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southerngurl said:
What are all the steps involved in removal of wool, all the way to a finished usable yarn?
Shear the sheep. Sort the fleece into useable and non-useable bits (remove the dung locks and extremely filthy parts, discard the shorter staples and probably the leg and underbelly fleece as they are probably unuseable). Sort the useable bits into color groups and according to length.

Soak the fleece in lukewarm water (avoid extremes in temperature or you could damage it) for an hour or two (longer if its really dirty). Rinse thoroughly. Do not agitate the wool or you'll felt it or it can matt. Lay it out and dry in a shady area, turning carefully at regular intervals until completely dry.

This is where people have different ideas. Some scour and dye the wool. Others take it straight from the drying table to their cards, comb, or drum carder. Still others will semi-wash it before spinning. It all depends on your preference.

regardless of which step you choose next, it needs to be prepared for spinning. Assume you're spinning in full grease. Comb, card or run the fleece through the carding process. Take your now prepared rollag or roving or sliver and begin to spin.

Once spun, remove it from the spindle or bobbin (drop spindle or spinning wheel) and wrap it, counting out the yardage, onto the niddy noddy or other string winder. Tie it *loosely* in four equally spaced places with other yarn and wash it in a mild soap or wool wash, lukewarm water. Rinse the soap out thoroughly! Hang it up to dry in a shady spot (or dye it immediately - that's my own preference), adding a weight to the bottom to hold it in the proper shape.

When it's dry, put it back on the niddy noddy or the bobbin of the spinning wheel to be sure there are no tangles or catches.

You're ready to do with your new yarn what you will.

Did I miss anything? This is the step by step that I've used...others may have more steps, different ideas, a change in the order, etc.

-Sarah
 

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Sarah, I was taught to wash my raw fleeces in the hottest water I could stand to have my hands in. I haven't had any problems with them and rarely have any problems with residual stickiness, especially on the greasier breeds. I'm curious as to how you learned to do yours in lukewarm water. Sigh! I guess nothing is ever standard in this world!

Kathleen
 

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I've been 'taught' many ways to do it...and have used the bathtub, a laundry tub outdoors, and the kitchen sink to wash the fleece in (depending on the weather and my strength at the moment) I do find that hot water removes the 'grease' better but that warm water helps prevent felting....by trial and error I use hot water for finer, more greasy wool and warm water for coarser, less greasy wool. I stuff mine into net sweater bags after washing and run it through the spin cycle of my washing machine (NO WATER! JUST SPIN) to hurry the drying process...the bags keep me from having to handle the wool while it is drying too! (again preventing felting) There are many ways to do any job and this is NOT rocket science...just a regular household duty for woman over many a long millenia....go for it! it's fun! betty
 

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Tsk tsk step one use sharp shearing combs and cutters! :) Just kidding!! There are some cold water washes out there too. I would assume using a warm water over hot is intending to leave in some of the natural oils, instead of adding an artificial oil after carding. Kind of depends how much lanolin you'll tolerate on your carding cloth!
 

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Ross said:
Tsk tsk step one use sharp shearing combs and cutters! :) Just kidding!! There are some cold water washes out there too. I would assume using a warm water over hot is intending to leave in some of the natural oils, instead of adding an artificial oil after carding. Kind of depends how much lanolin you'll tolerate on your carding cloth!
And the way it was done in medieval/renaissance eras was to take the skirted fleece out to a neighborhood stream, toss it in, and walk back & forth on it to get all the junk out of it. A lady in my neck of the woods did this on half of several fleeces and washed the other half in a modern style (soap & hot water) and then felted and spun and wove samples for a reenactment competition to show the difference - except for the excess lanolin, the stream-washed came out cleaner because it could be agitated a bit to get the junk out.
 

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What kind of soaps is everyone using to wash raw fleeces?
 

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The only other step that I'd include, which is optional depending on what yarn you're after is plying the singles.

For washing raw fleece....I usually use Orvis (the horse shampoo stuff.

Jamie
 

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Ross said:
What kind of soaps is everyone using to wash raw fleeces?
When I was starting out, I tried various things like Ivory soap flakes before settling on what seems to be popular with other spinners, Dawn dishwashing liquid (hey, it gets the grease out!). 1/4 to 1/2 cup, depending on how dirty the fleece is. I wash mine in a bathtub and let soak, sometimes over night if necessary. Or do a second wash. If the fleece is particularly greasy, I'll add 1/4 cup of soda ash -- it will take the grease out of merino in two washes.

I may be more stringent with some fleeces as I send most of them out to Spinderella's in Utah for carding. If I were handcarding or combing, I might not be so strict about getting all the stickiness out; the processor won't take them if they have any grease left.

Kathleen
 

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mamalisa said:
Ok, but:

How do you remove the grease so that you can use it? I don't want to wash it down the drain......
Good question. I've been toying with the idea of experimenting there. What do you all think of this thought? Go ahead and put the fleece in the hottest water you can stand (or hotter if you have a lifter or something). If others do it with no problems then maybe my sources are full of it? So if it's in the hot hot water, would the lanolin melt out of the fleece? Could you then retain the water and skim the lanolin off the top?

I have absolutely no idea how this is done commercially, but there has to be a way, right? I'm just taking a wild stab in the dark with this one...

-Sarah
 

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The Alden Amos big Book of Handspinning says:

A temperature of 110F or higher will melt the grease. Above 125 damages the wool.

Use washing soda (not baking soda).

Scour your wool in soft water if possible. If you must use hard water, add detergent.

It's a great book, by the way- It devotes a whole chapter to the intracies of washing wool.
 

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Here is another one,, I just love... "Eucalan Wool wash". Found this far better than other things I have tried. Is also made in Canada. <VBG>
 
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