I have been wanting to write this post for a while, because when I first started processing fleece, I looked for “raw fleece processing posts for dummies” post and didn’t come up with one that walked me through getting the wool, washing it correctly, not maiming myself on the drum carder (no, I don’t have a cat), and how amazing it is to spin from sliver. So here we are. I’m posting this with a wikki type approach–please feel free to add comments and suggestions below, because I’m still learning. And..I want to document this while the “d’oh” moments are still really fresh. Hope it helps someone at some point!
1. Washing. Lanolin can be one tough bugger. When people say the water should be over 140 degrees, they mean it. Living in a 2 bedroom condo means I can’t take over the kitchen, bathroom, and I don’t have a back yard. So, I process small batches at a time. The washing machine doesn’t work for me because our house water temp is not high enough and I don’t want to risk scalding myself at another time. 🙂 I wash bags of fleece in a netted lingerie bag in the kitchen sink–at weights ranging from 8-10 ounces, depending on the fleece. Yep, it takes me a while to wash a fleece..but it takes me a while to spin it too..so no need to rush. I learned after a few failed attempts that I need to fill the sink with hot tap water AND add two pots of boiling water to get it hot enough to melt the lanolin. Usually it takes two rinses with Dawn, one with a tiny bit of vinegar, and one plain hot water. This has worked out beautifully..no more sticky fleece. The dead giveaway was when I tried to spin some fiber off my drop spindle and I couldn’t draft it…the wheel will pull the wool out of your hands..but a spindle? Not so much.
2. Carding. I LOVE my drum carder. I love carding wool. I have NO regrets from this purchase. I bought a new Brother for about $300. It does not have a packer brush, which is an essential item, IMHO, so I use a hard bristle brush with my left hand while I crank with my right. I also learned that carding takes a certain rhythm. The first time, I was so excited I plopped the wool on without opening it and loosening it, cranked and had both drums on the carder totally covered in wool. Then I learned a few tips. Small chunks of wool, locks opened up, and crank slowly at first. I card an ounce at a time and always do three passes. You can see from the photo above how much it evens out after each pass. I also consider the first pass to be more of a combing things into a certain order, so I open the locks, but I don’t lay them all flat, etc.
3. The DIZ..what a great invention!!! (Or use a large button with a decent size hole). I finish an ounce of fiber, and pull it through the diz to make sliver. When I spin, there’s no drafting, it comes straight off the ball, and my spinning time is cut down by about 25% from when I draft from commercial roving. This has also given me the chance to really work on my long draw, which is so relaxing now.
So there you have it. Intro thoughts on fleece processing in a very limited environment. This has been a game changer of a learning process for me, and honestly…now I don’t even look at commercial roving unless it’s a specialty item. Raw fleece is like an empty canvas..and it’s a beautiful thing.
Thoughts from others who have tried this? Ideas to add?