I was fortunate enough to have a day where I could focus on getting the rest of my fleeces washed. I couldn't have done it without my wonderful husband. He has got me all set up when it comes to getting things done.
He got the fire going in our outdoor wood burning stove and hooked up a hose so that I could fill the washtub full of 180 degree water. Water hot enough that it will liquify the lanolin off the wool.
The first step after skirting and picking out the 2nd's, is giving the fleece a good pre soak. This gets the really nasty stuff off and helps prevent me from having to wash more than once. I fill the tub up, then add the fleece and let it soak for a bit. Then I drain it, take the wool Out and refill the tub. I continue this process until the water is pretty clear. The first two soaks are so nasty!
The next step is filling the washtub with super hot water, then I add the fleece being careful not to agitate it. The trick with wool is to NOT accidentally felt it. Any sort of agitation and water are not a good mix. Spraying water directly on the fleece is extremely bad.
I usually use just plain old Dawn dish soap because if it's good enough for rescued oil covered animals, it's good enough for my greasy wool. This year I thought I would try this new stuff called Power Scour and I have to say that it is very good. I just had to do one wash and one rinse with this stuff. (Not counting the two presoaks).
once the wool ha soaked a bit, I turn the washer to the spin cycle and it drains the tub and extracts the extra water from the wool. I then pull the fleece out and rinse out the tub before I refill it with plain water and a few drop of cedar wood essential oil. This helps keep moths and other unwanted critters out when its stored. You could also use lavender essential oil. One thing I remember from my workshop is that moths are like bedbugs or termites, once there is an infestation they are HUGE headache to get rid of. They are attracted to the sulfur in the fiber, and the essential oils smell like poop to them so it masks the suffer smell which detracts them.
It always amazes me how white my fleeces are just by giving them two presoaks. The wool below is from the same sheep. The one on the left has just been placed in the presoak water and the one on the right is the fleece that has been soaked twice. Just plain water did that!
The fleeces below are all Shetland fleeces. The variance in color is awesome! The fleeces below are from Buckeye, Narnia, and a Shetland fleece that was given to me. It's a brown color called Moorit. I'm excited because I will have two of this color next year from my 2016 lambs.
Getting a closer look at Buckeyes fleece shows that he is grey,white, fawn and a little bit of moorit. His fleece is extremely soft as well, softer than all the others. It feels good to be done with the washing phase. At least now I can not worry so much about storing them till winter.
Last weekend I was able to attend a two day conference in Lebanon, Mo called Fiber U. It is put on by the MOPACA-Midwest Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association. This was the 7th year that they have put this on but my first time attending. My friend Sarah joined me in taking classes although I think she had more fun classes because she got to make things. Mine were more business and maintenance type classes.
The first class I took was really valuable and it was all about prepping/skirting fiber. Skirting is basically where you get rid of all the nasty parts or the 2nd cuts which are the too short pieces or pieces that are courser etc. Basically, everything you don't want to end up in your finished product. I really needed this class because I find that I'm always second guessing while I'm skirting my fleeces. It's painful when so much of the fleece gets pulled out and either discarded or saved for making some other type of core or rug yarn.
The pics from above are from a class called Woolology. It was all about hand processing fibers, grading and choosing a decent fleece. Also, I met some great folks in this class and was able to come away with more knowledge of how to process the long wool breeds. Currently, I only have one long wool sheep but I'm purchasing another Border Leicester ewe at the end of summer.
I also had an excellent class that was all about Ecommerce for crafters. It was more geared towards protecting yourself while conducting business on the Internet. The instructor was extremely knowedgeable and I came away from that class inspired.
I also took a class called 'From Pasture to Profit' which was good besides the fact that it was geared towards alpaca owners. I did come away from that class with more knowedgeable of the CO-OPs for alpaca farmers, and I got the name of another shearer in case I need a backup.
I also got to see Nancy and take her fleeces to her. I took 7 of my own fleeces to be processed by a mill out in Kansas. They had a booth set up so I prearranged to save on shipping and just drop them by.
This is is definitely a conference that I will be attending again. I had a hard time picking between classes and that's always a good thing.