The free fleece adventure

Yesterday I collected a big pile of fleeces from a very kind raveler who no longer wanted them (isn’t Ravelry awesome?). A few other people were interested in the fleeces, but were unable to collect them, so I (foolishly?) offered to wash them and send bits out to people to try. As I’m sure it’ll take me a while to work through them all, i thought i’d chronicle my progress here so the people who want some can see what i’m up to.

 The first fleece I got out of the bag was a Jacob/Wensleydale cross, its a pale grey colour with beige tips. This was the cleanest fleece i’ve ever seen in terms of VM, and the dirtiest grossest fleece i’ve ever seen in terms of grease. It had been rolled up nice and tight so it fitted in a pillowcase, and when i got it out it just wanted to sit there in one big congealed sticky lump. With a lot of coaxing I managed to get it unrolled, and pulled off a chunk to wash. I currently wash my fleece in a plastic laundry basket in the sink. I used to use the bath, but it took too long to fill, and it made my back hurt bending over to move the fleece around. With the current method i can fit about 1/3 of an average sized fleece in at a time, which is also the amount that fits comfortably on the drying rack, so it’s all good. Here’s some pics of the fleece i just mentioned, after washing, while drying in the sun.


Look at these little curls, aren’t they cute?


After washing, the fleece was transformed from a sticky lump, into a lovely light soft huggable lump. I’ve never prepped a longwool fleece before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it’s very smooth and soft, and there’s much less grease left in it than there is in other fleeces i’ve washed, even though i followed the same procedure I always do. I spun a small sample, and the closest thing i can compare it to from my past experience is working with BFL tops, but with a longer staple length. Here’s a pic I took of one of the locks after it was washed and i’d finger-combed it. there’s a clothespeg there, partly for scale, and partly because the camera doesn’t like focussing on almost white fibres on a white background.


The next bag had similar contents, another jacob/wensleydale cross, but this time white. It had also been compressed into a very smal space, and was rather oily, but much less sticky than the last, and it rolled out nicely.


This one has cute little curls too


With this fleece I was given my first experience of suint; the bottom inch or so of the locks were really really yellowy coloured compared to the rest. I was concerned that it might be stained, I’ve never had a suinty fleece before, so all i knew about it was that it’s sheep sweat, and it’s yellow. Here you can see the edge of the fleece rolled over so you can see the bottom. The colours are a little off cos it was bright sunlight, in reality it was a little yellower.


I pulled off a chunk of the fleece and washed it as normal. I was pleased to notice the yellow colour had almost totally gone after the first hot water soak, even before the addition of detergent. It’s now all clean and on the rack to dry.

 The next bag I opened contained jacob fleece. It had already been washed and separated into 5 or 6 carrier bags, here’s the contents of one of the bags tipped out into the light tent:


It’s not actually an intact lump of fleece, it’s been torn into smaller pieces, and it’s already been washed. It’s soooo dry though. When I wash fleeces, I always leave a little of the grease in (well, using the method I use, some of the grease always remains, it would be hard to remove it even if i wanted to, but i don’t, so its all good). This stuff feels like it doesnt have any left in it at all. I read a tip somewhere that the wool should be lightly spritzed with olive oil/water before spinning. I may have to try that, as I tried spinning a bit of this, and really didnt enjoy it. It might be just that Jacob fleece is very different to what i’m used to working with, it certainly has a lot less crimp than the Norfolk Horn I have, and is less fine, but i think it was mostly the dryness that I didnt like, so I will try the oil trick and report back.

 The final fleece is a white one, unsure of the breed. It’s been washed in a similar way to the jacob, so it’s in small pieces and is very dry. I might try it, but I have a lot of white fleece already from the Norfolk Horn, which still has a little grease in and suits my style of spinning a lot better. I’m happy to send bits of this miscellaneous white fleece to someone else if they want to have a go with it….message me on ravelry and let me know. I doubt i’ll be reporting on it here again though, cos it’s really not that interesting.

And that ends the first instalment of the free fleece adventure. Thanks again to the kind fleece donor. I shall report back as more washing and spinning is completed.

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