So I mentioned that at NHSW I got a dorset fleece.
Rather, a gorgeously long stapled, coated, mostly clean, four pound, dorset fleece from a clearly well loved ram named Cornelius.
You can see it’s a gorgeous fleece even with this preliminary photo
There were a few second cuts buried in among the fiber, but truly minimal. If I was an “in the grease” spinner, I could easily have just spun from this. But I’m not. A bit unfortunately for the fabulousness of Cornelius, I am also way busy and lazy. So I have a tendency not to wash fiber the way most people do. When I, rarely, wash fiber at all. I do not keep it all neatly stacked in tulle bags or anything like that. Nope.
Super hot water from my faucet (with extra solar heating!) into a SUPERGIANT bucket. With a bunch of soap (Dawn), maybe… 1/4 cup of water in uh… 30gal? Half the fleece (about 2lbs) into the water. Push it under and leave it to soak for a long time. Long being… couple hours in the sun, or until the water’s cooled to warmish.
The point of this was to soak out the few mucky tips that there were. It does nothing for the lanolin since that will resettle once the water cools at all.
While that’s soaking I boil a full 36 quart pot of water (very large) in preparation. When the fleece is done soaking I pull it out to drain a bit, and dump the (not very mucky with this mostly dirt-clean fleece) water. Refill with my boiling water, and more superhot water from the faucet. Add 1/3ish cup of dawn, and about 1/3 cup of lemon scented ammonia. Put the fleece in and push it down (with a spatula so I don’t scorch my hands).
This step is for the lanolin. Which means it has to be HOT. The ammonia helps cut the lanolin a little to get it off the fiber and into the water. Lanolin will redeposit when it cools so this step is much shorter 15-20 minutes.
I repeat, more boiling water and superhot water from the tap, but this time I replace the ammonia with vinegar, and use less soap (under 1/4 cup). This step is getting both more lanolin off and re-acidifying the fiber. Wool is protein, and sitting in high pH isn’t very good for it and will make it feel crispy (and eventually damage it).
A note here that one reason to drain the fiber before moving it each time is that you always want your fiber at the same temp or cooler than the water you’re moving to. Hot to cold makes felt! Baaad. This is especially important for the next step, so I tend to let it drain for a little longer than normal here.
Now I refill with just superhot tap water, no soap at all, and more vinegar. This is getting off the soap and the last of the ammonia. As such this one’s a little longer again, 20-30min to make sure the soap and ammonia have time to diffuse into the water. If I’m lucky, that’s it. If not, then I’ll repeat this step one more time (usually with just water) to get the last of the soap off.
Which leaves me with this. Clean 1/2 Cornelius.
I spread it out on a towel in the hot sun and it dries pretty quickly. Especially being Dorset, which doesn’t hold water very well. Then I do the second half. In this case I managed to be a little “neater” with the first half. And once it’s dry I have clean dry beautifully white Cornelius!
You can see I lost most of the lock structure (not that Dorset’s known for its lock structure) by doing it in the large batch method. Especially in the second batch. But it’s still totally usable, just not as neat. I do pay for that a bit in the next steps.
Weigh out two times two ounces and drop ‘em in the dye pot, drain, and dry!
Here’s where I paid for not keeping the lock structure. It definitely slows down the speed you can open up the fiber and get it onto the carder. These were NOT fast batts. But I’m very happy with the result. I added just a little angelina for sparkle. Because I felt like Cornelius would like a bit of sparkle. 4oz of carded Dorset batts (1oz each), with angelina.
I’m going to try a bit of coming on another sample of Cornelius as well, both for its own sake and to see if I can use it to get back a little speed on carding.
So, that’s Cornelius (for now), and my first successful all the way from fleece to actual spinnable prepped fiber. I’ve washed and spun, but have only made one batt with my handwashed stuff before and it was a poor choice of fiber, way too long.
Not positive yet if I’m going to keep these, give them away, or sell them. Mokey says, “BOOOORing.”
That’s all for now!