Fiber Fiesta

Finally, Mom and I have a chance to have a spinning retreat! To celebrate, we’ve prepared a couple of fiber-related posts for you to read while we’re spinning away, since we’ll be having too much fun to write new posts. Mom gets the first crack. ~Reb

Just for fun, I (Mom) thought I’d tell you what I’m doing with the fleeces I acquired in May.  First, I bought part of a Rupert Corriedale with some new buddies at my spinning class.  Rebecca also gave me half of her her silver, long wool fleece.  Lastly, she and I bought a Cormo cross together and split it.

Before spinning them, of course you have to wash them.  At this time I realized that my washing machine did not work on the hot water cycle!!  Hmm….even my amazing husband, who just this weekend replaced our hot water heater, could not figure out why…..yet… Rebecca and I talked this through and I ended up using a version of washing wool that was inspired by the Yarn Harlot.

Now when you adapt someone else’s method to your own pots and stove and brain, it never ends up being the same.  What is “a generous squirt of soap”?  Might this work in a round pot?  What about glass-top stoves?  What if I do actually boil the wool by accident.  Yep, I did that.

For my first attempt with the Cormo Cross, I did do it in a roasting pan like YH did, since the Cormo Cross was so small…..less than a pound’s worth.  It worked, although my “generous squirt of soap” must have been too much, because it took 4 heatings to rinse it instead of 2!  After going to all that trouble, I thought, why not dye it too….you know, while it’s wet?  I had just gone to the Baltimore Aquarium and fallen in love with all types of red-orangy fish- like this one:

So I mordanted the white Cormo cross in vinegar (which of course was like a wonderful rinse for any remaining soap!) and dyed it in pokeberries and a bit of turmeric.  Here are the results of that:

Now I turned my attention to the lovely silver long wool that Rebecca gave me for Mother’s Day/birthday.  To my thinking, there was WAY too much of it to do in a roasting pan, and besides, I was going to dye this on in blue, so what was the point of keeping all the locks organized?  It was going to turn into a mess in the dye bath anyway.  So I just dumped the gooey fleece into my 2 large dye pots and heated them up.  I added Dawn, the preferred soap to use by spinners, and tried to get the stuff to heat nicely for an hour without actually boiling.

This is actually kinda hard on my stove because I have a flat glass stove and one of my burners doesn’t work right, meaning it doesn’t turn off unless I turn it in a certain direction.  And it only has too settings:  VERY high and low.  Even the low is pretty hot.  I did actually end up boing this fleece once.  In the end I decided that a heating means this:  Turn the broken burner on low and a 2nd working burner on high.  As soon as they get super hot to the touch, turn them both off.  The residual heat from a glass top burner keeps them hot for hours……I mean hours!  It takes half the day to cool them off!  I can only do 2-3 heatings in a day.  Anyway, after 2 heatings with soap and 4 rinses, I finally mordanted the lot in Alum and plopped them in 2 buckets full of black bean dye bath.

It looks impressively dark, doesn’t it?  Now look at the results below.  I think the only parts that actually dyed blue were the tips of the locks…which get knocked off in the carding process anyway.  In my mind, the rest of the locks said, “Oh no, we are jolly well not going to turn blue!  Just because we sit for 4 days in a blue dye bath doesn’t mean we are going to dye blue.  Just you wait.  Once you card us up and spin us, we’ll be grey just like we were!”  Fine.  At least you all are blasted clean.

For the last fleece, the Cormo Cross, I thought the colors were so beautiful already, I did not want to not dye it.  Therefore it made sense to try to keep the locks in order.  First of all, I lined the pots so as to protect the order of the locks.  In the smaller, shorter pot, a pillow case worked.  For the taller, bigger pot, a beach towel was perfect.  (A single bed sheet was wayyyyyy too big.  But it worked. ie. batch 1)  I filled up my 2 dye pots, keeping the locks in order just like YH.  For the first batch, I made an effort to line them up sideways in a circular pattern so that all the tips were facing inward.  I LOVE working with the actual fleece, seeing how all the locks stick together and line up.  I love the way it all smells.  In the 2nd batch, as you can see in the pictures, I thought it would make more sense, since I’m working with a circular pot, to put the locks in with tips up.  There are 2 layers of locks in the short pot, and 3 layers in the tall pot.

The happy news is that half of the fleece went into both pots, which made it feel like I was only doing this in 2 batches instead of 12.  I dunno, how many batches did it take you, Rebecca, using the roasting pan?

Each batch, though, took 6-8 heatings.

1. Soak  2. Heat with “generous squirt of soap.” 3. heat with clean water 4. heat with a bit more soap.  5. Heat with clean water.  Repeat, repeat, repeat, until the pots rinse out with clean water.

This morning I finally thought I was done, but when I dumped out the wool from the big pot it was still a bit soapy.  For goodness sake!  I just soaked it in warm water in the sink and gently rinsed it a couple times.  Done.

After that, the wool gets dumped gently into 2 towels where I squeeze out excess water.  Then I arrange it on the floor on more dry beach towels.

The next day, I lay out another dry beach towel and transfer the still-damp wool.  At that point, it’s dry enough to just finish drying without any help from me.  You can see how the locks in the Cormo cross DID stay well organized, which will help as I’m coming all this out to prepare for spinning.  Here it is wet:

This next picture shows the nearly dry fleece from the first batch.

It’s so lovely to touch….you pick it up and it holds together in your hand!

Conclusions:  I boiled the wool twice over the dozens of heating.  It does not seem to have ruined the wool.  I’ve been playing with it as it dries and it doesn’t seem felted.  Now when I found it boiling, I took it off the stove immediately and let it cool without touch it.  Then continued the process.  I guess this method is dummy-proof!

I’m glad it’s over.  It took a month to get all this fleece cleaned this way.  I think I’ve got enough clean fleece, combed wool, batts, and braided rovings to keep me spinning happily ’till next May!


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