Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Processing Raw Fleece

Apart from actually shearing a sheep or wooly animal (hopefully I will get to do this someday), I have officially worked through the entire fleece to yarn process!

Recently I was given a bag of raw, stinky, dirty, greasy, lovely local sheep's fleece. Finally I began the project of processing it. Washing fleece is easy! I was afraid at first because of the dangers of felting, but I had no problems. I wasn't even that careful.

How To Wash Raw Fleece:
I washed my fleece in 4 steps. It took about 40 minutes.
1) hot water bath, 2) hot soapy water bath, 3) hot rinse bath, 4) another hot rinse bath.
They say that temperature shock can cause the fleece to felt, but those people are too paranoid I think. Start by submerging a big pile of dirty fleece into a big bowl of hot water - as hot as you can still put your hands in. The hot water will help to remove some of the grease from the wool. Do not agitate. This really will cause felting. I just gently pressed it and spun it around occasionally with my hands. After letting it sit in the hot water bath for about 10 minutes, drain the yucky water slowly into the sink while holding onto the wool in the bowl. Remove the wool from the bowl and fill it up again, this time with hot water and some soap. The amount of soap isn't particularly important, probably similar to washing dishes. Wait another 10 minutes. Continue in this fashion, giving it however many hot water rinse baths to get the soap out. Do not try and rinse the wool under a faucet. It will get rinsed just fine by soaking in a couple of hot water baths. Squeeze out the water, and lay out to air dry. It should come out looking like step 2 in my picture above.

Carding wool is important for getting the fibers aligned and ready to spin. I figured it out using this youtube video. I use wire dog brushes instead of carders, because they work great and are cheap.

I'm getting faster and better at spinning too! That skein in the picture only took me the better part of an evening! I'm excited to do some more dyeing experiments on it. :)


  1. Hi Kate,
    I've just been gifted with two lawn trash backs full of raw fleece. Some of these sheep were very dirty and the washing is taking a bit longer. Dirty and the washer I am using for this (the woolinator), has a cold water feed only. Your cleaned fleece looks like some of mine and that gives me hope. Thank you for sharing your process!


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