Monday, May 5, 2008

Test Wash

I usually wash raw fleeces in my washing machine, by submerging the locks directly in the very hot water. But I wanted to keep the colors separate in the 1 lb Cormo fleece that arrived on Saturday, so I picked around yesterday morning, trying to separate out the colored locks. That job was complicated by the subtle color differences, and the lanolin in the wool, which discolors it. Cream looks like oatmeal looks like tan looks like brown.

But I managed to get the wool divided out into 4 piles, marveling the whole time at the beauty of this wool. I only had 3 lingerie bags for the locks, and the white was the smallest portion, so I put the other colors in bags for washing (to keep the colors from mixing back up again), and decided to wash the white on the stove.

It's not as important to keep food utencils away from wool washing as it is with dyeing, but no one wants stew cooked in a pot that had sheep poop in it (not that there was any poop in this wool- but it has been known to happen), so I used my stainless steel dye pot. Cormo is a very fine wool, just under Merino for softness and crimp. Very fine wools have loads of lanolin, and they will felt if you look at them sideways, so very hot water is needed, and absolutely no agitation. I brought a pot of water to a near boil on my stove, turned the heat off, added Dawn dish soap (I didn't measure, just squirted until the water turned bluish), and then I carefully submerged the locks. I used a spoon to push them below the surface, and the let them sit for awhile. If you allow the water to cool too much, the lanolin will solidify back on the locks, if you dump the water too fast, the wool won't get clean. So I just sort of hovered until the water was still warm to the touch but not hot. I strained the locks, and repeated the process with clean water. After the 2nd wash, I resubmerged the locks in very hot plain water for a rinse, and then repeated that step as well.

After the 2nd rinse, I drained the locks and squeezed the water out gently with a towel (I would have spun them out in my washer but the washer was busy doing what it was purchased to do). I could see then that I had plenty of other color in with the *white* locks. I separated the wool again, fluffed the locks, and let them dry.

Later in the evening, I hand carded a sample of each color (there was mostly white, but there was also a little oatmeal and tan in the mix), and wheel-spun a length of 2-ply, 15 wpi yarn of each color. It's still a little lumpier than I'd like, but the yarn is wonderfully soft and bouncy, and the colors are fantastic. I'm not good at hand carding, so I think I will use the drum carder carefully on the rest of the wool, which is sitting in its first rinse in the washer now. I'll post pics of the process and progress tomorrow.

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