.

I hope this has helped and inspired some of you to work with your own fleeces. 
With love 

Lisa x
For workshops, wool and kits, visit my facebook page


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