sock porn for knitting voyeurs.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

washing merino fleece, another way

A few weeks ago, I finished up washing and sorting the beautiful dark chocodile brown merino fleece I bought from Janet Heppler at Nebo Rock Textiles (at Lambtown)... I'm still working my way thru figuring what methods are best for me and this one was a little different so I figured why not share :)

You may remember the fleece...



This fleece was much, much larger than previous purchases at 7.5#. Not that bad, but since I wash here at home in smallish batches (1-1.5#), and I'd only separated by locks for washing/scouring before, I knew I really didn't want to dig thru 7.5 pounds of fleece at once separating locks for washing. I did want to maintain lock formation for combing though.


Some big brains at Ravelry assured me I could easily wash the fleece in intact "chunks"-- tearing off large sections of the fleece, keeping that large bit intact and it would withstand the wash in a sink. Having pounds of fleece to spare, I gave it a good go... I tore off sections of the fleece, larger than my 14"x21" mesh laundry bags by about 15-20%, and carefully loaded the fleece "rectangle" inside. "Overstuffing"the mesh bag helped keep its shape and the locks pointing up.

I only put one "layer" of fleece inside each bag like this, unlike when I wash by locks and use several. Since the locks were vertical in this position, I didn't want to risk smashing them down or maybe making a felt welcome mat... even so, it ended up being a lot of fleece in one bag. I loaded up four bags' worth (about the same weightwise as in my lock washing ways) and washed them as normal (3x wash in hothot water + Dawn blue, 3 rinses in plain hothot with the final having a shot of kookaburra woolwash), laid it out to dry and found...


Lots and lots of washed, intact fleece. :)

Now I know this isn't an unusual method for washing (I think washing by locks is less common)... but here's where I kinda went off the deep end. Like usual.

All of the fleeces I've been washing at home have had a 35% loss in weight after washing-- they've all been covered, fine greasy fleeces so it's mainly a lanolin loss. The chocodile was no different; she went from 7.5# to about 4.8# after washing. 4.8 pounds of fiber is a lot-- probably 2 sweaters worth. I also have been paying close attention to my combs and knew that keeping all the staple lengths I comb about the same size means less waste in the long run-- even if I don't really care about keeping all the staples in the sliver the same length. Less waste is less waste though, esp. when the fleeces I start with are pretty much all beautiful overall.

So I took those large, intact "sheets" of fleece and separated clean locks out... by length. Measuring each staple like a crazy person.


The lengths ran from 3, 3.5, and 4". There were shorter lengths than 3", but I don't really enjoy combing locks shorter than 3" on my 4-pitch combs so those were set aside where I didn't really worry about keeping those in locks.

The idea behind this madness is that when I do get around to combing this fleece, I'll be able to have locks that are all the same size lashed onto the comb... and have less waste than if there was a large difference in what's left behind as shorter fibers. If I were truly ambitious (not generally a trait I hold), I would spin samples from each length and see if it held up differently, if the yarn acted differently if the fiber lengths were shorter or longer... but what'll probably happen? I'll spin the similar length slivers together and use all different lengths in one project. We'll see. :)

I also was interested in doing this because once separated, I could get an idea of the variation of lock length across an entire fleece. The judge at Lambtown used lack of variation along staple length in a fleece as a criteria... but it can't all be the same length across the entire animal (with my limited experience washing and sorting, it hasn't been). The difference is only an inch though, but since I had them all separated out-- why not look to see the variance by percentage?

counterclockwise from top left, clean weight:
3" -- 722 grams, 33%
3.5"-- 488 grams, 22%
4"-- 232 grams, 11%
indeterminate/less than 3"-- 750 grams, 34%
total: approx 2200g, or 4.8#

This wasn't a terribly scientific experiment :) The category of "indeterminate/less than 3" was necessary since pulling clean locks from the chunk of clean fleece resulted in fiber that was not intact enough for combing, too open, too thin to be an intact staple length...

(this isn't the same fleece, but gives you an idea what I mean by indeterminate)

In the indeterminate category are 3-4" staples so my percentage breakdown isn't too accurate, but still interesting.

