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Washing raw fleeces before carding
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Tom A    Posted 05-04-2003 at 09:54:33       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Just got a carding machine after we couldn't find anybody at the annual Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival who would even talk to us about our wool because we only had 4 fleeces--about 40 lbs. Oh, there was one but they wanted to charge us for 100 lbs to process the 40. Turns out the carder didn't cost much more than processing the fleeces one time.

So anybody have any good ways to wash the raw fleece before carding? We got the "book answer" but we're looking for some experienced advice.


Lynda Holt    Posted 05-03-2004 at 18:54:00       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Tom, I'm sorry to hear that you couldn't find a wool processor. There are many of us smaller processors popping up around the country that are pleased to take smaller lots, (we require no minimums). Take a look in the back of Spin-Off next time, there are many of us who advertise in there.

Anyway, it is hard to really get a fleece clean at home, we wash in 180 degree water to get all of the grease out, so you may want to heat some water on the stove and use a large wash basin. Be sure to get the fleece out of the water before it cools as the grease will resettle on the fiber if you don't. It is fine to use a washing machine to spin out the fleece, but be very careful not to agitate the fleece as felting can occur. Heat alone is great, heat and agitation is a killer. As far as soap goes, very small amounts of dishwashing liquid will work in a pinch, but for home cleaning I would suggest Euculan.

Rhonda    Posted 05-05-2003 at 06:58:06       [Reply]  [No Email]
I help my neighbor shear his sheep and i bring home some wool to clean and stuff pillows with, I pick threw the wool and get the dirty stuff out and the rest i put in a " wringer washer " with dawn dish detergent 1/2 cup and 1/2 cup of bleach, and wash it a few minutes at a time, I just use the wool to make pillows out off, good luck

DeadCarp - chemical shearing    Posted 05-05-2003 at 06:54:15       [Reply]  [No Email]
Universities have been playing with chemical be-fleecing for a decade or so - i was wondering if anybody had seen it up close.

Kat in NJ    Posted 05-04-2003 at 17:08:32       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Okay, guys, I go to Maryland to pick up yet another spinning wheel and find out ya'll been talking about me! ;-)

Not 'xactly in the city (although I work in lovely Newark...yuck!): I'm in the suburbs at the edge of what's left of the country in NJ. So, close enough for friends to have sheep, but none of my own (yet!). I do shear, though!

Having several very nice new raw fleeces which arrived recently, I will be getting washing underway soon. I know some people use the washing machine method; having seen the color that the wash water turns when a fleece is first submerged, I personally can't bring myself to use the washing machine that then will be used for clothes.

We have an extra bathroom that was an add-on and which no one uses the tub or shower in, so that has become the wool preparation room. I've also used the kitchen sink. Fill the tub/sink with water as hot as you can stand to have your hands in; when almost full, use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid (hey, it get's the grease out!). Ivory Soap Flakes are good, too, and make the wool smell like baby blankets. Submerge as much of the picked, skirted fleece as will fit in the tub/sink and let soak for at least 1/2 hour. Don't swish, agitate, or otherwise handle roughly or you will have a tub full of felt!

When it looks like the dirt is coming away, remove in portions, gently squeezing out as much water as possible. I have a clean Rubbermaid tub handy to put the wet wool into. Drain tub and rinse; refill with water and soap and let soak again.

A note: if you are washing a really greasy fleece, like Merino or Rambouillet, you need to add 1/4 cup of soda ash to the water to help cut the grease. Just wear rubber gloves if you do this, as you may burn your hands if sensitive.

Two washings it usually ample; you will need to rinse two or three times to get all the soap and dirty water out. When everything is drained and rinsed, I put a wooden clothes drying rack into the tub if cold out, or outside if nice, and hang handfuls of the fleece to dry.

Depending on the breed, the wool may or may not need to be picked prior to carding (and I'm supposing that you bought a drum carder, not an electric carder!). Breeds like Border Leicester have a more tightlocked fleece which needs to be teased apart in order to get a smooth card. I have a Romney drying right now and the tips will need to be picked open but the rest is pretty loose.

I do have a drum carder and use it for the medium to coarse wools. The nicer ones like Shetlands all go out to Utah to a lady named Lynn Rosa who runs Spinderella's; she has a commercial carder and sends everything back as balls of roving, rather than batts -- makes it even easier to spin from. Lynn will card as little as one pound of wool; she also recards "thrums" -- the excess yarn from warping a loom -- back into spinnable fiber. She will wash a fleece, as well, but you need to reserve in advance for this service!

Also, the woman I bought my newest wheel from gave me wool which was processed at the CCV Wool Mill, RD #2, Avella, PA. They will do smallish quantities, but not sure yet how small. She said that they washed for her.

Let me know if you need further info and feel free to email offline. I've worked with pretty much all breeds and all fibers at this point, and if I don't have the answer, usually know where to find it!


There is a good article about washing wool here on the Northwest Weavers Guild site.

Were you at the MD sheep wool festival??    Posted 05-05-2003 at 04:20:26       [Reply]  [Send Email]
Hi Kat!

First off, thanks for all the great info, it'll all be very helpful.

Pam and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Maryland festival on Saturday...if you were there, I'm sorry we didn't get to meet. Always a lot of fun there, it keeps me from getting "County Fair withdrawal" this time of year.

thanks again. I may be back in touch with more stupid questions as we try to process our four little fleeces.

Tom A

Ron/PA    Posted 05-04-2003 at 10:26:37       [Reply]  [No Email]
Tom, I'm gonna screw this up, but here's trying.
Go into the archives and look for an address for
,,, I think, it's Kat from NJ.. she's real well versed in the processing of wool. If I have the name right, and my memory serves me, she raises, shears, processes, and makes finished products from her sheep. Kind of a sheep to shawl operation. If I'm wrong,,,, well someone will tell me.

RayP(MI)    Posted 05-04-2003 at 15:43:53       [Reply]  [No Email]
Well, if I know Kat well enough, she doesn't raise any, but she's interested in every other step! (She lives in a city!) Perhaps she'll see this post, and set me straight. She probably has better techniques than I too!

My wife says to soak it in hot soapy water. Shampoo works well. She uses the washing machine, overriding the spin and agitation cycles. Our machine pumps the water out before spinning. Several soap/rinse cycles will be required. What you're really doing is washing the lanolin out.

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