In the spring, we were given the experience of spinning raw wool. Wool fresh off of the smelly sheep and incrusted with lanolin, bits of fiber, dirt, etc. It’s very sticky, smelly stuff. There was a team in the class who were entered in a Sheep-to-Sweater spin-off. Sheep-to-Sweater spin-off has three different sections: 1. the shearers who shear the sheep, 2. the spinners who spin the fiber into yarn, and 3. the knitters who knit the sweater. Then there are the runners who carry the different bits to each section. The fiber has to be spun to strict specifications, so many twists per inch. The sweater has to be knit with a particular gauge; stitches per inch and rows per inch. The teams get together to practice ahead of time. Our teacher brought in some of the practice raw wool so all of us could have the experience of spinning it.
Although I did try spinning the raw wool, that much lanolin causes a rash on my hands. My handful of raw wool has been stored away ever since. Last Wednesday, the teacher brought a new picker to class which I am very excited to try. Time to wash the raw wool so I can try the picker in class on Wednesday. During one class meeting last Spring, there was a lesson on how to wash raw wool, I’ve made slight modifications since I don’t have a huge amount.
1. Hand pick out any large pieces of fiber the place the raw wool into a mesh bag. I made sure the bag was larger than the wool amount so I could have a “handle”.
2. Fill bucket with 140 – 160 degree F water. My tap water is not hot enough so I use my electric kettle to boil water and add to the cold water in the bucket. I have a cooking thermometer which I use to determine temperature. Add detergent and gently swirl.
3. Place mesh bag with wool into water and push down to submerge. The water will immediately become yucky brown and dirty. Use a wooden spoon or your gloved hand to submerge the wool. It’s not advisable to use bare hands, this water is HOT! Let wool soak about 10 minutes. It’s important that the water does not cool too much or the greases will start to solidify.
4. After allowing the wool to soak so it all becomes sopping wet, gently bring the mesh bag up and down a few times to wash out the dirt, oils, grease, etc. I eyeball to see if it looks as if the wool is clean. While washing, I have the electric kettle on again ready to make rinse water.
5. Place the wool into a strainer to drain while preparing the rinse water. Again, make sure the rinse water is between 140 – 160 deg. F. I rinse a few times, so keep refilling the kettle. Place wool in strainer between rinses and after final rinse. When the rinse water remains clear and non-soapy you’re done.
6. Spread the wool out to dry. I use a boot rack purchased at Target with old towels on top.
Nice fluffy dried wool, ready for the picker. I’ll post pictures of my after-the-picker-wool on Thursday. I’m amazed at how light and fluffy the yarn is after washing.