Fiber Washing – Raw Merino

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Let’s have a little math lesson.  Raw merino fleece + perfect weather conditions = fiber processing day.  What constitutes perfect weather conditions? Light breeze (very light), sunny, low humidity and 65-80 degrees.  Since that’s what came together Saturday I just had to do some fiber processing. Shameless plug: If you’re interested in learning how to select and process fleeces at home take my class on raw fleeces at the Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival in early July – details under the Classes -> Live Classes page.

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This is 5 pounds of raw merino I bought last year and did not get cleaned before winter (partially due to that little finger injury that resulted in an open wound for several weeks).  As much as I recommend washing your wool the same season you bring it home, this seems to have faired ok.  The locks themselves are very clean and there’s very little VM in the coat.  The biggest challenge is the tips.  They are compacted (not felted, just compressed) and trapped in those tips is a fair amount of dirt.  Some of the fleece is a bit yellow but it washed out easily.

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First step was to get setup inside.  I use my kitchen because of the ease of access to hot water.  The salad spinner is my secret weapon.

 

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I had a little helper outside.  Although he found it much more fun to run circles around my feet and bite my skirt.  Then he discovered the noisy joy of lifting the plastic watering can with his snout and dropping it to the ground.  Good times.
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I did a little test on what to use to wash the fleece.  Historically I’ve always used Unicorn Fibre’s Power Scour with great results.  Last year I bought some Kookaburra Scour to test out.  I did this test on just a few locks (for each Scour) as I was trying to figure out how many washes/rinses I would need.  The Power Scour from Unicorn Fibre still wins big time.  If you wash medium to high lanolin fleeces or generally have very dirty fleeces you need this stuff.  Its unscented and cleans so well.  The biggest turn off for me on the Kookaburra was the smell.  It’s labeled as a peroxide, alkali, phosphate and enzyme free cleaner but to me it had a strong smell that I couldn’t quite identify.  It wasn’t quite a chemical smell but it wasn’t pleasant and it was quite strong.  In terms of cleaning power, it was meh.  For the same quantity, the Power Scour did a better job. And Power Scour has no smell to me.  So, I’ll be sticking with it (although I do need to order more).

I got as far on Saturday of testing washing about 1.5 shoebox quantities of fiber.  I know I need three washes and two rinses. I also know (and this is the time consuming part) I need to open up those tips with my fingers and carefully place the locks in the mesh bags to try to maintain some lock structure.  This is so it will be easier to comb later on.

Five pounds is a bit daunting so I’ve broken it up into about 1 to 1.5 pound increments.  It will still take a good long while but I still plan have it ready for combing by the fall.  Then there are the two alpaca fleeces I have left. . .

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