A good friend of mine raises sheep. One day I mentioned that I'd like a bit of raw wool to play with. Their annual sheering was in a few days and she brought me a whole fleece! I promtly stuck the thing in my washing machine and felted the entire fleece permanently embedding the vegetable matter in the fibers. I was so embarrassed that it took me a year to tell her. By then it was sheep sheering time again and she rewarded me with 3 fleeces: 1 white, 1 gray, and one dark brown with black swirls. They are beautiful! I've had them over a year now and have been afraid to do anything with it. My husband keeps suggesting I either use it or find a new home for it.
I got up the nerve recently and did some research on how to properly scour, dry, card and spin a fleece. So here's a photo diary of how we did it.
Here's a before photo of the white fleece. It's pretty dirty, but a nice long lock with a lovely crimp.
This is the before picture of the charcoal and brown fleece. I didnt get a shot yet of the gray fleece.
After washing, I filled the same dishtub with plain warm water (not as hot as the first time, but not cold either) and set the fleece in to soak and rinse. I repeated this process: soak in clean water, drain in colander, soak again; until the rinse water came out clear. It took 3-4 times to rinse it well.
The last time I pressed the wool in the colandar gently to squeeze out any excess water without felting it. Then I set out old towels on our outdoor table and spread the clean fleece in a light layer to dry.
Once it dried it was ready for carding. When we started washing the fleece, We didn't have any carders yet. I felt sticker shock when I saw the price of new ones! Luckily I was able to snaggle a couple of used pairs off ebay for $30. The first pair was perfect. The second pair didn't have any bent teeth but all the teeth are rusty. Does anyone know if rusty teeth will hurt anything? Heidi finds carding a relaxing and rewarding past time. We are carding the locks into rolags for spinning. (P.S. Heidi made her shirt at my mom's using a stencil my mom designed. I just love it.)