So, yesterday, I got a big bag stuffed full of two lamb fleeces and I really couldn't wait to dive right in and try to wash some. I read some good web tutorials, got some advice from much more experienced friends and then just dove right in. Rather than post each picture of the process separately, and in keeping with the theme of the post, I'm trying some NEW and posting a "film loop" of the 7 photos I took during the process.
The first picture in the loop shows the supplies I started with - 2 large rubbermaid bins (at the recommendation of Jennifer as she suggested it would be easier to just transfer the fleece from one bin of hot water to another than to find someplace for it to sit while I emptied and refilled a single bin), a bottle of original scent Dawn dish detergent, a large mesh laundry bag (I looked for lingerie bags but couldn't find any at the local catch-all stores, and was too impatient to wait until we could get into town again), and, of course, my Big Bag o' Fleece(tm).
The fleece is raw and I believe not really skirted, though I could be wrong on that. There's plenty of vegetable matter and sheep poo in it, but in selecting bits to try to wash first, I tried to avoid anything that looked really nasty - and actually, those bits will pr'bly just get pitched. In the end, I pr'bly tried to wash too much at once - some of the inner bits didn't really get clean, though it appears that the lanolin is largely gone, so the detergent did it's job.
Jennifer recommended that I pre-soak the fleece before the first washing if it was really dirty. I figured a pre-soak couldn't hurt and after seeing the nasty, nasty water from the pre-soak, I'm glad I did it. Ew!
I did two washes and the water from each step got less and less dirty, so I felt pretty good about that. I also did two rinses, just to be sure and the water from the last rinse was pretty clear, so I took that as a good sign. It also helped that Meehesh, who was raised on a farm and has helped her mom wash fleece *lots* of times, was over and could help reassure me that, no, I didn't felt it, and yes, I'd done the right things.
Meehesh helped me take it out of the final rinse and held my hand (well, you know what I mean) as I put the wet fleece in the washer for the spin cycle. I used the delicates cycle and didn't let it spin all the way out - I was too nervous that it would be too much agitation! - but it came out just slightly damp and completely unfelted. Whew!
We spread out the fleece to dry on some baking racks in the bathroom and left the bathroom fan on overnight. In spreading it out, we found some bits that didn't get as clean as I'd have liked, but again, I think that's just because I tried to wash too much at once. I turned it over a bit before going to bed so that the bottom could get more air circulation. This morning, the fleece is pretty dry, though there were still a few slightly damp bits that I turned up, so it's still spread out. Again, at Jennifer's recommendation, I plan to put the clean(er) fleece in a pillow case for storage.
A couple other notes:
1. I barely made a dent in my Big Bag o' Fleece(tm) with what I washed. Guess I'll be spending a lot of time in the next week or so doing this! For the next few days, though, the fleece will have to hang out in a rubbermaid bin as we'll be busy.
2. The staple is shorter than I'd hoped - in some places it's only about an inch long - and there are some bits that are clearly unspinnable (face fleece and the like), so I'll need to sort that stuff out when I card it.
3. I will definitely need to card it. I had a romantic hope that I would be able to spin it right off the lock, but there's really no way I'll be able to do that. So I'm going to need to beg or borrow a set of wool cards in order to go any further with the process.
4. The large mesh laundry bag worked very well. I just need to not overfill it next time.
5. I need a better drying arrangment. Meehesh was telling me about her mom's drying racks, which were made of something similar to the mesh that my laundry bag is made from, stretched out on wooden dowling and stackable. The mesh laundry bag was only about $5, so I'm thinking of stopping and picking up a couple more to cut up and make into drying racks. Conveniently, I'm going to my parent's this weekend and mom sews and dad's a woodworker, so I'm sure we can put something useful together.
All in all, though, very untraumatic and surprisingly unstinky. The water was a bit yucky from the first rinse, but I guess that's to be expected. I have a lot more to process, which is a little daunting, but it's not difficult, so I'll just have to work through it.
And now I'm off to find some good combs to add to my birthday and holiday WishList!