Fact: Washing fleece will keep you healthy and productive

I am now in the possession of 2 fleece, (fleeces?) As I write this post, I’m washing corriedale in 20 mins increments. Let me shared what I learned… so far…

Previously a skeptic, I am now an evangelical convert. If you’re fearing the fleece, let me tell you: it’s easier than you think and very enjoyable!

As I mentioned in my previous post on choosing fleece: if you asked me two weeks ago, I’d have thought buying raw fleece and prepping your own fibre sounded crazy difficult, messy and possibly a little bit nutty. My mind changed during Deb Robson’s wool types workshop as we explored the locks and could make our own decisions about how to prep the wool.

There are lots of reasons to clean and prep your own fleece.

  • Educational benefits: You learn more about the breeds and their qualities instead of just generic “plonk” of typical wool bases.
  • OCD Control and independence: You can choose how you want to process the wool, how much lanolin to leave in; if you want it carded, flicked or combed.
  • Feel good factor: Help save rare breeds by supporting farmers
  • You can avoid chemicals: Use less chemicals in processing. Industrial processing uses lots of chemicals and even acids to eat away vegetable matter.
  • Benefits of knitting/crochet with handspun. Why I Knit with Handspun
  • You have far too much time on your hands! You’re not knitting because it’s fast fashion, right? Actually washing fleece might be 2 hours total, but only requires active attention for 2-3 minutes in 20 mins increments.
  • Health benefits: See, the way I think of it is, if you’re working from home, (like me) and using the Pomodoro technique for productivity or following health and safety guidelines about not sitting for too long, then washing fleece can fit right into your routine :) Getting off your butt every 20 mins and moving around is good for your brain and body. And meanwhile you get clean fleece. How’s that for maximizing your time?

So for argument’s sake: Washing fleece will make you more productive and healthier! (I can rationalize ANYTHING.)

Helpful references

I’m not an expert, but a learner. I’m sharing my notes and the resources I found helpful.

In this introductory video from spinning daily, Eunny Jang interviews Deb Robson about washing fleece. I saw this a while ago, so it might have been my first exposure to the idea.

Spinner’s Book of Fleece by Beth Smith. This book wasn’t available when I started last week, but I think this is going to be very helpful. A review coming soon!

I mainly followed Deb Robson’s 3 part series on washing wool. She used a bathtub, which is similar to my situation (no washing table out back, no utility sink, etc) Read the whole thing before starting.

The shopping list

Beware all enterprises requiring new equipment. – (modified) Henry David Thoreau

I started off with a plastic dish pan and a broken colander. Slowly, I’m acquiring other tools. You know, because heavy duty gloves are super helpful. I start with the absolute necessities at the top of the list:

  1. A dirty fleece! Read about choosing fleece.
  2. Water source. I used the bathtub.
  3. Plastic dishpan. I realized if I had a second one, I could do twice as much in the same time. Now I’m getting a third one! Productivity BOOM.
    • Deb Robson uses these cool kitty litter trays with inserts. I couldn’t find exactly the same thing, but at a reasonable £4.40 the Savic Cat Litter Tray with Insert, 42 cm means I can lift the wool without swishing or moving it. Yes I feel bad buying this in Amazon, but I couldn’t find anything like it in our nearest pet shops.

      The litter tray on left means I don't have to lift the wool out into a colander to drain.

      The litter tray on left means I don’t have to lift the wool out into a colander to drain.

  4. very thick heavy duty glovesHeavy duty gloves. Doing this without gloves is painful and probably dangerous.
    • My husband gave me very thick gloves, they are cloth lined. About 100x better than normal marigolds.
  5. Cleaning agent: In my case Unicorn Power Scour.
    • I got 3 samples of this at the workshop. You use a TINY amount (about a teaspoon) and it’s amazingly effective. Water itself works well in the first rinses, but this seems to pull out lots of grease. I think you can use fairy liquid, but I didn’t try it yet.
  6. Thermometer. On my wishlist. I don’t have one of these yet, but I really would like to know how hot the water is to start, and how much heat its losing.
  7. Stacking sweater drying rack. On my wishlist. Right now, I’m just rolling in towels and laying it on a clean sheet, but it seems to take a very long time to dry. I’d love to have some more air under it.

Other methods from least intensive to most, in my opinion.

What you need to know about washing fleece

  • Basically if you want to felt you need two of the following: change in temperature, soap and movement. So avoid combining those.
  • Don’t worry about VM. Easier to get out after fleece is clean. Don’t try pulling out sticks or leaves, as you will risk agitating and felting the wool.
  • Wash in batches, 4 oz or 100 g.
  • Each step takes about 20 mins, and the entire process about 2 hours. In which you can’t just “leave” it.
  • Very important, Deb says this in about 10 different ways: “Do not let the temperature in the baths drop significantly throughout the entire wet-wool time.
  • Don’t agitate. Don’t even put wool in the basin and then add water. Water pouring on the wool will agitate it.
  • If it’s very dirty, try to arrange with the tips down in the pan.

Deb’s basic plan

Did I mention not letting the water completely cool between soaks? Keeping that in mind these are the three main steps:

  1. Soaking in clear water. (1 or 2 cycles.)
  2. Soaking in cleansing solution. (Between 1 and 3 cycles.)
  3. Soaking in rinse water. (1 or 2 cycles.)

Now with all that said about agitating, I was SUPER paranoid about even touching the wool as it soaked. But I found the tips still very dirty. In part 2 of her guide, Deb advised that with careful treatment you could encourage some more of the dirt out. In my third washing session, I gave this a go “Lightly pinching my fingers on the tip of the lock, I slide them past each other. I’m not rubbing. I’m lightly compressing—with the intention of loosening the dirt more than of manipulating the fiber.

OK I’m not 100% sure, but I did give this a go. Before rubbing the dirt is clumped to the tips.  before-rubbing

After “sliding the tips”, tips are loosened to the next soak can get into the tips.

after-rubbing

 

For drying, roll in towels, and lay down to dry. I’m finding it’s taking a little too longer (longer than 1.5 days, so I want to get a drying rack or find a way to get some air under the fleece. I really like the new litter tray for soaking. When I lift it onto the towel I don’t need to even touch it to roll it. But I think stacking sweater racks would be ideal.

after-tray

So now you know how to get healthier and more productive through fleece washing :)

Next I can talk more about the preparation techniques. And that is loads of mesmerizing fun.

5 thoughts on “Fact: Washing fleece will keep you healthy and productive

  1. Thanks to you, once I bite the bullet and start spinning, I am going to feel so prepared! Thanks for sharing all this great info.

    I love reading your blog. You always have so many great tips and resources. I even mentioned you in a blog hop, because of how much I’ve already learned from your chronicle of adventures. Keep up the amazing work!

    • Oo yes I have to write the blog hop! Thanks for that ;) those are fun! I started spinning only as a detour, just so I could appreciate yarn and breeds better. But I’m still meandering down this little path finding a fully fibrey adventure. I do hope you give it a try!

  2. What a fascinating piece! There is definitely a lot to consider when it comes to washing fleece, but I love the idea of breaking it down into chunks and using time intervals to manage it all! Seems like quite a process but worth it!

    I look forward to seeing how you decide to process the fleece (you may convince me to add some tools into my arsenal soon :D)

    • Cool! Well I’m still learning just the basics myself. Hopefully I’ll see improvement over time. But yes, come into the world of fibre prep ;)

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