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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

Har de har har!  I will be washing some crimpy lovelies soon, but not before you get home!  I'll be doing this inside, in the kitchen and with temps back up into the 80's this week, I need to get my window A/C unit set up again...I dread this every year, never knowing if it will be the one...the one where I do permanent damage to be back :0

Good tip about the aluminum foil.  I have hard water as well...uh, oh.  Last night, after reading all about your experiences with the Icelandic, I decided to take a better look at what I have:

1) vendor pre-washed, and although she said I was getting a discount because she thought it still had some lanolin in it, it didn't feel like it had any that I could discern; 2) I got 2 diff. lots of Icelandic, 1 1/2 pounds from Jill's boy, a ram lamb...beautiful silver/gray and I could feel the soft thel in this; and 3) the 2nd lot is just 5 ounces of white from a Ewe...very clean, but jeeesh, this felt like horse hair!

I think I will be scouring some ancient corriedale that I discovered (from that oh-so-long-ago spin-and-dye-workshop)...I have 2-3 shades of chocolate and it still looks good after 20+ years!  And then there is the 7 1/2 pound full Tunis fleece I got last year.  The shepherdess washed it for me...It looked really good when I got it but it felt tacky so I knew I would have to re-wash it.  I got it out several weeks ago thinking I would card some up to blend with the Dark Purple roving to lighten was way beyond is now in gummy wads.  I think this may well be a scouring nightmare!

You put the AC unit in yourself?  That is a big, big job.  Isn't there someone who can do it for you?  I help my DH take his mom's out at the end of Fall, but his much younger niece and her DH put the unit in.  You need to protect your back, after all you have lots of lovely crimpies that need to be bathed.

The vendor I bought mine from said that the older the sheep gets, the coarser the Tog.  She had three lambs fleeces there, and OMG I wish I could have gotten them all. She also had one that was from a yearling (?) I think.  Soft, and lovely too.  But the Tog is great for items that need a hard wearing yarn, rug, purse, etc.

As for your Tunis (lucky, lucky you or should I say ewe?) try doing a short soaking bath on a small batch at first to see how it works.  I'll bet it won't take too much to get the remaining lanolin out.  The trick is to do small amounts I think.  

Yeppers, I do it of the disadvantages of being single.

I guess the white Icelandic I have must be from an older ewe, but the lamby stuff is so very lovely!

The Tunis...believe me, I will be doing small batches at a time, 4-6 ounces at most...divided into 7 1/2 pounds...don't want to even think about the answer to that math...oh, my aching back!

Are there no young men around who could help you?  Just the thought of you doing that all by yourself makes me cringe. 

Maybe you could do half of the Tunis yourself and send the other half out for processing or at least just the cleaning?

Wendy you are fabulous. To do a lock at a time is something else I was given the icelandic wool and when I saw it I took it to be cleaned, I have cleaned many fleece but this one I decided not to, I too enjoy pulling the locks out and working with them? I loved the article about washing the locks that was what I was trying to find for you but could not find it, it was a video though and it may be on one of my videos that I have about fleece.

Jean, I hope I'm not making a mistake trying to clean this myself.  I had thought about giving it to a small mill to do, but decided since I want to try spinning it three different ways the only way I would be able to do so was to control the fibers myself.  I'll find out if it was a mistake one way or the other.  Luckily, I know where I can get more locally.  Now finding the $$$ for it  is another thing - lol. 

I thought for sure there would be a video about hand washing locks as well, but I never found one.  Maybe I should research it more.  But thank you for looking!  :o)

I spent a couple of hours hand washing a few locks last night.  Not the fastest way to clean fibers, but it was enjoyable for the most part.  And the results were much more to my liking.  This is what the raw locks look like before washing - (picture taken this morning as I forgot to take one last night before washing them)This is the washing set up I used.  I was impressed that this little container of scouring bath could do such a good job cleaning the locks.  But I also used a bar of Fels Naptha after dipping it in the bath. I ran the locks over the bar of soap.The just washed locks.  I did not squeeze them at all at any point as I was afraid to felt them.  And this is how they looked this morning once dry.  Not too bad.  I'll have to see how they are when I card them later.  Too keep the wash/rinse water temps hot enough I had a kettle of boiling water on hand to add as needed.  I changed my wash water 3 times I think, and the rinse water probably 4 or 5 times.  I'd use the 2nd rinse water for the 1st  rinse and get a new, clean, hot rinse for the 2nd rinse, thereby not using as much water.  I'd say overall, things went pretty well.  It's time consuming though.

Nice job, Wendy.

Thank you!  One would never get rich, nor accumulate much yarn if this was the only way to wash wool, that's for sure :o)

Those individual locks look fabulous...if you like, I can send you mine to wash...but you have to give them baaackk...LOL.




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