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I was wondering if anyone had information on exactly how one should go about washing individual locks of wool by hand.  I bought an Icelandic fleece last month that I am working on now, and my first attempt at washing them in tulle netting was less than satisfactory.  I sorted the fleece by staple length into three groups, and then even further by setting aside locks that were extremely curly at the butt or cut end.  I placed the locks individually on a length of netting, folded the sides in burrito style and sewed two lengths of long basting stitches to help keep them from shifting down and placed them in a cold water bath for days. 

closer view of basting sts.

cold water soak - almost a weeks worth if I remember correctly.  I didn't think these needed that long a soak, but life got in the way, so they soaked longer.

I pulled it out of the soak cycle, let it drip for a while, checked to make sure it was at room temperature before putting it in the scouring bath.  Temperature of scouring water was 140*, soaked for 15 minutes, not letting water temperature get below 120* so lanolin would not re-deposit back onto the wool. This is one of the wash cycles, using Unicorn Power Scour.  I washed them two more times and rinsed them twice, same water temperature each time.  I was not thrilled with how the tips looked, but thought I'd wait till they were dry and then see.  These are the cleaned and dry locks still in the netting.  I'm not too impressed with these.  Last night I was finally able to work with these supposed cleaned locks, they still feel a bit greasy to me. I thought Icelandic was not supposed to be too greasy, so, not sure what that is all about.  I want to try several things with this wool.  Separating the tog from the thel, and spinning them individually, but I also want to spin the two together. That's what I was attempting last night, on a drum carder I've borrowed from the guild.  I've not even done half of what I washed, and am already disappointed.  

Even with careful handling of the fibers while wet, the locks seem to have felted slightly.  And the tips do not want to seem to pick apart.  I like to do a very fine layer of fibers while drum carding, so I have started to flick the ends open.  It is helping some, but I was not thrilled with the batt.  Too many neps for me. 

So I got thinking maybe these locks need extra special handling and washing.  Maybe they need to be washed individually.  But just how does one go about doing that and not felting the lock?  Is there a special procedure?  I've not found anything on you tube demonstrating this technique, but then again, I've not used you tube that often so maybe I'm going about that all wrong. 

She is such a pretty little fleece, and I'd love to do it honor by washing and then spinning it into beautiful yarn, but feel I am ruining it.  Help!  I'd love some advice from others. 

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Replies to This Discussion

Wendy, As I have no experience with Icelandic fiber, I did find this article which has washing instructions toward the bottom of the page.

Wendy I had a person wash mine for me but I did find a lot about it on You Tube, when I do wash my fleece I always washed in hot water and Dawn soap to cut the grease.

What you have done so far looks beautiful, I would let the dry, then flick each lock to open them, spin it up then wash again and I'm sure you will love it. You have done far more than what I would do with fleece.

Good luck and let us know what you have done and what it looks like after you are all done.
Fleeced! How To Wash Shetland Wool
 I found this on the web, but since you have washed it so much I wouldn't do it much more.
Article by Leslie Shelor

Raw Shetland Fleece
Many people ask me about what is involved in the process of going from the fleece that comes off a sheep's back (or llama, alpaca or rabbit) to the lovely yarns that they see on the shelves here at Greenberry House.   There are several steps involved in hand processing and handspinning a locally produced, special fleece into yarn.  Pictured is a beautiful Shetland fleece I brought home from Thistle Cove Farm after Sheep Shearing Day a couple of years ago. 

Wash Water after first rinse of wool
Shetland isn't a particularly greasy fleece and I have spun a couple of fleeces that I didn't even wash beforehand.  I had decided to wash this one, though, because I intended to dye part of the handspun yarn and I wanted a very clean yarn to produce even, predictable colors.  Any existing grease in the yarn is trapped there by spinning and doesn't wash out easily.  People often spin "in the grease" yarns on purpose to produce garments that will shed water.  Even though Shetland is a clean fleece, the sheep are out in the fields.  Sandra's fields at Thistle Cove Farm are very clean; there is a little bit of straw in the fleece which comes out quite easily.  I wash fleece like this in hot water from the tap and dishwashing liquid.  The first pot is quite brown, even with a low grease fleece like this.  I pour the water out onto my flower garden; I figure it's better for the soil than for my septic system!

One Rinse
The Shetland, although it looked clean to being with, is already whiter after one rinse.  I usually rinse until the water runs clear, keeping the water temperature about the same for each pot.  This should prevent felting.  I also don't handle the wool a lot while its wet.  I merely push it under the surface of the water and don't agitate it.  If I just can't stand to let it lie there, I just squeeze the locks of the wool a bit, to get the water through them. 

I use the same big enamel pot that I use with acid dyes.  I wash small amounts of the fleece at a time, usually what I think I will be spinning soon.  It's easier to manage the amount of water I have in the pot, since I want to lug it outside, and I can get the fleece cleaner in small amounts.  Some people successfully use a washing machine for washing wool but I've never tried it.

Shetland Fleece Drying
After I've rinsed the fleece as much as I think it needs, I dump the final rinse water outside and press as much water as I can manage from the washed wool.  Hopefully being careful with the water temperatures and handling means that the wool isn't felted, and will soon be light and fluffy and ready to card or spin.  Generally I like to dry washed wool outside, and I have an empty rabbit cage set out in the barn for drying wool.  Watch for rust if you're laying fleece on metal, though.  There are all sorts of drying racks available. 

