Like many fiber nuts, I have an acquisition habit. Lately, this habit has lead me to gather up small amounts (2 – 6 oz) of unwashed fleece of various breeds .. it’s a great, inexpensive why to try out some of the rarer wools.
The only challenge is .. well .. it’s unwashed, and I’ve never washed wool!
So .. I braved the washing with some Cheviot and some Polwarth. You would think that I might choose something not as delicate as Polwarth, but … well .. it was on the top of the bag.
I used my big “Phil” tub and a smaller bucket for the two fibers. Each tub got about half filled with hot tap water, and then an additional kettle or two of boiling water added. I used my cooking thermometer for readings and the water was close to 200 degrees once I added the boiling water. From what I’ve read, this is a bit hotter than needed (and there was NO way I was putting my hands in there!) but it seemed good enough. Each tub also got a squirt of generic dish
washing soap. I lined the tubs with some fine mesh fabric too so I could use that to pull the fleece out with minimal disturbance.
Both batches went through two soaks of 30 minutes in the soapy water … the temp never got below 140 degrees so the lanolin stayed in solution … and then 2 soaks in warm-hot water (I could put my hands in it but it was uncomfortable) without any soap. Then a spin in the salad spinner and out to dry on a towel.
Some things I’ve learned …
1. The wider profile of the Phil is WAY better to wash fleece in! A thin layer on the top of the water is much better than the fleece trying to spread out in a taller vessel.
2. Polwarth is VERY white!! And oooh so soft.
3. It doesn’t take as long, nor is it as scary as I thought
4. If there’s VM going in .. there’s likely VM coming out! … The Cheviot is still FULL of VM .. it’ll take a bit of flicking to get that all out.
5. I could see washing a whole fleece in a bath tub … and I might when I get my baby Shetland fleece!
6. Prep takes a lot of time, but it’s rather enjoyable to see sticky raw fleece turn into something spin-able
Overall … it was pretty fun, didn’t smell up the house too badly, and I’d definitely do it again!