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Discussion Starter #1
Hello!
I am new to this forum, years ago I was on the soap making forum.

I recently got into sheep, I have a small flock of seven. 2 ewes are half BFL half English leicester and one is half BFL half Columbia. 3 lambs are 3/4 BFL, 1/4 English while one lamb is 3/4 BFL, 1/4 Columbia.

I do not know anything about raw wool. I know it should be in one piece, but is that just for skirting? The videos I have watched show people pulling out a few ounces to wash, so is it okay to not have it one piece for washing? Does it need to be in one piece for spinning?

Shearing is new to me, having only watched once at a large operation. I told my shearer I wanted to sell my fleece and to shear in one piece. Not important if the sheep look a little uneven if it means less second cuts.

The fleeces he shore were in one piece, but they seem to be barley holding on-very fragile. When I gently shake them, small pieces come out and it doesn't stop. I am afraid if I keep gently shaking the whole thing will fall apart. Does fleece tend to feel that way or is something amiss with mine? The sheep definitely look uneven and it didn't seem like the shearer was doing second cuts. However, I believe he is more of a meat sheep shearer.

Then, I was drying them in our garage with a dehumidifier and turned them several times. Now I cannot tell which is the cut side. Are there obvious signs to tell the cut side? This has made skirting very difficult. I am pulling out the tags and it sure is a lot. Is that normal? Obviously, it depends on how dirty the sheep are, but it looked like mine had some mainly on legs and very bottom of their body. The fleece, however, appears half gone after I skirt. The lamb fleece is even less held together.

Help! Any advice for me? Much appreciated!
 

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Well, it's been awhile sinse I have shorn any sheep,but.. Shakeing out the fleece isn't really like shakeing out a rug. Some second cuts will come off this way. The fleece will come apart or even kinda stretch apart. You can tell which side is the cut side because it will generaly be cleaner. Yes, sometimes quite alot of fleece is removed in Skirting. I never wash an entire fleece,don't have the room. I suppose one could fill a kiddie pool with hot water and do one. I'll take a good chunk and place it tip side down into hot soapy water. Lightly pushing it down into the water,let sit. Then I'll gently lift out,empty water ,fill and do it all again. Then have a final rinse. I dry on screens, then fluff apart and much of the vegtable matter (VM) will fall out. I am doing 3 Alpaca fleeces right now, 2 blacks and 1 white. They are called "blankets" because like a blanket on the back of an animal, this is the prime area. The leg,belly,hiney, most of the neck fleece is not included. Wool contains lanolin and has crimp which makes it harder to clean than Alpaca. Lamb fleece would not hold together like a sheep fleece simply because it is shorter. I would not really worrie too much if the fleece does not stay together. The fleeces length,crimp and cleanleness are the most important factors.
 

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*Cakes - who is your shearer? We know a few up here in the lakes region that travel a good bit and IF they know the fleece is for a hand spinner, they certainly take special care to limit 2nd cuts.

And yes, you can certainly lose a lot of fleece to skirting properly if the sheep is nasty or it has been fed from above or if they haven't had good clean bedding, adequate shelter, or if the weather has been really foul, etc.

Some fleeces DO hold together for shaking - other's don't. And no, the fleece does not have to remain intact for washing - I mostly do a pound at a time.
 

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Welcome to The Fold *Cake! Well let's see. The fleece does not gave to be in one nice whole piece. I don't know but I'm thinking that sheep with a higher lanolin content will hold together better. The breeds you have don't have a very high lanolin content.

When you skirt a fleece you are just pulling off all the really poopy bits, the stuff that is stiff and nasty from pee too. Then if you have some that has a lot of VM all ground into it you probably want to take that out too. Toss it in the compost.

Shake what you can. It sounds like all those little pieces are in fact second cuts :(. Shake out as much as you are able, pick out the rest, they will drive you crazy. Don't worry if the fleece is in pieces when you shake it out. There is no real reason to keep the fleece intact unless you are planning to comb the locks.

You can wash the whole fleece if you have a top load washing machine. Fill it with hot water and soap, Orvus paste, or shampoo agitate it then shut it off. Submerge the fleece and let it sit for 15-20 min., then spin it (do NOT agitate). Remove the fleece and repeat if needed. If you don't need a second soaking wash then fill the washer with plain hot water, you can add a glug of vinegar, put the fleece back in and turn off the washer. Let it sit about 10-15 min., then spin. Place it on a wire rack or screen to dry. If you don't want to wash the whole thing then just pull off what you want to work with and wash that. If you go to the stickie at near the top of this forum that is one called 101's or something like that. In there you will find all sorts of info on washing fleeces and other good info.

