So, if you were reading along yesterday, you already know that I indulged myself a bit over the weekend and ended up with a couple of fleeces. (Well, yes it was three if you were counting).
So the first fleece up for scouring was from Jack, the adult sheep. I bought half of this fleece and my friend Brady bought the other half. Jack got picked to be first because he was winning the prize for most smelly.
Scouring is actually pretty easy, the key thing being to avoid agitation of the fibers unless you want to end up with a big chunk of felt instead of fiber you can spin from.
First, however, the fleece had to undergo a thorough inspection.
Next, I gathered my tools and supplies. (This is about half of the fleece to be scoured; I washed it in two batches to make handling easier).
Make sure your assistant is close by in case you need assistance.
Run lots of hot soapy water. I used straight hot water from the tap although some people boil water and add it as well. Either way, I wouldn’t want to stick my hands in there. (Note that there’s no fleece in the water yet. The best way to make felt is soap + hot water + agitation).
When the water is taller than your colander, load the colander full of fiber and gently push it into the water. With the spoon, gently push the fleece down into the water until it is soaked through. Be careful doing this and don’t stir unless you want felt instead of spinning fiber. (I hear that accidental felt makes good cat toys, although I don’t have a cat so that would not help me much).
Let soak 15 minutes in the hot water. As you can see in this photo, Jack was a greasy beastie. He also must have loved to roll in the dirt because the water came off brown as well as greasy with every wash.
Lift the colander out of the sink and drain off the water. Run fresh soapy water and repeat this process. Usually you soak with detergent twice then rinse twice, but since this fleece was so greasy, I soaked with soap it three times. After the first wash, I realized that if I put some jugs in the sink to displace the water, the sink would fill faster and the process wouldn’t take as much water. (It’s a really big sink).
Then begin the rinsing. Same technique, run the water into the sink and then put in the colander holding the fleece. Lift out to drain, then rinse and refill the sink. In the first rinse, add a hefty glug of vinegar to neutralize the alkaline of the detergent.
Here’s what Jack’s fleece looked like in the first rinse:
Second rinse, plain water.
Handling carefully, gently squeeze out as much of the water as you can. If you like, you can use towels to block it out, but I prefer to just squeeze it gently and then spread it out and let it drip off so I don’t felt it by moving it too much. I’m a beginner at this and also a bit superstitious this way.
You will probably need to turn and spread the fleece several times until all of the wet spots are dried through. Also, while drying, watch for fiber thievery if you have pets. My Westies usually have no interest in yarn or spinning fiber but I discovered that a freshly washed fleece still smells sheepy enough that even the most earnest Westie can’t resist it. You’ve been warned.
Once it’s dry, pack it into a breathable container such as a paper grocery bag, cardboard box or one of those reusable fabric bags from the grocery store. You can pack them in plastic bags if you prefer but it’s better if it’s breathable unless you are absolutely sure it’s not damp. Here, Chuffy guards the results.
Next step – Carding! But that’s a story for another day because my new drum carder hasn’t arrived yet. I’m excited, I can’t wait until it gets here!