Spinning, Wool

From raw fleece to cozy sweater

When I teach myself a new hobby, I typically jump in with both feet and my eyes closed. Basically, I go crazy buying everything I might need and ignore the fact that I don’t have enough time for the hobbies I already have. The same happened when I decided to get back into spinning a couple months ago. Enabled by my husband’s concern over supply lines and the cost of items going up, I bought an electric spinning wheel (e-spinner) and almost 20 pounds of raw fleece. Most of the fiber I bought was from the Woolery (they have a pretty great discount for buying in larger lots, as well as a veteran’s discount – thanks hubby!)

I tried to buy a few different breeds of sheep so I could experience more than just merino that’s typical of my yarn stash. One breed I bought was Cormo, both in a medium to dark grey and a white. My idea is that I’ll spin each color separately and then ply them together to make a marled sweater. The sweater I have in mind is The Weekender by Andrea Mowry But I’m getting ahead of myself. First I have to wash or scour the wool.

Tool wise it’s pretty simple to scour raw wool. You need a bin/large bowl to hold your hot water and then soap. I use unicorn power scour but my first few batches were done with blue Dawn soap and those turned out just fine. Because I want to comb the fleece for spinning I wanted to keep the individual locks intact for the most part. So instead of my usual scour method of filling the bin with water as hot as my faucet can go then 2 tablespoons of power scour and soaking the fleece for 15 minutes. I decided to brush out each lock to open the tips and then wash each lock separately. As you can imagine, this process takes FOREVER!

I set out 2 pounds of white and 2 pounds of grey Cormo for this project. Then opened one bag/pound and started to sort it out. There were a few poo-incrusted locks (eww!) and the usual VM (vegetable matter) as well as lots of dirt. The tips on this grey fleece are white sun-bleached and some broke off while brushing them open. But I’d rather have that happen now instead of later while spinning. I used a brush my girls have refused to use despite it’s claim to be gentle on tangles and went through the fleece.

Each lock was brushed out and tossed in a plastic tote on the floor. When I had enough or was bored of brushing, I filled my large purple bowl with hot rinse water while dumping the tote of locks onto the lid. The tote then got hot water and 2 tablespoons of power scour. I dipped each lock by holding the cut end and gently swishing it to allow dirt and VM to come out, then switched to holding the tips and doing the same. Because lanolin (essentially sheep sweat) needs water temps around 140 degrees, I burned my fingers a few times.

I laid each lock on an old towel and when I ran out of room I transferred the locks to trays for our food dehydrator. No one would say I’m a patient woman and I enjoy finding ways to speed up just about any process possible. Drying wool and yarn in the dehydrator is one of my favorite tricks. Today I’m finishing the other pound of grey Cormo. My plan is to mix both pounds together and mix the grey together as this second bag is a lighter shade compared to the first bag. Then I’ll use my wool combs to open and align the fibers for spinning. Once I start spinning the grey Cormo, the white will get it’s turn to be washed.

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