BTW, where in MN do you live?
 

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Welcome aboard! Oh, it is fun to see new faces! I'm another Minnesotan. :)

I have to re-read some of the stickies on washing fleece and I need to re-watch Three Bags Full. This weekend I am going to tackle washing fleece before Winter. I'm ever so anxious about it! I've never washed a fleece before.

We can compare notes! :)
 

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I think the only time a fleece needs to be in one piece is if you are working for a class like the Master Spinner's class. Then you unroll it and figure out what parts went where so you can learn about the differences in the same fleece while processing it or something. Or, if you are selling a 'whole fleece' some buyers might expect it to come in one piece. Other than that- it's your fleece, do what you want with it.

I've never combed a fleece, but if you do, you'd want to keep the pieces of the fleece noted in some way to keep the tips and the cut ends going in the same direction. Once you pull it into pieces it isn't as easy as it sounds to keep the ends oriented correctly.
 

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count me in as another one that hopes to be washing wool this weekend!!!!!!!!!!! I have a pound of really nice BFL from Namaste Farms that I won :dance: :bouncy: :nanner: and several others that are calling my name - some award winning Rambouilett, a couple of Wensleydale cross-bred fleeces, some Clun Forest, a Columbia, a Romeldale, and...I forget.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks everyone!
I was completely befuddled, and all your replies helped.

I finally just took one of the lamb's fleece and washed it so I could see better what was going on. And, oh, wow, it is pretty now that it is clean- however it does have lots of tiny VM.

Then I got brave and decided to wash one of the ewe's fleece. I used a large cooler so I could wash the whole thing. That worked slick, I like using the cooler! It kept the water hot. This fleece, however, has oodles of VM of all sizes and still has gunk in it. I wa hoping it would turn out more like the lamb. Now that I can see stuff better I am worried this is so dirty it is unusable for anything but batting. That would be sad, but I have to realize this is my first 'batch' so it is my learning batch.

I may just wash the rest of the lambs' fleeces, not sure if the ewes' fleeces are worth the effort.

Wind in Her Hair and Marchwind, I am in SE MN, so far south I can almost see Iowa on a clear day. My shearer is an older gentleman who started shearing at 13 cuz his dad was a shearer and back then everyone had at least a few sheep. He warned me that the wool is basically worthless. Um, okay...:facepalm:
 

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You'll want to skirt the fleece before you wash it.
When buying a full fleece, I appreciate when it is heavily skirted, usually leaving only the 'saddle'. Fleece is usually sold by the pound & I don't like buying leg, belly, britchen or neck wool.
 

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I am going to wash some fleece today. Maybe just a pound or two, to see what happens. Maybe a pound of the BFL and a pound of the Corriedale x Polypay.

I hope I don't muck it up. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I skirted all my fleeces prior to attempting washing them, but that was my original problem. My fleeces were barely hanging together and in my inexperience could no longer tell which part was the inside or outside or upside or down. The 'threads' keeping the fleeces together had twisted so I had no idea where the brisket was and possibly belly wool, although I think I swept all the belly wool during shearing. All the videos show fleeces that are so together they resemble pelts and it is so obvious where to skirt. To me, everything looked dirty and I kept skirting and huge chunks were falling off. I probably lost some really good fleece and ended up keeping some pretty bad fleece, who knows? However, once washed I could see the fleece would indeed clean up, and now I can pull off any remaining nasty parts. Hopefully pulling it off after washing doesn't harm the fleece. ???

Washing was not nearly as complex as I had imagined. Someone mentioned my breeds do not have as much lanolin, so maybe that's why washing was not a big deal. Hardest part was hauling all the buckets of water from the basement to outside for the rinsing. Who needs a stair master, when you can rinse fleece?

I have 2 lamb fleeces soaking in hot water in the cooler as I write this. I put in dishwater soap and laundry detergent. Then with the other fleeces I did do a vinegar 5 minute soak prior to rinsing.
 

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Cakes the fleece doesn't really need to be together in order to skirt it. Just go through the bits and pieces and pull off all the yucky bits. Having an intact fleece is nice but not necessary to process it properly. Lots of times at fiber festivals people sell fleeces by the pound so when you buy a pound of raw fleece it may be from different parts of the sheep. If it is a prime piece they usually list it as such and charge a lot more but not always.
 
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