A special kind of stink

Hello all three of my readers! Guess where I’ve been?
You’re right! I did go to the Maryland Sheep and Wool festival. You must be psychic.
And what did I come home with, prescription ladies and gentlemen?
Two fleeces! (And some roving, viagra and hand cards, disorder and a sachet of herbal moth repellent, and some really nice smelling solid hand lotion) (Having a birthday the same month as MDSW is great – thanks, Mom!)
Two very dirty, greasy, stinky fleeces. Because I feel the need to do things old school. No, I do not, nor do I plan to, churn my own butter. Butter = boring. Fleece = fun!
How much fun?
Let me show you!
First, we have here two pounds, or one half of a black and brown Lincoln fleece. Excuse the glamorous back-drop. I was doing this in the basement. Our basement looks like one might expect from a house that predates cinder block.

It’s pretty gross, at least for a city slicker like me. I am unaccustomed to eau de barnyard.
It goes into a mesh laundry bag:

And the whole shebang gets gently lowered into a laundry tub full of scalding hot water and a generous squirt of Dawn dish washing liquid. Holy sheep poop, that was some dirty fleece!

Now we have wet, steamy barnyard odor.
After a 20 minute soak, it got to hop to the other tub to drain while I filled up the tub with new hot soapy water. Another 20 minute soak later, it went into hot non-soapy water for a rinse. And another rinse, with a glug of vinegar, and another rinse. By the third rinse, the water was starting to look less like pond water and more like tap water.

While I was waiting for all these soaks, I demolished part of the laundry cage at the bottom of the laundry chute(I’m still more excited that I should be that we have a laundry chute – little things in life thrill me I guess) and installed a vanity base with a folding counter beside the laundry tub. Also I washed the kids (our only bathtub is in the basement for the time being). And swept the floor. I was in the basement most of the evening. Those were long soaks.

There was still a slight tinge to the last rinse water, but I’d had enough of the basement. Maybe I’ll try a third wash on the next portion, or heat up a kettle of water to make the washes hotter. I feel it’s clean enough to spin, and it’ll get another washing to set the twist after spinning. The scoured wool got to go for a spin in the washing machine, sans water, to spin the water out. I spread it out to dry. It felt eerily like a pile of warm, damp human hair.
Lucy the cat discovered the wool while I was at work, so I popped it back into the mesh bag and the wool got to spend the afternoon in the sunlight outside today.

It clouded up around dinner time like it was going to rain. Lucy was glad I brought her cat bed back in the house.

I was glad for moder conveniences like hot running water and modern sewage. I can’t imagine how much work scouring fleeces must have been back when all the water had to be heated over an open fire after being hauled from a well. Then again, laundry day was more of the same 150yrs ago, so I guess they were used to it.

The other fleece is a white 5lb corriedale. I’m in fiber heaven!
I can’t help but think that processing my own fleece pushes me over the “hobbyist” line, firmly into “hobby lunatic” territory. But I’m happy here.

3 thoughts on “A special kind of stink

  1. I am just about the least crafty person on the planet, but I found this whole process fascinating. Thanks for all the pictures and descriptions.

    I seem to remember that at some point in grade school, we had a chance to try spinning yarn. I can’t imagine what class it would have been in. I recall it being difficult to do consistently well, but I would hope that comes with practice. In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing what color and mix that brown and black wool comes out as. Neat!

  2. Pingback: Wheeeeee! | Unreserved

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