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Washing Fleece in the Washing Machine

You know what’s really hard? Getting a good photo of raw fleece. Even in a room with good light, it’s just difficult to get take a detailed photograph of bits of fluff.

Tunis Fleece
I give you a Tunis fleece I received as a wedding gift last year. (Yup,pretty much the best wedding gift ever.) This is Tunis from the same farm as the roving I have for sale in my shop. It’s been living in a box since then, first waiting for me to have a place to wash it, and then after we moved in to our new house, waiting for us to get a washing machine. After we got a washing machine, I was too busy preparing for baby to think about washing fleeces. Well, that’s not completely true. I thought about it plenty, I was just slightly afraid to do it for fear of felting, and I always so freaking tired, I didn’t bother to figure out where my fleeces were stored when we moved. (Turns out they were in plastic bags, inside a suitcase, in the basement. I think it was originally to protect them from moths, but it was a really good hiding place from myself.)

I love this wool. It’s a solid medium wool, with a little peachy color to it. I think it spins up lovely and sproingy. Because this was a gift, and the box it came in was unmarked, I don’t really know how much it is, but I do know it’s from the 2013 clip. I’m guessing 3 or 4 pounds before washing. Yes, I could have weighed it, but I’m saving that for after it’s clean and dry. What’s good about this fleeces is that it came very well skirted. I didn’t have to pull out any tags or discard any of the locks for being felted or poopy. It is dirty, and there is plenty of VM in it, but it came from a sheep, what do you expect?

Tunis Lock
What a pretty lock.

I would take a good look at you fleece before you toss it in the wash, and get rid of the parts that aren’t going to be good for spinning. No use washing them when you can toss them straight into the compost. After that, getting the fleece clean is pretty simple.

washing the tunis

Supplies needed:
1. Fleece
2. Dawn Original Formula (theoretically, any dish soap should work, but I stick with the one that really strips out the grease.)
3. Washing Machine

Washing the fleece
-Fill washing machine with hot water and about 1-2 cups of dish soap (Use more soap for heavier lanolin.)
-While machine is filling, loosely pick locks apart. No need to get super thorough, you just want to open them up enough to let the water and soap in.
-Add wool to water, gently pushing beneath the surface. Do not mix it around. Also, be sure to turn off your machine before it starts to agitate. Some machines only do this if you close the lid. If you’re lucky like me, your machine goes straight from filling to agitating with no pause in between, so I have been waiting until the machine is filled before adding any fleece, just in case.
-Let sit 15 minutes
-Turn to spin and allow the washer to spin all the water out.

(Repeat if you have a particularly dirty fleece.)

-Rinse the soap out by filling machine again and soaking for another 15 minutes, followed by another spin cycle.

Washed Tunis

What’s really cool about this method, is spinning all the water out in the washing machine really cuts down on dry time. When I was washing fleece by hand and drying it on a rack in a southern window, it would sometimes take days for wool to dry. This wool should be dry later today. (The only downside I can see is if you are a person who really likes to spin from perfect locks, this isn’t going to get you there.)

Obviously, it’s going to need a little bit more picking to get all the vm out, but that’s so much easier to do when it’s not getting caught up on lanolin.

Today I cleaned Tunis and Rambouillet. I’ve never worked with Rambouillet before, so I am excited to get my hands on it once it’s dry. Do you have any favorite breeds?

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Undyed Stuff

My work tends to get the most attention when it’s bright and loud and saturated with color. I know in most cases, that’s what the Tiny Dino Studios brand is known for. I also happen to really love working with natural fibers and fibers from different breeds. Knowing there different fleece characteristics across different breeds and then actually exploring some of those differences for myself are two very different things.

I have my comfort zone wools for spinning, Falkland in any form, and Merino I like, but as long as it’s not top (because I am picky.) Alpaca is fun and different. And just generic American Wool is fun and durable and soft. This is what I spin most often because it’s what the people around me produce or sell, so it’s easy to come by. But I have been trying to branch out a bit.

I’ve been working through some Cormo, which is lovely to spin. It’s soft, but not so soft it doesn’t have any durability. It’s my favorite parts of Corriedale with the best parts of Merino thrown in. Then, I received my Tunis roving back from the mill. Tunis is a little coarser, and you can feel the difference between a mediumwool sheep and a finewool sheep when you hold a skein of Cormo in one hand and a skein of Tunis in the other. And yet, they are both soft. Perhaps it’s just the way I spun it (worsted, chain-plied, heavy fingering weight) but I can hold it up to my neck and it doesn’t prickle. And though it has less crimp than the Cormo, the Tunis feels distinctly springy–like it’s got the energy to paint the town red while the Cormo wants to eat bon-bons while reclining on a silk settee.

The color is vastly different as well. Tunis is known as a red sheep, and while the wool is not actually red, it has a peachy, kind of antiqued white color to it.

It’s hard to see on it’s own. In this photo (which is too bright, I will give you) the skein just kind of looks to me like a skein of springy undyed wool.

But when you sit it next to the Cormo, you can really see the difference.
The Tunis is on the left. The Cormo is on the right. Please study carefully, there will be an exam.

Then, I received this in the mail yesterday:

That is a lock of Rambouillet. I purchased a 10 oz bag on Etsy last week and it is gorgeous. As you can tell from the veg matter in the photo, this lock is unwashed–unwashed! Look how gorgeously white and crimpy that is! I am very excited. This is possibly the softest lock I have held in my hand ever. And the locks were so beautiful, I couldn’t quite bring myself to break them up by throwing them in a big tub to soak.

To keep the lock integrity as much as possible, I am using the Yarn Harlot’s method for stove top wool washing.

Updates when it’s clean!