Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Morning chores and a challenge.

From Here
Since getting the kids to pick up their toys yesterday reduced my chores for today, I am now focused on a project that I put aside. Before I got to play, however, I cleaned up the kitchen. Now, I am processing my first bit of raw fleece.

When I was given the fleece as the Genesee Valley Handspinners Guild meeting last month, I remarked to my lovely Mother-in-Law that I had no clue where to begin. She kindly offered that she would be happy to help and I bravely said that I would muddle along and call her if I found myself well and truly confused. The fleece was greasy with lanolin and smelled of ... well, sheep.

Uncertain where to begin, I did what any good person would do. I went to the oracle of Google and did a search on how to process fleece. Many sites popped up and I clicked the first non-Youtube link that I saw. After doing some reading, I learned the following:

  1. In addition to lanolin, there is sheep sweat, bits of grass, dirt, and sheep dung that will be found in fleece. (I looked my bit of fleece over and didn't find any large bits so I'm hopeful that I don't have much in the way of sheep dung to worry about.)
  2. You must use really HOT water to rinse and wash your fleece. Tepid or cool water will not be sufficient to soften and liquify the lanolin and strip it off of the fibers.
  3. Shampoo will not work to clean off fleece because it will not remove the waxy lanolin. Dish soap or laundry soap are a more effective option.
  4. You can not use Oxyclean or similar products to clean your fleece. They contain enzymes that react with proteins and will dissolve your fiber along with the lanolin.
  5. You must be very gentle in agitating your fleece, if at all. Anything substantial will cause your fleece to felt.
While brand-name dish soap was recommended, I decided to use the generic stuff that I have in the kitchen. I'm going to wash this with the dish soap however many times I need to until the water runs clear. Drying it will be a touch challenging because I don't know how well it will work out on my drying rack. Once I have this stuff clean and dry, I am going to card it with my handcards and I think I'm going to spin it on my Ashford student spindle.

Once I have the fiber spun up, I am thinking I should actually knit something with it. I honestly don't know how much yarn I will get out of this, though. I may wind up only making a small swatch with it all. That would be ok, though, because I'm going to start knitting and crocheting gauge swatches. I figure as I start a new project, I will get into the habit of doing this. After I get a decent sized pile of swatches together, I'll stitch them together into something. Oh, I forgot to note, but the breed of sheep that this is from (and pictured above) is Cotswold.

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