Even if you don’t have your own sheep, or have raw fleece to wash, you should find yourself laughing as you read this! It was written in 2013 and I found it on the Ten Good Sheep website. They are in Virginia (USA).
One note about the washing machine she is using – its the old fashioned top loader – that can be stopped and started at any point along the cycle – please don’t use your modern front loader like this, altho some of them do have short cool wash cycles with optional low spin speeds, and you might get away with it. On the other hand, if you WANT to felt the wool ……….smile! PS: See the comments section – some more info there!
We’re serious about washing wool!
Our original table used rabbit wire for the top (about 1/4″ wire mesh). The new table uses rat wire (1/2 inch wire mesh). We recommend rabbit wire and we’ll be replacing the top of this table. Note the handy hook for your hose…you need a hose too. (Or if you’re really green and have a way to do it, collect rainwater.)Also – note the concrete blocks used with the original table for wash stands.
If you’re going to wash a lot of wool, use these. You’ll thank us later.Set your table up where a lot of water hitting the ground won’t matter. Or…re-use the water for your garden, etc. It’s yucky, but the plants won’t mind. Depending on when you schedule your shearing you can use less water.
Let the rain do the first washing.
This one is natural charcoal colored Romney. Wait til you see it when we’re done. Gorgeous!
All kinds of stuff will bounce out of there and through the wire while the fleece is still dry. Give it a good hard couple of throws on the top of the table.
We separated this one into 2 pieces.
Some of our own sheep have enormous fleeces and we divide them into thirds. You can wash a substantial amount at one time, but don’t crowd it too much. You’ll develop a feel for how much is a good amount.
You can walk away from it for a while if you want to. 10 minutes or 10 hours…we’ve done both.
Don’t be afraid to move it around…but you don’t need to be too aggressive about it either.We want to let the wool swish through the water…so grasp it and bring it up…
If you see bubbles on the ground at this point it’s because the fleece is holding sheep sweat
(aka – suint) and lanolin. Since a lot of this is water soluble, combined with water this makes
(sort of, kind of) its own natural soap. Hence the bubbles. Sheep bubbles!
Let the water swish through the fleece.There is a difference between allowing the wool to swish and agitating. Don’t agitate…swish.
But for this particular fleece we’re going for…
No, it won’t instantly felt in the hot water.
And you’re going to be turning OFF the washer so NO AGITATION will be happening.
Right? RIGHT??? More on this soon.We’re using Orvus Paste, which is a livestock soap used by 4H kids on their show animals. You can get it/order it from farm and garden supply stores, or check online. It’s concentrated. It comes in the white container on the right, but the label is long since gone. We use about 1/3 of a cup for a full washer of water.In the past we have used Dawn (dishwashing liquid). Think about it…it’s a concentrated degreaser. You can use Dawn if you’d like. We’d use about 1/3 of a cup of that too if that’s the soap we were using.
fill ‘er up and make it HOT.
TURN THE WASHER OFF!
Seriously.In all of our years of fleece washing we have ruined only 1/3 of a fleece. It was one of Shackle’s. And the washer was only accidentally agitating for about 5 seconds. Don’t do that!
YOU HAVE MADE SURE THAT IT IS OFF…
Now, since you’ve made sure that the washer is off, go ahead and shut the lid.
Relax for about a half hour or so. That hot water will help to melt the remaining lanolin.
DON’T LEAVE IT IN THE WASHER.Refill your washer with hot water.
Now you’ve got another fork in the road…If you need another soap session, redo your previous steps…PAYING ATTENTION TO WHEN THE WASHER NEEDS TO BE ON OR OFF.If you don’t need another soap session your fleece is ready for the rinse water. To our rinses we add about a cup or so of white vinegar. This cuts the soap residue and restores the pH. Also, we usually add in a bit of patchouli essential oil…or clove essential oil. Yummy. We can’t prove it but it’s our theory that the essential oil is somewhat of a natural moth repellent. We have never had any moth problems to date.The rinse is identical in procedure to the wash – but without the soap. Let it sit in the rinse water for a while with the lid down. Then spin it out, just like before.When you’re all done, your wool washing table becomes your drying rack. Take your wonderfully clean and soft fleece back outside, open it up onto the top of your washing table and let the air dry it perfectly. Watch out for too brisk of a breeze…your wool will travel with it.
And MUCH better than if a commercial woolen mill had done it for you.We know…we’ve done it both ways.
Our sheep are Romney/Columbia cross. We know that this method works perfectly for our sheep and for similar breeds. The finest fleece we have washed this way is Hog Island. This is a rare breed sheep that was most notably from (wait for it) Hog Island. This is one of the barrier islands off the coast of Virginia. We have not washed merino, targhee, etc with this method. Mostly because we have not had the opportunity to try it out. This method *may not* be ideal for fine/super fine wool. But being the wool renegades we are, we would at least give it a try on a small scale and make modifications if necessary.It’s our guess that beginners who would benefit from this tutorial would not necessarily be using low micron count raw fleeces. If you are a beginner using low micron count wool and you feel adventurous, try our method out on a small scale and let us know your findings.It’s our bet that the wool from any sheep benefits from being shorn after a good solid rain…so why not try? The cleaner they are on the hoof, the less water you use after shearing.
Please do leave us a comment at mail@TenGoodSheep.com
…we’d appreciate your thoughts.