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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

I washed all but one color of the 10 colors I had yesterday...the water was almost thick with excess dye!  But I think I got most of it out, although there are two little batches that have me worried.. a mauvish pink one that still has dark purple tips and the one that was a very dark teal when I started, but has lightened up quite a bit!

My goodness, you were busy.  Did you enjoy the process?  Maybe try re-setting the two that have you worried?  I had to do that once and it worked quite well.  You could steam them in individual plastic wraps, maybe ziplock bags?  I'd love to see pictures of what you've done.  Hopefully you took before and after pics.  :o)

Wendy, if you are talking to me...eeek...I failed to take photos and really wish I had so that I could compare before and after...kicking self repeatedly!  I am just guessing, but i think that the tips are so much darker due to the fact that they had some lanolin in them, causing them to stick together and the dye stuck to the lanolin.  On most of the colors (10 in all) I lightly flicked the tips before I washed them, but by the time I got to the pinkish/mauve batch I was worried that my flicking was damaging the fleece.  In hindsight, I am now thinking that regardless of possibly damaging the tip, I have to get that dye out of there somehow, because it is simply going to run when the fleece gets washed again, so better to do it now, before I make it into yarn.

Yes I was - lol.  That's too bad about the photos.  I know I tend to take way too many pics of things. 

What are you planning on doing to the now clean fibers in regards to prepping them to spin?  Maybe if you flick the ends of the pink batch you'll have a better idea if they need to be re-washed.  However, if the ends do end up getting damaged, it is better to know before you start spinning them, as they can make neps in your singles.  It is far better to remove them before hand, even if it means you end up cutting them off.  It won't hurt the locks at all, and will give you more pleasure spinning them and a better looking yarn.  Remember, (unless this is a first shearing), the tips were cut once before - only they were on the staying end of the cut, so it won't hurt to cut them again. 

It may well have been a first shearing as this is uber soft fiber...I would never have expected Romney to be this soft.

I was wondering if they didn't really need washing, but rinsing. Maybe rinse and if they bleed, then maybe add a bit of vinegar to the rinse water. But I would rinse until clear.

True, good idea!

I considered just rinsing, but while I was picking the locks I discovered that I was getting lanolin on my hands when I pulled the tips apart, so I am thinking that while the locks were generally very clean of plain old dirt, the still had bits of VM (and one whole thistle top) in them and the tips clearly were full of lanolin which likely made the excess dye adhere to them?  So I used Power scour to get rid of the lanolin and it was mostly successful.


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