Category Archives: In the Wash Pot

In The Raw

Beginner’s Series: WoolPart 2

I had barely cut my teeth on roving; in fact, I hadn’t even been introduced to a batt yet, when I felt the urge to get a raw fleece and process it for myself. There was just something so appealing about starting as close to the beginning as I could get. And from the moment I walked into a sheep barn an hour away from my house I knew this was going to be a love affair to last the rest of my life.
Sometimes, if I close my eyes, I can still smell the lanolin, and less pleasant things, that made up the smell of that day.

Choosing a Fleece

Would you like to learn what to look for in choosing a fleece? This is the best article I’ve seen on the subject. It gives you such a sense of knowing what you’re talking about. A little experience and you’re a natural. It makes walking into a room full of cut fleeces seem like even more of a candy store.

Buying a Fleece

Alrighty, so you’ve picked out a fleece that you like. A couple things you might want to know.

Wool Gathering

Believe it or not, I haven’t fallen into a fiber-induced coma and vanished off the face of the earth. I’m still here trying to make time for spinning and fiber in a rapidly filling schedule. (While juggling a change of work, vacation plans, writing, and getting ready for a friend to come visit.)

Every single scrap of Iowa fleece I have left (except for one chunk that had lots of VM) has been pre-soaked twice. All of it. Excuse me while I go collapse.

I spent I don’t know how long outside in the backyard hauling pots of water, wrestling fleece, spinning out the excess water, and shooing away any curious insects. It wiped me out. I have this feeling that the neighbors think I’m some sort of odd person — constantly lugging pots out there, whirling around spraying water in every direction — yeah. Well, if they want some wool they can have it. I just want to get it all washed by the second of August.

Why the reason for this sudden haste? A certain special friend is coming to visit next month, and she’s bringing a toy with her. Something very beneficial for those who have lots of fiber to process. Any guesses?

Juggling Act

Maybe I should just break down and buy a few more pots. Big ones. But then storage would be a real issue. I thought two good-sized pots would be enough! But when both of them are full of dirty wool, you can’t fill one of them up with the rinse water. Which obviously creates certain difficulties.

Spinning Away

Despite the fact that I was in the middle of spinning the brown wool, I went ahead and started playing with the Norwegian roving. It spun up quite nicely! I was pleasantly surprised. It was rather inexpensive, which made me think it wouldn’t have as good quality, but I was wrong. It’s a nice, squishy yarn, with just enough coarseness that I think it will wear well. The first skein wound off at a squeak over 70 yards. No clue what the others wound off at.

Three Skeins

Three Skeins


I have worked with the alpaca and come out on top. I have conquered, and I’m loving it.

A Bobbin of Joy

A Bobbin of Joy

It’s really weird how different it is from regular wool. I can’t think of how to describe it expect that it’s “buttery-er” than wool. It kind of slides along. I’ve been spinning it on the Walking Wheel.

The original idea was to try for a sport weight yarn, but I don’t know if that’s what this will turn out as. I spun a gazillion little samples to see what the best amount of twist would be. (And promptly forgot which sample went with which amount of twist.) But, the alpaca seems to be behaving, and I’m getting pretty good at separating out the coarser, slippery hairs. Wait, that sounds funny—how can something be slippery and coarse? . . . but that’s really the only way I can describe it.


I finally decided to quit pussy-footing around with the cheaper fleece and go right for the good stuff. This is Rebecca’s fleece. She’s a Corriedale/Cotswold mix. Isn’t it pretty?

Rebecca's Wool Locks

Rebecca's Wool Locks

Twist and Shout

I finally got around to setting the twist in all the yarn I’ve squirrelled away.

My aunt and I set up an assembly line and ran all fifteen skeins through, (having fun the whole time, of course). We dunked a skein into a pot of hot water and dishwashing liquid, then rinsed it out in the sink with some more hot water, and repeated once more. Then we hung the wet skein on a laundry rack to dry. Even though I pressed most of the water out of the skein before we hung it up, by the time we finished, the towel under the rack was wet, and we had to press the skeins dry again.

A couple of them bled into the wash water a bit. The pink varigated one bled the most. The water had a definite red cast to it. Odd. Anyway, now they are all hanging up in a row to dry. Well, sort of a row. They’re hanging wherever I could find a spot on the rack to hang them.

Finished This Morning

More Violets Roving

More Violets Roving

I did quite a bit of spinning today and got the three skeins of Northern Lights “Violets” plied. Aren’t they gorgeous? I just love the colors! The eight ounces totaled somewhere in the neighborhood of 537 yards. My measuring system isn’t all that accurate, but I’m hoping to have a better method shortly.

Screamin' Hot Water

I have embarked upon the inevitable. Plunged ahead into the next opportunity. I have begun . . . washing raw wool. Don’t worry about the title. Nobody got hurt. That is simply the term that my instructor used to describe the neccesary temperature of wash water. Here is how I washed my first batch of wool.

I filled a really big pot 3/4 of the way full of water, then brought it to a boil and turned off the heat. Next, I added two tablespoons of dishwashing soap and almost a cup of Simple Green.

The Wool in the Wash

The Wool in the Wash

I gave a stir or two to blend it all and added the fiber. Gently. I was terrified it would felt, or that I had put in too much of something. The rather nebulous “add some soap and Simple Green” left a wide-open range from a splash to a couple cups. Then I half-covered the pot with its lid, because I noticed that, if I left the lid fully on, it would heat back up rather quickly and I didn’t want to risk bubbles disturbing the fibers, but I didn’t want to risk anything falling (or crawling) into the water. My dad hauled the very hot pot out to the back porch for me and I waited for it to cool down to lukewarm.