A few times I've put washed wool in a net bag and taken it outside to "spin" dry.  I'm sure it causes comment in the neighborhood.  Clean net onion bags work well for this.  Just put some wool in it and swing the closed bag around over your head.  Water will fly everywhere, so outside is the best place to do this.  Add a few dance steps if you're brave!

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not often wash my own fleeces.  As I tell people, I'm not going to live long enough to wash, card and spin all this wool myself.  I pick my favorite special fleeces for hand washing, generally a lovely colored Jacob, a soft, soft Shetland or beautiful Corriedale.  These fleeces are generally spun for demonstrations, when I want to show the entire process of spinning a fleece by hand. 

If I don't plan to process the fleece myself, I have three favorite fiber processors.  These folks own small mills and will take my fiber, wash and turn it into roving ready to be spun, and then send it back to me.  I know that I can trust these mills to send my own fiber back, and it will be as lovely as it was the day it left me.  Only better!  There are many more wonderful mills out there...these just happen to be my personal favorites.

Fiber processing:

Wooly Knob Fiber Mill
Still River Mill
Central Virginia Fiber Mill

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Whoa, Wendy, this went way over my head!

Separating the tog from the thel

I have no idea what you are talking about! You are way beyond my pea brain.

Thanks for all the useful advice Susan and Jean.  I've bookmarked that article for future use.  I have spent the day reading over on ravelry - not kidding, the entire day, and found a comment from someone.  So I emailed her, and she just responded.  This is exactly what I'm looking for.  So, if any of you decide this is something you'd like to try, here are some great details. Now I'll have to see if I can find the original comment that led me to a reply - lol.  I hope this garners better results than I have had already. 

Jean - the guild I belong to is going to the Wooly Knob next month.  I'll probably be picking up a kid from college though :o(

Cheryl - 'pea brain' - hardly!  Thel and Tog refer to the shorter, downy fibers and the long outer fibers on a dual coated fleece.  Icelandic sheep are dual coated.  The Thel measures about 3" on mine, and the Tog is about 6 to 7".   The Thel is very nice and soft, the Tog on mine, since this is a lamb fleece is coarser, but not nearly as coarse as it can get on an adult.  I'm going to try and spin the Thel only, Tog only, and then the two blended together.  Supposedly you get a Lopi yarn if you do both together.  We'll see.  I just want to experiment! 

Whoa, Wendy, that looks like a lot of work.. not sure I'm up for all of that.  Have fun with your Icelandic

It is a lot of work.  It took almost 2 hours tonight, and I didn't get much done.  I'm waiting to see how it turned out when dry in the morning.  I enjoyed working on it though.  Thank goodness there's not too much to do, less than 1 pound. 

Wendy, I am NOT a lazy person... no one will EVER say that about me.  But back when I first started spinning, I bought a pound of raw corriedale to spin.  I didn't even know what that implied, but when my package arrived, and I opened the plastic bag, I nearly died!   I wrapped it back up and put it away for a while, and calmed down about what I had to deal with.  I washed the fiber on my stove top, in a stainless steel pot, with a bit of Dawn, and it took two washes and three rinses to get it clean. I then handcarded the whole mess.  I vowed at that time to NEVER again purchase a raw fleece.  You are much more adventuresome and work brittle than I am...

Lol!  Crazy is more like it!  It is a lot of work, and there have been times when I've thought to myself that I'm nuts to keep doing this.  But I find it addicting.  Raw fleeces excite me!  All the possibilities they possess.  Yep, I must be crazy! 

But your comment reminds me I really should finish the blog I started this past fall about the Finn fleece I bought.  Yes indeedy, that will explain a lot - lol!

Susan, I was re-reading your comment, and that reminded me of a question I asked you a little over two years ago when I bought a little ziplock bag of some dyed locks.  I too opened the bag when I got home and nearly gagged at the smell.  You informed me that sometimes there is VM in the wool, and I had absolutely no idea what VM even stood for.  I laugh when I remember exactly what you told me could be in that fleece.  I was thinking of that very thing tonight while standing at the kitchen sink working on the locks.  So glad DH didn't come out to see exactly what I was doing -- lol. 

There are times when I think I should make the same vow you did - lol. 

Wendy, of all the people in this group, I think you have grown the most in the last year. You have researched and experimented and just keep going. You amaze me.

Wow Cheryl, thank you - that means a great deal to me! 

I have learned so much from others on this site, and I know I absolutely love everything I've done related to this fiber addiction I have.  (Well almost everything - not so in love with the moths, manure, end of things - lol).  I've known since I was 11 that I wanted to learn to spin, I only wish I had started so much earlier.  There are so many things I want to learn and try, and in so many different areas, that at times I feel very scattered trying to do some of everything.  But I don't regret the time I spent raising my girls, not at all. 

I can think of so many others here who have grown so much in their knowledge and skills.  It's fun to go back to the beginning of this SAL and re-read everything that has been posted.  It's so interesting to see just how much everyone has learned, grown and improved.  And it has been so very interesting to see where some people have decided to branch off and concentrate their interests in.  Fascinating!  Simply fascinating!  I love this stuff!!  :o)

ETA - Over the past year, I've realized that this is exactly where I want to be and what I want to do with my life.  Sure took me long enough, didn't it?  lol  I could talk fibers 24/7 if I could find someone who would put up with me!


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