When pulling locks from washed/clean fleece, I had a lot more "indeterminate" fiber than I do when separating out locks from greasy fleece. Even so-- the answer to my 2 sweater's worth "problem" presented itself. I'm not really interested in having 2 sweaters (or, worth of fiber) from one fleece-- but sending out part of it to be blended with another fiber means its not really quite the same anymore. At least in my brain :)

So I rounded up the indeterminate bag with 3" staples til it reached 2#...
(as always, coke can for scale)

...grabbed a pound of yak fiber from the stash (front 2 bags), and sent the whole kit/boodle off to Fibers4ewe for picking and carding into pindrafted roving.


It'll come back as about 3# of a 65/35 (or so) merino-yak blend, super warm. I'm left with prime staple lengths for combing here at home in the meantime... and you know me, I couldn't resist pulling off a sample. (My combs are overloaded in these pics. 4" staple length.)




Beautiful stuff!


(eta: CARDER SOLD, 8/30...)

ps! I may not be posting for a bit... I tried taking pics of my worsted, handspun wisteria in progress today and my workhorse oldie of a camera died on me in the middle :( I'm not too sad-- I bought it before my almost not a toddler anymore son was born and has done me well. It's also crystallized my decision to sell my Strauch Petite-- much as I love it, I don't use it... not like my combs and certainly not like I'd use a camera instead.

I'll probably be listing it on Ravelry or Craigslist later this week... asking $330 ($100 off new list price, as it includes the brush attachment). Have manual and all attendant items (doffer, cleaner, clamps, instructions...) I bought it in excellent used condition and it's been well cared for (if not much used!) here in my smoke free, pet free house. Would greatly prefer selling to someone in the Bay Area who can pick up or I can meet halfway along a BART line since I don't have a box for it and would have to charge the boxing and shipping fees from ups/fedex (but am willing to ship). I'll also toss in a giant bag of dyed superwash fibers I always meant to card on the petite but never got around to and/or some angora for blending if you're interested. My email is at the bottom of the page :)

Anyway! LMK-- off to wash more fleece. I have a definite off spot in not being able to have unwashed fleece in my house!


bockstark.knits said...

I love getting my fiber education! Thanks for this post. It makes me want to get a fleece! :)

Unknown said...

*wants* sooo much. I am too far away to meet you halfway on the BART though.
You know I visited WBF on vacation? I may have seen the exact sheep! I guess I better stalk for next year....

Rebekah said...

I love your fleece and your photos - your blog always makes me drool... I was wondering what camera you use to get such great photos (sorry to hear about its demise..)? Rebekah

Anonymous said...

You've got a bit of the crazy in you, don't you?!? That yak/merino is going to be lovely. Well, all of it's lovely. You know what I mean.

I have a little Nikon L2 you can borrow for an indeterminate length of time if you'd like. Since I got my snazzy SLR I haven't used it at all. And as an added bonus, I'm going to be up in Berkeley on Saturday, so I could probably deliver it to you. Let me know!

lexa said...

Have fun getting a fancy new camera! Love that Yak. :)

Kristine said...

wow! I love the gusto you bring to this project.

Anonymous said...

As clumsy as I am, I am coveting your combs. What kind are they? Maybe I can buy some at Rhinebeck. I sure don't need any fiber! Lol.

Stacey said...

wow! what a process!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Really enjoying reading about your fibre adventures! So much so that I have given you an award! Please pop by and collect when you get the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

A wonderful and insightful read for me! Hmmm, maybe next time I open Spin Off I might see something by you - something like this post certainly deserves a spot there!!! Thank you for telling about your fibery adventures :) Terry

Nancy said...

Have you ever tried washing Merino in the washing machine? (no agitation of course) I raise Merino sheep and I'm also a spinner. I've washed a great deal of Merino this way, it saves a great deal of time!

Grunniens Yak Ranch said...

Thanks for the great info on yak fiber. We are raise yaks but don't work with the fiber ourselves.

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