Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Wash Day

Yesterday was a rarity in South Dakota- a warm, dry, day with very little wind. Perfect for washing wool, and drying it in baskets on the porch. So that's what I did.

Here's the process: Fill the washer with hot water, and squirt enough Dawn dish soap to make the water bluish (I never measure, but I suppose I use a quarter cup). Make absolutely sure that the washer is shut off so that someone doesn't accidentally close the lid and start the cycle (ask me how I know this can happen). Submerge the wool in the hot soapy water. I usually just put the wool in, unbagged, but I separated the colors of this Cormo fleece and I wanted to keep them separated. So the locks were in zipper lingerie bags (the same ones I use for felting). Let the wool sit for an hour or so, until the water cools but is still warm. Spin the water out. Remove the wool. Wipe out the washer (the dirt and gunk accumulation can be amazing, but for a high-lanolin wool, it wasn't bad. I suppose it's because I was only washing a pound). Repeat the process. Then run another tub of hot water and submerge the bags for a rinse. Let it sit until the water cools off, and spin. Repeat the rinse as well. (note: usually 2 washes will do the trick, but some really dirty wool needs 3 wash repeats). Take the wool out of the bags, re-sort as to color (I had a lot of lighter stuff in with the dark), fluff and set out to dry. Turn and fluff the wool periodically, until it dries completely. That can take anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days, depending on the weather, the amount of wool, and what kind of hurry I'm in. Yesterday it took about 4 hours.

Often, the raw locks are matted at the end, and need to be flicked open before washing and carding, but this wool didn't need flicking. I don't have a picker (a medieval torture device used to open wool locks), so I usually just feed the washed locks into my carder and go from there. (actually, I usually send my washed wool to Abi at High Prairie Fibers to card, but this was just 1 lb and I felt like playing with it). Cormo is a very fine wool, and prone to neps and snarls, and it's important not to over-card. I ran each batt through the drums twice carefully, but I got some neps anyway (you can see them in the pics). I'll pick them out as I spin (though some will remain- it won't be a perfectly even yarn). Even the cleanest of fleeces has dirt in it- and this batch was no exception- see what was under the carder when I finished?

This wool is amazingly soft and beautiful, and I love the colors. I started out with 1lb of raw fleece. After sorting and washing, I ended up with 1 cream batt, 1 oatmeal batt, 8 medium tan batts, and 3 dark tan batts- a total of 8.3 ozs of spinnable fiber (with and additional .1 oz already spun in test yardage). This is not enough wool for a sweater, and Cormo is too soft for socks (it'll wear out easily). But it'll be perfect for mittens and a hat- which is what I suspect this wool will end up being. I plan to make a 2-ply yarn, 14-15 wpi, and I hope to have enough white and dark to knit a simple stranded design with the tan. (pardon the messy table- it's very cluttered where I live).
I was on a sock-roll last night-the current book sock was going very well, so I completed that instead of spinning- but I will begin spinning this wool soon (I have a bobbin of Rose Garden Merino to finish, and then ply first). Maybe tonight during AI (as I scribble notes).


Leigh said...

You do such a wonderful job processing your fiber. It's a joy to see it happen so.

Kathleen Taylor said...

Thanks! Sometimes I just have to play with raw wool. I love the whole process.