Fleece, day 1

We had such a busy evening yesterday. There was the pancake man fundraiser at Bug’s school, and math night. And Bug needed to be bathed before I turned up the hot water heater. Yet I couldn’t resist starting to wash my new fleece. I did take pictures, though all of them on my phone, so the quality isn’t fantastic. My excuse for this is that the quality wouldn’t have been fantastic anyhow, since the weather is absolute crap and I can’t take pictures outside.

During Bug’s bath, I turned the hot water heater to high. I put half the fleece into lingerie bags, and took them to the basement. I had anticipated that I’d be washing this fleece in the washing machine. Turns out….my hot water cycle isn’t all that hot by the time the machine fills up. I ended up wasting a full drum of water and 1/3 cup of dawn dish detergent.

So, I got Bug out of the bath and started on her bedtime routine, while filling the tub with truly hot water for the wool’s initial soak. Once the tub was full and the water shut off, I added 1/3 cup concentrated dawn original scent dish detergent. You know the one, the one that cleans oil from animals at oil spills, and the one you use to make bubbles for kids. I stirred in the dawn with a wooden spoon, since the water was way too hot to touch. Apparently the idea is to avoid bubbles, and I managed that. Then I put the wool down on top of the water, no need to smoosh it in, it sank quickly. I set my timer for 15 minutes and walked away.

Once the timer went off, Bug started to get involved. We went back in the bathroom and took a look at what we had. This is what we saw:

Pretty gross huh? It actually is less gross than I expected. The fleece was amazingly clean to start with.  I had been worried about the smell of the processes. Having a lamb fleece made it far less smelly I believe. Once the wool hit the water, it did begin to smell barnyardy, but not in an overly pungent and bad way.

Bug helped me hold up the bags of wool to drain, then we put them in a bucket. I snapped another shot of the dirty water:

This was really amazing to me, the water was so full of lanolin that any contact I had with the water, which was minimal, made my hands instantly soft. It seemed that the dirt and dust really settled on the bottom of the tub.

Once the tub was cleaned out, we went for soak #2, same process. After a 15 minute bath, the water looked like this:

That is an amazing improvement on just the very first wash. We repeated the process for a third time in order to get really clean water. Then I repeated the process once more to rinse the wool. No soap was added to that bath, instead we added vinegar. I did not get pictures of this.

Then I ran into a little problem. The problem was me not thinking, rather than an actual problem. My original plan had been to make a “Hammock” out of a sheet on the porch, and allow the wool to dry out there. That got canceled on account of rain. I then planned to hang the wool in its bags in the bathroom until it drained well. The problem with this was that I had not anticipated on the wool holding quite that much water, and instead of draining into the tub, most of it was draining onto the bathroom floor. The bags were too hot to squeeze out, and I was afraid of felting them anyhow.

Then I remembered that I could use the spin cycle on the washer. I lugged the bags of wool in a bucket into the basement, threw them into the washer, and spun them out. Worked like a charm!  I then brought them back up, put a flannel sheet on the living room floor, and spread out the wool to dry.

I had been so concerned about felting during this process. I about panicked over the wool when it came out of the bags, as it was all smooshed together and had such a different quality without the lanolin. But….once I started moving it about, I realized that it had held up perfectly to my careful washes and soaks, and it felt just amazing. This morning I turned it, and hopefully I’ll have dry wool soon! Bug came downstairs this morning, got her hands right in it, and decided it felt like wool. As opposed to the stuff with lanolin, which she really didn’t like.

Tonight I have to wash the second half of the fleece. The hot water heater is still on high so now is a perfect time. I think after the first and dirtiest soak, I will try spinning it out in the washer. Hopefully this will help remove all the lanolin laced water from the wool, and I’ll only need one additional soak before I rinse.

Tomorrow is a big dye day, and I should have lots of pictures from that as well. This is going to be a very fun and fiber filled weekend!