View Full Version : Washing Fleece

02-19-2008, 11:50 AM
I bought a couple of fleece a while back and tried to wash one bag yesterday. I think I may have tried to wash too much, even though it all fit in the washer. For the most part it is clean.There are some tips which still have lanolin and dirt on them though and there is a lot of VM, even though I tried to go through and pick it out the best I could beforehand. Do I now just card it and get the vm out that way? Any tips for the future? Thanks

02-19-2008, 06:54 PM
You washed it in the washer?

02-20-2008, 10:03 AM
Initial prep always pays in the end.

I did a fleece myself last night in the washer. Spread out the fleece and remove all tags and shorter length staples.

Separate fleece into workable bunches. Open the fleece up (use a picker or by hand). The more you open & fluff the fleece the better the detergent can get in and dissolve the lanolin & dirt (and a lot of VM falls out). Open the cut end and the tips. Yes, it's time consuming now, but you'll have a much cleaner fleece and less work later on.

Dissolve your detergent in your washer (I use regular laundry detergent at 2-3 times the recommended amount plus add some borax since I have hard water). Fill machine with HOT water. Turn off the machine Add your picked fleece bunches, pushing them under the soapy water. Close the lid and let soak for 30 minutes. Put on spin (hopefully your machine does not shoot water during the spin cycle).

Remove and examine fleece. Open up more tips, pick any VM you can. Repeat soaking with detergent (use less than the first load).

When fleece is clean, do one more soak, but this time no detergent and a few glugs of white vinegar.


02-20-2008, 11:47 AM
Thanks so much for your "recipe". I think at this point I'll go back and pick and open the fleece up and go one more time to get it really clean. The great bulk of it is clean but not clear of VM. I'll keep you posted.

02-21-2008, 09:54 AM
With some fleece, you'll be picking out small vm before you scour, after you scour, when you pick and/or card, when you spin and when you knit!! So the more you can get out in the beginning, the less you'll have to deal with it later.

02-29-2008, 12:58 AM
I would also recommend using a mesh laundry bag to hold the fleece, because the fiber can clog up your washing machine if you don't.

03-06-2008, 12:15 AM
Thanks Sandy. I have been using one. The wool still has some yellow in it but it doesn't seem really sticky for the most part. I've washed it numerous times. I guess I could try combing and spinning it. Are some fleece just partly yellow?

03-06-2008, 01:14 AM
K guys, can ya'll enlighten me here? What is "VM"? Or do I really want to know:zombie:

03-06-2008, 01:39 AM
VM is "vegetable matter".

Dirt, weeds, seeds, dead bugs, and yes....occasionally some animal poo. :ick:

03-06-2008, 01:44 AM
Thank you Shandeh and may I say, You are lookin Gooo Juss!!!! WTG hun!!!:woot: :thumbsup:
(sposed to be gorgeous btw) heheheheheh lol!!

03-06-2008, 01:50 AM
Thank you! :)

03-06-2008, 09:52 AM
The wool still has some yellow in it but it doesn't seem really sticky for the most part. ...... Are some fleece just partly yellow?

Yes, fleece can be stained yellow from a heavy lanolin load.

03-06-2008, 02:41 PM
I guess you could dye it to make it the color you want. :think:

03-09-2008, 03:26 PM
I'm thinking that I will start a log cabin afghan. That way I can dye small amounts of yarn at one time and there is not a lot riding on consistent yarn size and gauge.

03-09-2008, 09:44 PM
Ooooh! That's a great idea! :)

03-10-2008, 11:39 AM
Maybe if there are other spinners interested we can do a KAL.

03-10-2008, 11:49 AM
Very often the yellow is caused by urine staining. Any parts of the fiber that have this will take on dyes differently than the parts that don't:http://danceswithwool.wordpress.com/2007/10/18/naturally-dyeing-wool-fleece/

03-10-2008, 01:58 PM
Washed up some CA Red lamb fleece this weekend:


After 2nd scour:

After 4th scour & rinse:

03-10-2008, 04:04 PM
Beautiful. I hope to get the hang of this some day.

03-11-2008, 12:32 AM
Wow. I can't wait to get my hands on the fleece that is waiting for warmer weather in my basement.

Thats purdy :)

03-11-2008, 09:00 AM
I was pretty disappointed in the fleece. It took 4 scourings and it still wasn't completely clean. I paid a pretty price for it. The CA Red color was all in the dirt/sand and not in the fleece. It wasn't skirted very well and I had to pull off manure tags (a few) and remove the neck area that was full of VM. On top of that, there were 15 cockle burrs embedded into the fleece.

Not what I expected for a 'covered sheep, well skirted'

03-11-2008, 10:22 AM
I once had a fleece that a friend gave me. She had cleaned it once, and gave me quite a bit. I was so excited to get it. But, when it was in the house, I started wheezing like crazy. So, I had to let it go.

Now, I can only work with prepared fiber. :verysad:

Another time, I had a VERY DIRTY fleece, and practiced cleaning and carding with it. It was a LOT of work, and I swore I would never work with raw fleece again. So, I guess it's okay that I'm allergic. :teehee:

03-11-2008, 11:19 AM
I'm with you, Shandeh. Since my time for spinning is limited, I've stopped preparing my own fiber and now buy roving. A hobby should be fun, not work.

