The last time I visited Eugene, I scored a couple of fleeces at an estate sale. There was a huge pile of them in the barn. The nice old guy in charge of selling barn stuff said I could have my pick
at $15.00 each. I was pretty excited. There were no clues as to when they were sheared or what type of sheep they were from. Some of them had won prizes at a county fair. I chose the two cleanest-looking ones. I was trying to be realistic as to whether or not I'd actually get around to processing the wool; I figured two fleeces would be do-able. (I'm still a newbie when it comes to raw fleece). So this week has become fleece-washing week. Luckily they've been skirted already. When I dumped the first one out, it had rather more vegetable matter than I'd first thought. I think that in the world of VM, it's not so much, but to someone used to working with pristine, store-bought rovings, any vegetable matter seems like a lot! It took me awhile to sort out the wool into piles of cleaner and less clean. (The idea being that I'd wash them separately) I'd done some research, and figured that washing the wool in the washing machine was the way to go. I used Dawn dish soap, hot water, and a series of 15 minute soaks, spinning out the water in between each. No agitation!I was amazed at how white the wool became! You can see the difference here, between the yellowish unwashed wool, and the whiter, washed stuff.I spread it out to dry on a sheet on the deck. I had to keep going out and fluffing & turning it, just to feel it's soft squooshiness! Now I have bags and bags of clean wool ready to play with. Just in time for dyeing season...I'll be able to try out as many dye plants as I'm able too! And I can try some wet felting, too. It seems like an infinite amount of wool, but I have a feeling that I'll go through it pretty quickly. I wasn't sure how great it would be for spinning, as the staple length is only a couple of inches. But a quickie trial at the wheel proved it to be quite nice to spin; I think that if I spend more time prepping it, it will spin up pretty well.For now, this thick-n-lumpy single is perfect for my current project. Crocheting these creatures, which will be felted and stuffed. The lumpier the better! All in all, I'm pretty happy about this new wool. I'm still not so crazy about the little bits of organic material in it. What do folks do about that? I can't imagine picking it all out! I look forward to obtaining more raw wool, now that I know how easy it is to wash it.