How to wash a fleece, if you are me.
1. Lay out your nice fleece on your deck. A fleece, if properly shorn from the sheep, will come off in one big piece, which it will handily stay in until messed with.
2. Realize your deck is filthy. Sweep it.
3. Realize you have no broom. Go buy a broom, then sweep, then lay out the nice dropcloth you got from the nice man at home depot who really wanted you to buy the six pack of drop cloths, even though six drop cloths would probably cover more surface area than you have in your apartment.
4. Lay out your nice fleece on the deck.
5. Bask in the glory that is the fleece. Feel nice feelings about the earthy musk of fresh wool.
6. Read directions on skirting a fleece.
7. Skirting is basically taking the outside bits, which were on the underside of the sheep, and probably have much unpleasantness in them, and removing them.
8. Start pulling on outside bits and realize you have no way of knowing what the difference is between bits that are for keeping and bits that are not very good. Puzzle for a minute.
9. Decide that poop is definitely a good thing to not have in yarn, so start pulling off bits with poop.
10. Decide that burrs are probably a pain to pull out, so choose burrs as the sticking point (harhar) on whether or not this particular peninsula of wool is going to get voted off the fleece island to join the skirt archipelago.
11. Slowly discover, as you work your way further into the fleecy island, that this animal apparently rolled in burrs for fun.
12. Slowly remember that this animal hung out with other smaller animals, which probably liked to sit on top of it and poop on it.
13. Discover that, since each armful you try to set aside as a “keeper” has a giant mat of burrs in it, that you might as well just pull some bits off the outside and call that the skirt.
14. Scoop up the remaining inner armfuls and bring them inside next to the washing machine. Realize that there may very well be more fleece still outside on the porch than inside in the “keep” pile. Feel really guilty about this.
15. Try to find a single strand of wool that does not have a burr at the other end. Fail utterly. Decide that you were thinking of removing the outer coat of this fleece anyway, so start pulling out burrs. Cry a few tears for fingers and suspect aforementioned “earthy musk” of being the smell of all that is poop in the world.
16. An hour later, decide that the amount of wool you have freed from burrs is “enough” for one day, and besides you did come to your old apartment to work on cleaning it to move out, not to spend the day destroying your fingers and making an enormous hay-ey mess all over the deck and sunroom.
17. Wash this small amount of fleece with a cool washing machine method that, as promised, does not turn this hard-won pile of wool into a giant piece of stinky felt.
18. Lay sample clean fleece bit out to dry. Yes, this picture is of the fleece after it was “cleaned.”
19. Take sample clean fleece bit home and separate into light, dark, and irrevocably mixed. Card these into three separate colors of rolags (rolag = bit of wool that you carded. No, I don’t know why.)
20. Spin one rolag of each color into cool little singles.
21. Ply these three singles together to make a tres cool marled yarn.
The verdict: I am pretty darn pleased with the pretty marled yarn. On the upside, even though there was still a lot of hay and crap in the rolags before I spun them up, it wasn’t hat hard to pick out the nasty bits as I spun. However, the rolags I made had lots of little “nups” in them, which means (I think) that the sheep was not very cleanly sheared. This made it REALLY hard for me to get consistent singles, which will make it equally hard to get a consistent finished yarn.
The verdict on the fleece: Burrs are the new most evil thing in the world. I am pretty sure they were a result of the fall. If I want to use this fleece, I will have to spend probably a whole day picking burrs out of every single piece I want to use. Considering that my fingertips still hurt from the one hour I spent picking them out of the pound or so of usable fleece I ended up with, I am not 100% sure I want to do that. But I am a glutton for punishment (and a glutton for wool) so I might try. It’s on the top of a short list of Things I Will Do When My House Is Assembled.
Speaking of which, I should really stop playing with wool and get to the reassemblage of the house, which is why I came home after work today anyway. I have a lot to do, as we want to be unpacked enough tonight to RE-pack for five days in Boston, for which we are leaving at the arse-crack of dawn tomorrow. UF. Wish me luck. I’m going to go now and make an ungodly amount of apple juice.