Fleece Processing Part I

>> Wednesday, June 17, 2009

As I mentioned last week, I purchased an entire Shetland fleece at the Maine Fiber Frolic. I have been waiting for the weather and my schedule to allow me to begin process the fleece for spinning. Ideally I'll be able to spin this fiber on a new spinning wheel, instead of my spindles which are all I have right now.

But it will be several weeks before I can purchase my wheel, so I thought I'd at least get started on the processing ... process. The rest of this will be a picture-heavy post as I archive (and share) my method of processing. Everyone does it differently; this is my way.

Step One: Gather Materials.
I am fortunate to have the most loving husband in the world, who built me a fantastic skirting/drying table. It's simply constructed of 2x4s and covered with a durable heavy green plastic mesh (we picked it up at Home Depot for $5 for 15 feet or something. Way more than we needed). The mesh serves two purposes (more on that in a minute). On the table I set my washing bucket (a Rubbermaid tote designed to store sweaters under your bed), a pair of gloves, the fleece, and a mesh laundry bag. If you have less than a whole fleece, a lingerie bag works great. The scissors you see in the pic below are for tripping the mesh (more on that in a minute). You'll also need a detergent/cleaner that will help get the lanolin (grease) out of the fleece. I use Original Dawn.
Step Two: Fill the Bag.
The fleece will come apart into large locks of fiber. This is good. In the mesh laundry bag, I begin to organize the locks into rows. First I separate a lock from the fiber mass (usually a large section will come off that can be subdivided if necessary), then place it in the mesh b
ag, cut end towards the seam on the bottom/far end of the bag. Here's the first lock:
It may be kind of tough to see. I arrange an entire row of locks, their tips all pointed towards me. I don't layer them on top of each other; I want to give the Dawn the best opportunity to work the lanolin out. Instead I layer them next to each other. Once the first row is done, I start the next row in front of it, pointing in the other direction. That is, this time the cut end is towards me. The tips of these two rows are now pointing towards each other. The next row goes butt away again, etc. Here are the first three rows:

As I take the locks out of the bag they came in and put them into the mesh bag, I do some more skirting. I remove as much of the vegetable matter as I can (VM), and remove any bits that have poop in them. Eww. During this step you get to play with the greasy fleece and admire its fine crimp:

Step Three: Washing, the First
Once the bag is filled, it's time to wash the fleece. I put hot tap water into the Rubbermaid tote (about 1/3 of the way up), add a large saucepan of almost boiling water to it since my tap water doesn't get very hot. I want the water to be between 120 and 160 degrees; hot enough to take the lanolin off, not boiling hot which will felt it. I only add the Dawn once the water is all poured - you do not want suds in the water. The water should be tinted a bit blue if you have enough in it.
When washing fleece, it is important to take steps to keep from agitating the fleece. Agitation = felting, and we want to avoid that at all costs. I cut a piece of the green mesh my table was made out of and lay it in the Rubbermaid tote so that I can easily remove the laundry mesh bag when I need to. The bag itself is very flimsy, and won't hold the fiber locks firmly enough to prevent agitation. I lay the mesh bag on top of it, and GENTLY push the fleece down until it is all wet. The water will get gross immediately:Now let it sit until the water is really nasty and cooling (but not cool enough that the lanolin re-attaches to the wool).


Look to the left

>> Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I added a new widget to my blog over on the left. The National Bone Marrow Donor List is, for a short time, allowing people to register as donors for free. Usually registering as a donor costs $52. Please consider taking a few minutes of your time to register as a bone marrow donor. You may never get called. If you do, donating bone marrow may save the life of a child, a mother, or a friend. Signing up is a simple process - they will send you a kit in the mail for you to swab your cheek and mail back in. It's that easy! The Donor list is trying to get 46,000 new donors, so act fast - this is a limited time offer.


The Maine Fiber Frolic

>> Monday, June 8, 2009

Saturday Bear and I went to the Maine Fiber Frolic. Going in, I had specific things and vendors I was looking for. I needed a green sock yarn for a sock I am designing, I wanted to visit Enchanted Knoll Farms, Golding Fiber Tools, Wandering Moose Fiber Farm, and String Theory yarn. I was really hoping that the used equipment barn would have some used goodies, too. Everything else was bonus. I had a list. I was prepared.

