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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

Hey, it took me even longer than you!

Wendy, We have learned a lot over the past year or so, haven't we.  I am continually amazed at the condition of some of the fibers I get. While I have not gotten any more actually raw fleece, I have gotten fiber that is so very full of bits of grass, hay seed, and other bits of VM that you can't even card it out.  All that can be done is to pick the tiny pieces out as you spin. I've even gotten mill processed yarn that is STILL full of this stuff.  One item I knit with it, actually turned the water a grayish/brown color from all of the dried mud in the yarn. 

We sure have!  :o)

Have you tried out your new combs for those fibers with all the VM in it?  I think that would really help.  Extra fine combs are the next big purchase I want to make. 

That sure makes you wonder what the mill is doing if they produce yarns that dirty.  But then again, when I recently spun some alpaca in roving form, I was amazed how dirty the water was when I went to set the twist. 

I'm constantly learning.  Now if I could only constantly remember everything I am learning - lol. 

No, I have NOT tried my combs, maybe I'll do that this afternoon... this fiber has such a short staple, that I thought carding was the best way to prep it.  I'll try the combs and see how they work. 

BTW, my muddy fiber was also alpaca.

Combing is usually reserved for longer staple lengths, however shorter lengths can sucessfully be combed.  Don't over load your combs, and go slowly. Carding is usually used for the short fibers, but it does not remove the VM in the fibers. 

If there is static, lightly mist the fibers with water, or get your hands slighly damp and run then over the fibers.  That should help.  Have fun with them!

Alpaca's love to roll around in the dust.  Even after I sorted, gently banged the locks, picked the little VM out of, then packaged the locks and soaked them in a cold water bath for a day, I was shocked when I saw how dirty the actual wash water was.  It was filthy, and took 4 rinses before it was clean to my liking.  This is what I'm going to spin this weekend, so the final wash/twist set will tell me how good a job I did.  (This is the alpaca for the lady who had moths in the other fleece.)

Maybe I can comb the fibers a bit before actually carding them... I'll try a small batch to see how it goes.  I'll let you know.

Susan, while out running errands today, I had an idea.  (Who knew?- lol)  Why not trying running the shorter staples just over the tips of the comb to loosen the VM from the fibers.  I don't know if you have a pad that you can clamp to a table, as that would make this easier.  But If you hold one end of the staple, gently run it over the tips, turn it around and do the same thing for the other end, it may clean it up enough where you can than card them if that is what you want to do. 

Thanks Wendy, I'll give it a try... these are just tiny bits of hay seed... little black specks... the fiber cards up pretty well, but these pieces are a real annoyance.

hehehe, I see neither one of us has gone to bed yet - lol.  Just one more message to read (well lots down farther in my inbox, but that will just have to wait).  This is crazy - this is about the time I've been going to bed the past few weeks (almost 3:00a.m,).  Not too healthy at all. 

I hope this kind of combing works well for you.  Let me know.

So Susan, have you had a chance to try out your combs yet?  Is it helping you at all?

No, still not... I've had so much else going on, that I haven't tried at all.

Love this link you provided, Wendy.  I keep looking for those baskets she mentions (in photo), but have yet to find any.  I think I'll have to break down and go to a plant nursery.  I read somewhere on Rav that you can find baskets like these...they are actually made for water plants, hence the open grid on every side and bottom...this would eliminate the need to do the tulle and basting thread thang...and that's a good thing, I think :))


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