Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dorset Fleece

I've been responsible today. Since the sun is out, and it's quite warm, I decided that it's time I pull out a fleece and get it scoured. I wanted to go for a bike ride, and in between pots of wool I've been plotting a scenic route to the lake. First things first though. The Dorset Fleece. About a month or so ago, a friend of mine pulled up with a pickup truck full of bags of wool and told me to PLEASE take some. Never turn down free wool. So I took three fleeces (a dark leicester, a white Border Leicester and a white Dorset. Oh, and some kid mohair. Nearly forgot about that.) I believe she told me these were from the previous years shearing, so they've been sitting around in black garbage bags for a year and were developing quite the bouquet. Which, for about the last month, means that my craft room is really starting to smell of sheep.

So here's the Dorset fleece prior to scouring. Like most "white" sheep, it's a yellow/gold color from the lanolin and barnyard nastiness.

It has a lovely, sproingy locks. Lots of crimp.

So, since I had already skirted all three fleeces when I got them, I went ahead and started the washing.

There are countless ways to scour a fleece. I prefer the small batches on the stove top method. Mostly because I live in a small apartment, but also because if I were to soak it in hot water in the tub, the cats would sit on the edge and drink the nasty sheep water. I do have a washer, and could soak it in there, then spin cycle the water out, but then I have to haul the damp fleece back upstairs from the basement to put it out on the deck to dry. I want to try a method I read about recently on Ravelry using an old chest cooler to soak it in, then drain the nasty water out through the drain hole. Refill and repeat. So I need to keep an eye out for an old cooler. That would probably work well in my situation. Haven't tried rain water yet. I have seen the results of it, and am quite impressed! So, maybe one day I will remember to collect some water.

Back to the stove top. I fill two stock pots with hot tap water, and put them on burners set at about 3ish or just a little above the low setting. In one, I add about a tablespoon, maybe a little less, of Dawn dish detergent. I leave the other as my first rinse pot. I like to put my wool in mesh laundry bags. It helps with moving it from one pot to another. So I fill up a mesh bag of wool, place it in the pot with the detergent, and push it down in the water. I generally let it soak for about 5-10 minutes, then take the bag out of the water, gently squeeze as much nasty water out as I can, and place it in the rinse pot. I leave it in the rinse pot for about 5-10 minutes as well. Then I empty the wash pot, rinse it, and refill it with fresh water for the second rinse. One wash and two rinses seems to work for me with MOST fleeces. Sometimes there is a particularly filthy sheep and it needs another wash and rinse or two.

After the wool has been through it's washing and rinsing, it goes out on the deck to dry in the sun. If I time it right, I can get it all out there with plenty of daylight to dry it all. That didn't happen today, but it was mostly dry when I brought it in.

It cleans up wonderfully! I am very happy with this fleece. I'm looking forward to spinning up a sample soon. Just look at these lovely locks!

And such soft fluff!

As a reward after I got all of the fleece clean and out on the deck to dry, I went on a bicycle adventure! More on that later. :)

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