Fibre preparation – raw fleece

I’ve written several posts about different aspects of fibre preparation, but I thought I’d consolidate my future thoughts here, and add links to past posts and ‘quickies’ I dash off.

I’ve been washing more raw fleece, and pondering my process. I spent a bit of time on the internet looking at commercial processes and thinking how to improve my own.

One thing I am trying is an initial very hot soak in a dilute washing soda (1 teaspoon to 15 litres of water – thats about 3 gallons) for about 5 minutes. Some people think this may make the fleece brittle, but this seems to help lift the grease. Then I put the fleece into a very hot detergent soak for 10 minutes.

  1. I sort the fleece and remove most of that dratted VM.
  2. I weigh – or gauge it by eye – into reasonable sized batches – about 200g works well for me at the moment.
  3. My new step is that I have started to open the fleece a little at this point. I use my fingers to pull it all apart a bit, not so that it is in shreds, but either into smaller clumps if its very blocky, or into more of a web if its loose anyway.
  4. Then it goes into the soda soak. I use a wide meshed metal basket to retrieve the fleece, and if its only a small amount, I sink the basket into the water first so that I can lift the fleece out in the basket after 5 minutes.
  5. I press the fleece into the water and let it expand back as it aborbs the water. Depending on the fleece type (felty or not) I might rake my fingers through it a little to disperse the dirt.
  6. I retrieve the fleece and give it a good pressing to remove as much dirty water as possible – I don’t wring or twist, just press. Commercially rollers are used, and I briefly mourned my Mum’s laundry mangle!
  7. Refill the tub for the detergent wash – and I add a drop of Tea Tree oil to this as well.
  8. Gently lower in the mesh basket of fleece, press and release as before to encourage the water to soak into the fibres.
  9. Retrieve the basket and fleece after 10 minutes and press really well as before.
  10. I do two rinses – in slightly cooler water – but not enough to shock the fibres. To final of these I add about a tbsp of white vinegar.
  11. I spin dry the fleece in net bags and lay it out on mesh to dry naturally.

Bear in mind we have hard water, so that is what this process is based on.

My next experiment will be to use my own liquid soap as a fleece wash!!

Links to my posts:

Power Scour, Fibre Scour versus washing up liquid

Using a picker

Drum Carding raw fleece, two videos of the whole process

Going for brighter colours – acid dyeing

Rub a dub – washing fleece

Visit to Diamond Fibres wool processors

Drum carding again

Drum carding

Food colour dyeing

Sorting fleece on a sunny day