August 29, 2008

and more fleece!

I mentioned the Canadian Rambouillet and the Cormo cross fleeces a few days ago. I already scoured them, and I learned that its better to put less fleece in the mesh bags, way less. The hot, soapy water really needs room to circulate. Lots of hot water, with lots of detergent. I used Dawn dish washing soap. I also learned that I'd better have something else to be doing while the fleece is sitting in the washes/rinses, or I'm likely to start swishing fleece around, you know, just a little bit. (bad spinner!) I was lucky, I didn't felt the fleece, but I put too much wool into the mesh bags, and not all of the lanolin washed out. It isn't tragic, and I think is better for carding, but later I realized it might mean I need to rewash the yarn before I can use dye.

I've been preparing the Rambouillet first, there is more vm to remove and I figure I need the practice. I thought more of the vm would come out during carding, I was wrong, and learned that little bits called neps, short or broken fibers, don't card out either. In the rolag neps resemble sweater pills. Using the kitty brush to remove that stuff before carding makes much nicer rolags or batts. I've found some bug damage in sections of this fleece too. It seems so sad, since this is such a nice soft fiber. The Cormo x fleece isn't nearly as dirty, the sheep it came from wore a coat! It should seem easy once I've finished with this Rambouillet.

BTW, some of these are actually portions of fleece, not the entire thing. And some of these are everything but the very worst parts of the fleece.

I don't know why, but I'm obsessed with fleece right now, and so I bought more. As I mentioned in my last post, another fleece arrived Monday, this one a Merino, and on Wednesday some lovely dark brown alpaca, and some more Rambouillet, this from a ram. Boy Golly, does it ever stink like a dirty barnyard. I've learned rams have stinkier fleece than ewes, wethers or lambs. I'm still waiting on some black Rambouillet, and some black alpaca.

The latest alpaca is so clean, hardly any vm, and just a little dust. It is so wonderful and soft and clean. :-) I need to get a picture up. I can't wait to play with it some. The Merino is dirty, but washes up pretty. No coat for this sheep. I'm learning its a good idea to give a fleece a good once over as soon as possible. I've bought all of these sight unseen, and I've found that its easy to overlook both good and bad things in a fairly dirty fleece. So I had spread the Merino out on the patio to check its condition. Happily, I can find no damage and very few second cuts. I do find lots of dirt and vm, and up on what would've been the back of the sheep, dried rodent and barnyard fowl droppings. Ewww, and how did that stuff get there? The uh, bird doo didn't look like it was deposited freshly on the wool, but like it was already dried out. I think maybe that stuff was on the ground or floor of the shearing area, and so was picked up by the fleece when it hit the ground during shearing.

BTW, I'm realizing I need to start keeping a spreadsheet or list of these fleeces, their condition and how I prep them, I'm already starting to lose track.

On Tuesday, I pulled a few handfuls of merino fleece to scour, so I could really check it out once clean. Merino fleece contains a great amount of grease, or lanolin, and it takes really hot water to get it off the fiber. When I started washing, I wasn't using hot enough water, and so ended up washing and rinsing my sample about 5 times to get it clean. In between, I was using powdered drink mix and food coloring to dye up some of the yarn I've been spinning and some of the roving I've been carding. While I was at it, I also died some of the recently washed merino. More about dyeing in another post.

Wednesday I shook what little dust there was out of the alpaca, and spread the rambouillet out for inspection. It had only been lightly skirted, so lots of ookie parts were still attached. Those get torn off and tossed in the trash. Also removed are any second cut clumps, although the clean parts I'm saving to wash and use as stuffing later. I can't believe how encrusted with grime the tips of the fibers are, I swear, some of these sheep must roll in slime pits or something and then let it bake in the sun before shearing. Well, I didn't find any faults with the fleece, and the grease scoured out easier than I expected, revealing very bright white and springy fiber. I think a small portion of the fleece can be scoured as is or with a little picking, the rest needs the tips picked or flicked open to help break up the dirt on the ends before washing.

Now, I have an hour or so before time to pick up the Offspring; I can card wool, or start my fleece list, or take a nap....

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