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Sheep To Shawl
Handspinning has become a well known house-hold hobby and craft in recent years. To create a garment from the wool off the sheep's back is a very satisfying past-time. This article gives details on how to prepare a fleece for spinning.
Wool Preparation Instructions
Select a fleece
with a staple (fiber) length of at least two inches. Shorter fleeces can be spun without difficulty, but if you intend on using your handspun yarn for warp in weaving, the longer staple fibers will result in a stronger yarn.
Newly shorn fleece ready for sorting
Lay your fleece out on a table, cut side up. If the fleece is bundled, try to unroll it to maintain the wool as it came off the back of the sheep. Look over the surface of the fleece and remove any short clumps of wool known as second cuts. Look over the perimeter of the fleece and remove any dung tags (poop), really awful wool, leg wool which looks like felted fluff, and any thing that looks too matted to spin. Some people save this wool (minus the dung) for felting.
Flip the fleece over, scanning the surface of the wool for any visible hay, burrs, matted or felted wool Now sort the fleece by color, wool type, length, etc. Label bags in that manner, example being Romney, sheep number 23, grey back wool', or romney, #44, long white rump'. Anything that will help you to identify where the fiber came from. Don't trust your memory.
Take a bundle of wool, whatever amount will fit in your washing container, maybe a pound. Fill a bucket with the hottest water that comes from your tap. Add an eighth of a cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid, or any liquid that has a grease cutter in it. Submerge the wool into the bucket without agitating it in any way, and allow to sit there undisturbed until the water begins to cool, about an hour.
Carefully lift the wool out of the water. Gently squeeze the dirty water out of the wool. Fill a container with the hottest water you have out of the tap. Gently submerge the wool into the water. Allow to soak for 15 minutes. Continue doing this until the water stays clear. Remember to do everything gently.
Wool washing rules: Never plunge wool into water of different temperatures, especially from hot to cold as you may felt your wool. Don't agitate. You may gently work dirt out of the ends of the wool, but it can very well result in felt.
When you are satisfied that the wool is clean to your liking, and this becomes highly personal, drain it, (you may spin it out in the washer in a mesh bag if you want), and lay it out to dry on a screen or wherever it can lay undisturbed.
Michelle Winters is a spinner, weaver, author and business owner. See more of her articles at Woolbearers.net