03-11-2008, 11:25 AM
I've already ordered more fleece than I care to admit to. However, I think that when Fiber Festival season rolls around I'd like to go with someone who is an experienced consumer and get pointers on what to look for. You really are buying a pig in a poke when you buy over the internet. I seriously doubt that the fleece I have is worth the money I paid for it.

03-11-2008, 11:30 AM
Since my time for spinning is limited, I've stopped preparing my own fiber and now buy roving. A hobby should be fun, not work.
True!!! :thumbsup:

And there are SO MANY, BEAUTIFUL rovings to choose from now! :heart: :inlove: :heart:

I seriously doubt that the fleece I have is worth the money I paid for it.
It really is a crap shoot sometimes. I keep a spreadsheet on Excel that shows all my fiber purchases. I carry it with me on my Palm Pilot, so I can compare the price per ounce when I come across any fiber for sale.

03-11-2008, 12:14 PM
Oh yes!! And they are so smooth and silky to spin. :heart:

03-11-2008, 12:20 PM
Yes they are! cloud9

03-11-2008, 05:36 PM
I love working with the raw fleeces, it's not work for me, it is part of the fun!

Admittedly, I do have plenty of prepared roving, but my stash contains more fleeces (or batts/rovings I prepared from fleeces) than it does purchased rovings.

03-11-2008, 06:38 PM
I wanted to learn how to work with fleece, because I really get into all the historic part of our craft. So, I wanted to understand it all as much as possible. I'm glad I did it, because it really makes me appreciate the hard work all our ancestors did.

And I enjoy feeling a connection to that heritage by working with the fleece I prepared on my spinning wheel. :inlove:

But, in comparison, the prepared rovings are like taking a vacation. :teehee:

03-14-2008, 09:30 AM
I tried to prepare some fleeces once (I got 4 Romney fleeces, really dirty and full of vm) and swore I'd never do it again. However I was recently tempted by a lamb's fleece that is a pretty color and will be well skirted and is described as quite clean. I'm crossing my fingers that I'm not in over my head again, but at least lambs are smaller than a full grown sheep!

Should I treat the fleece any differently in preparing it? Do I need to use less detergent or anything else to be more gentle with it because it is lambswool?

03-14-2008, 10:28 AM
I treat lamb fleece the same as adult fleece.

Jeremy, when looking for a fleece in person, you should be able to lay it out flat and examine it. If the seller won't let you, pass on it immediately.

The fleece should be rolled up in one piece & likewise be able to be unrolled in one piece.

The fleece should be fairly free of VM if it was a covered fleece. Don't necesarily by pass an uncovered sheep with VM, just don't pay a lot per pound for it.

On a well skirted fleece, look for:
manure tags - there shouldn't be any!
2nd cuts - there shouldn't be any, or they should be minimum
breech/neck/leg/belly wool - there shouldn't be any

The staple length should be farely consistant.
Ask the seller if you can test the staple. Let him/her pull out some fiber for you. Take it and snap it (tug it) to see if it breaks. If it does, bypass the fiber.

Check the tips. Are they brittle and break easily? If so, either bypass the fleece or know that you will want to cut the tips off.

Check the crimp. If you already have a project in mind for the fleece, does the crimp match it? Not a hard rule, but you'll want to try to spin the fleece so the crimps per inch matches your twists per inch.

03-16-2008, 04:39 PM
Thanks so much for taking the time to lay all that out. I'm going to print it out and take it with me when I go shopping.

03-19-2008, 02:22 AM
yes mullerslane, thanks for the info!

here are some picture of the 2nd fleece i got last week

i keep forgetting to take pictures of my targhee..
this is a lincoln finn cross.. the staple is at least 4 inches i think it's a whole fleece.. 4 or 5 pounds

in the box
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2092/2344244881_8f34571ff2.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/21188411@N03/2344244881/" title="100_5686 by foxyie, on Flickr)

a dirty lock
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2314/2345074696_59f504fbf7.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/21188411@N03/2345074696/" title="100_5692 by foxyie, on Flickr)

and here it is cleaned.. took 2 washes and 2 rinses. this small batch had almost no vm and the rest looks that way too..hopefully it will be

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2359/2344244893_d528c8a3aa.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/21188411@N03/2345092268/" title="100_5688 by foxyie, on Flickr)

carded it and spun it tonight..filled one bobbin

and if you look closely in this picture you can see some clean targhee that my kitty stole from me!

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2006/2344244747_077144ef54.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/21188411@N03/2344244747/)

03-19-2008, 02:46 AM
K, I have another question for ya ladies (n gents)
How do you clean and prepare alpaca fibre?:think:

03-19-2008, 03:08 PM
Since alpaca doesn't contain lanolin it is easier than wool.

Shake loose and/or pick out VM.

Soak in warm water and detergent (do not agitate)

Rinse in warm water with glug of vinegar (cuts the detergent film)


You can spin from the lock or card (hand cards unless you have a drum carder set up to handle to longer staple length of alpaca) or comb it.

This is basic info for a well skirted blanket. If you have just a bag of sheared alpaca, you will want to separate it. The prime would be the blanket. The only use I've found for the leg and belly is the compost pile.

03-19-2008, 03:10 PM
here are some picture of the 2nd fleece i got last week

Good job!!

I have a cat that is a fiber menance too!

03-20-2008, 02:11 PM
thanks! and ty for the info on alpaca.. i'm getting some unwashed in the mail soon so i was wondering that also