Please don't worry nothing got hurt in the making of this Blog Post! The red is ID dye that the sheep was painted with!
Hmmm, there is a saying isn't there...Be careful what you wish for! An ex colleague of mine dropped off four raw fleece today. We don't know what they are, he rears a few sheep and I think they are the mongrel equivalent of the sheep world. My Mom and I were rather squeamish about the two we tackled. Not a pleasant experience. We work together like Laurel and Hardy 'Hmmm That's another fine mess you've got me into!' These fleece were fairly clean too by sheepy standards. Bleurgh! First you need to 'Skirt' your fleece. Pull off raggedy bits and remove soiled areas! Then they need to be 'Scoured'. Some spinners spin a raw fleece 'in the grease' unwashed, but that really is not the way to go for me! To 'Scour' a fleece you can use Washing Soda Crystals and soap.
Then you need some containers to soak the fleece in a mixture of two or three tablespoons of soda crystals and a really good squirt of Ecological Washing up Liquid (soap) and very hot water.
To scour a fleece you need hot water and soap. To felt wool you need hot water, soap and agitation. So when scouring you need to be careful not to agitate the fleece too much so it doesn't felt.
The water from the first soak was stinky! I soaked each section of fleece twice with soap and soda crystals then they were soaked again two or three times in clear hot water to rinse them.
I then tied the fleece into an old pillow case and put it in the washing machine on a spin cycle twice.
One of the fleece is grey.
The others are 'Sheep' colour. Two and a half hours hard labour later they are hung in pillow cases on the washing line to dry. They smell much better and I can work with them now without feeling squeamish. So far I have washed half a grey fleece and half a pale fleece! My Mom has concluded she likes to buy prepared wool and thinks it is all insanity. The washed fleece will need a fair amount of 'Picking' removing vegetable matter and debris. Then it will need to be carded to open up the fibers and prepare them for spinning. It amazes me that we do this for fun and leisure, in days gone buy this was done out of necessity, without hot water on tap! They must have been made of sterner stuff in those days.