Monday, 18 November 2013

Clean Fleece and Rolags

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The 'missing' fleece.
A little while ago, I tried my hand at 'Spinning in the Grease'.  I am a little ashamed to say that it was too dirty for me.  I know I should be a 'get-my-hands-grubby-and-stop-complaining' type of girl - and usually I am, but the smell and the dirt was more than my little craft room could handle.

I packed up the fleece with every intention of cleaning it first and then spinning it.  I placed it outside in the garage waiting for the day to clean it.  Today was that day.  But no fleece.  I hunted high and low.  Surely, you can't just lose a whole sheep fleece - but it was nowhere to be found.  As luck would have it, the reason I was going to clean it was because I had just been given a fleece from my boss at work.  It's not the usual work bonus I know, but I was very happy with it.  I thought I would clean the two of them at the same time - in the end, I only ended up cleaning the new one.  I was mystified as to what happened to the old one.

Fleece washed and ready to card.

Being a complete novice about washing fleece, I watched a you-tube video on how to do it and learned quaint phrases like VM - vegetable matter.  This fleece had a lot of VM (thankfully it appeared only to be VM, a lot of the unimaginable horrors that can accumulate on a sheep had been removed - I'm still a bit skittish with a very dirty fleece)

Basically, drop the fleece into a sink of hot water (not boiling) with wool-wash mixed through.  DON'T AGITATE IT or it will felt.  Just gently press down on it for a few seconds and then leave for 15 mins.  Remove the fleece and empty the sink of the mud, dirty water.  Fill the sink with hot water again and add the fleece for a further 15 mins.  I would call this method a 'preliminary clean'.  It smells much, much better but still has a few bits and pieces in it.  I think that the next time I clean a fleece, I will try and separate the locks to keep the structure sound. 

Once I had finished, (it took ages - I ended up with over 24 sinks full) I went along to my local spinning shop for some spinning combs.  The very nice and knowledgeable gentleman in the shop gave me a quizzical, sideways look when I asked for the combs.  'Have you been watching overseas videos?' he asked me.  'How did you know?' I replied.  He then proceeded to let me know that most Australian wool does not need the combing stage, it can go straight to the carding stage - which was going to be my next purchase so I saved a bit of money there. He gave me a quick demonstration on how to card the fleece into rolags and I was on my way.  They really are the most helpful people in this tiny little shop. 
The stages of making rolags

I felt quite confident about carding but my first attempt was rather pitiful so, once again, You-Tube to the rescue.  I found an excellent clip here (although I did wonder if I should have googled 'How to card Australian wool' but thought better of it.  Besides, the music in this clip is just lovely).

1.  The 'teased' fleece ready to be loaded
2.  Loading the fleece onto the brushes
3.  Combing the fleece
4.  Starting to roll up the fleece to make the rolag
5.  The finished rolag
6.  A whole laundry basket of fleece left to do.

I am pleased to say that my rolags are coming along quite nicely and by my estimation, I should have a few thousand by the time I have carded all the fleece.   It's a big job.
Finished rolags looking for all the world like giant lint-balls.

Later in the evening when Peter came home from work and I showed him my handiwork, I asked if he had seen the fleece that I had left in the garage.  He looked a bit awkward and I sensed what was coming. He didn't think I wanted it and so he threw it out.  Usually, I would have been upset at this but I gave him (and everyone else who cared to listen) the impression that I never wanted to handle such filth again.  I'm making a conscious effort to praise this new fleece - lest I have to start all over again.

Happy Spinning,

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