Or so I thought.

When I got there, there were a dozen vendors out with *tons* of yarny and fibery goodness. I told myself that I needed to look at everything once, and then make a second circuit where I would buy. Only as Bear and I looked, we found a barn with more vendors. And another barn. And another aisle of vendors. and yet another barn. And Bear, God love him, didn't want me to look. He wanted me to buy. That's what we were there for, after all. So at his insistent enabling/encouraging, we came home from the fiber frolic with this:

From the top right:

  • 4 oz. white jaggerspun combed wool blend
  • 4 oz. gray undyed alpaca roving
  • 4 oz. braid of combed BFL from Spunky Eclectic colorway "Nova Scotia"
  • 4 oz. braid of merino/tencel from Spunky Eclectic colorway "Gunsmoke"
  • 420 yds Nexus sock yarn (80% superwash merino, 20% nylon) from String Theory Yarn colorway "Kelp"
  • 435 yards sock yarn (90% superwash merino, 10% nylon) from Enchanted Knoll Farm in orange and bugundy (I forgot the name, will edit this post tonight)
  • 435 yards sock yarn (90% superwash merino, 10% nylon) from Enchanted Knoll Farm in navy blue and dark green (I forgot the name, will edit this post tonight)
  • 2 2oz bags of mini batts; blend of red wool, brown llama, white angora
  • 2 oz batt of black wool, recycled sari silk and angelina from Enchanted Knoll Farms, colorway "Black Magic Woman"
The last picture is the raw fleece my husband convinced me to buy. He wanted me to buy an Icelandic sheep fleece, but it was too short stapled and had what looked like guard hairs in it - it wasn't something I could spin. Instead he found me this gray shetland fleece for only $27. It's beautiful! I have no idea how I am going to process this whole thing, but I will find a way. It's gorgeous. It's from Eolian Farms, in case you were wondering.

So as you can see, I had an AWESOME time. The only disappointment that I had was the used equipment barn. There really was almost nothing there. It was a bummer. I'm on the lookout now for used cards/combs that I can get on the cheap. Hubs is building me a skirting/drying table for the fleece so I can wash it; I just need a way to comb it.

Oh yeah, and I need a wheel, too. Know anyone who is selling one cheap?


A weather eye*

>> Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Last night while my husband was mowing the lawn (for the third time in a row, even though we are *supposed* to take turns), I wandered around the house looking for something productive to do. I'd just returned from hanging out the laundry, and it is painfully obvious to me that it's time for a new clothespin bag. My current one is hanging on by one rusty grommet and is all ripped to shreds:
An idea struck me: I will SEW a new one! I came up with a simple pattern in a pretty purple fabric and set about making it. As I was cutting the fabric, the thought occurred to me that it's as easy to make two as it is to make one. And if I made two, I could give one away! Sweet!

So keep a weather eye on the bloggy horizon, for in the next week or two I should be posting pics of the clothespin bag and details on how you can win one for your very own!

*This exact entry was re-posted to my other blog, as well, so if you read both, you're not seeing double. I promise.


If you like...

>> Monday, June 1, 2009

The new sock is going swimmingly. The pattern is so much better when read correctly! I can see where it's going much better now. I've done about 50% of what I ripped out this weekend, so it is re-knitting fairly quickly.

In other news, I finished my spinning for May's CJ Kopec Creations Spin Along - a merino/silk/angelina combination in my favorite blues and greens. Here's what the finished skein looks like:

I say it's finished, although 3/4 of it remains unspun. Life has been so busy lately that it's all that I got done up this month. It's a laceweight/light fingering weight single that I intend to make a Wisp out of (since my other one looks like poo poo). June's fiber is 100% BFL that CJ Kopec handdyed. I can't wait to start that one, although if I am INCREDIBLY LUCKY I will have a spinning wheel before the end of June and can spin it up on that. If not, I may set that fiber aside and concentrate on finishing some of my WIP spinning instead. This next shipment of fiber I want to spin into a three ply sock yarn as I have someone interested in purchasing it. We'll see.

If you like my interpretation of this fiber, feel free to head to Coby's group on Ravelry, join it, and vote for me. You have to be a member to vote, although you don't have to be a spinner. If that's too much work, leave me a comment and let me know what you think!


10kH is here for now. Hush.

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