Eau de Sheep.
Eau de Grease et le Poo de Sheep, to be exact.
Yes folks, I've spent the day washing some raw fleece. My kitchen now has an odd if not unpleasant aroma combination of Fairy Liquid and lanolin. For those sheep geeks, it is an Oxford Down - a rare breed at the RBST. Oddly enough with a name like that, it is one of the down breeds :-) and therefore best carded.
Here's the washing process:
Basically, I sorted the fleece roughly, picking out any really yukky bits and lumps of VM. Then I scoured it in hot water and Fairy Liquid (only the best you know, my hands are as soft as my face now...) several times to release the grease and dirt. I also carefully simmered it for 20 minutes or so over a low heat. Some people would have a fit at that, but as long as you don't boil it it works fine and helps get more of the ooginess out.
Next step was a couple of washes with my standard wool wash - which is actually some left-over "Tramp" shower gel from Lush, heavily diluted with water. Finally, when the water is running fairly clean, a final soak in a vinegar rinse fetches out any leftover suds and softens the wool.
As I went through each stage I picked out any more unwanted yuk that had come loose, then whizzed the final clean fleece in my new salad spinner and spread it out to dry on a towel. If it had been a dry day I would have hung it out to dry in a mesh laundry bag.
If you've the patience, and access to a carder and / or combs and a decent fleece supply, this is an excellent way of obtaining lots of raw materials at a good price. This partial fleece came from eBay, which isn't ideal. It was very damp and quite mucky - if I'd seen it in person I probably would have thought twice about it. Ideally I need to either find a rare breed sheep farmer or start going to wool fairs. Yes, I live on a sheep farm, but the sheepies here, amusing as they are, are mainly some kind of cross and the fleeces are pretty poor. I have seen what looks like a Texel ram though. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on his winter coat.
Also! I carded some batts. Here's the first - brown and black merino, a touch of natural beigey Corriedale and a dash of white Jacob:
Yummy. Looks like Fry's Chocolate Cream. I corespun this (first ever corespinning! Can I get a round of applause?) into:
which is only about 26yds, but lovely nonetheless.
I also carded this one, which I've christened "Bruise"
which is all merino, in several shades of bluey-purple and some black. I'm spinning this now as finely as I can:
just to prove you can spin carded fibres finely. You just have to be cautious with it!
and finally, the Hap is progressing slowly: