fleece washing wednesday

I have been intending to enact fleece washing Wednesdays for quite a while now and today seems just the right Wednesday to begin. My intent is to wash all the fleece I have before acquiring more. In the grand scheme of stashers, I really don’t have very much. I think there are 6 different fleeces, all 4 pounds or less.

I will wash on Wednesdays, be it one batch or many, until it has all been scoured properly. Properly to me means free of lanolin. That can be a tricky judgement. An early fleece I washed was some Gulf Cost Native which was given to me. The shepherd told me it had basically been raised in a dust bowl and truly, it was dusty-dirty filthy and full of vm (vegetable matter from being free in the pasture, or dust bowl in this case, bits of hay, grass, burrs…general debris you don’t want in your spinning). Some sheep are raised for their fleece for handspinners and coated…very little vm…not so in this case. Anyway, I found this breed to be lower in lanolin than some I had felt, and one scour felt very clean to me. When I went to use a batt that I had carded from this fleece just a few weeks later, it had an odd though slight stiffness to it. I learned this was some remaining lanolin and went back to the drawing board.

Today I am scouring some Shetland. Really, it is more likely a Shetland cross, but I have no idea with what. I got it from a new shepherd and the sheep had been given to her as Shetland. I have already scoured half of this fleece and spun up a nice fingering weight two ply. A few weeks ago I was at a spinning retreat with Judith MacKenzie, and the skein went into the dyepot. Judith told me the spinning was lovely, and asked what it was and I told her Shetland. “No…it can’t be…” There wasn’t a reason given, exactly, just disbelief. I told Judith I would send her a few locks, both raw and scoured, for her to inspect further. Hopefully she will have some ideas about it after seeing it raw and unspun.

It’s equally likely that my prep method is at fault in Judith’s disbelief. I didn’t do anything special, but I am on a learning curve and might have been something less than proper about it from the scouring, to the combing, to the spinning. I don’t feel it is a one way sort of effort, though, an I am quite pleased with the resulting fiber and yarn, which is entirely the point.

I know, pictures would help…to come…

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