A couple of weekends ago one of my relatives gave me one of his sheep fleeces. I knew that he had sheep but I didn't know he had sheep, you know? Right now, Patrick has 2 Jacob sheep both of whom have been dehorned. That is a real shame because Jacob sheep are known for their crazy horns (some of them can have 6 horns!). One of the ladies was a petting zoo inmate and is not a fan of people at all. The breed is standoffish but I think being in a petting zoo could make anyone bitter. They had to be dehorned just in case so kids wouldn't be hurt by the horns.
Anyway, back to the fleece. I'm amazed that Patrick was able to pack all of this into a relatively small box. He checked the fleece as his checked baggage. I think it would have been hysterical if the airport officials had gone through this box. Talk about the smell of a farmyard! Here the fleece is in its raw form spread out in the middle of the back yard.
I didn't have any equipment for washing a fleece so I quickly ran out and bought some rubbermaid containers, additional dishwashing liquid (mom wouldn't appreciate me using all of her's!), some light brown cheap towels (I think light brown was very important color for this process) and a laundry bag because this one is NOT going to be used for clothes. Then I heated up some water and split the fleece into three different parts. (No reason for this other than the containers wouldn't hold much.) The dishwashing liquid has a strong scent of eucalpytus which makes me very excited. I figure bugs probably don't care but it makes me feel like there is an additional chance of making them leave my sheep fur alone!
The first bath was very . . . um . . . brown.
The next wash, not as much.
The third bath was much clearer so I didn't take pictures of it. I followed the recommendations found here of how to wash a fleece. Prepping two batches of hot water at the same time was a little crazy (lots of carrying big pots of water = tired arm muscles) but was very nice to have it all done at once.
After pulling the wool out of the third bath, I dumped it on a towel and took a picture before rolling out the excess water. Doesn't it kind of look like a brain?!
Then I hang it out to try on our drying rack in the back yard. It seriously looked like I had slaughtered something in the back yard and had skinned it. I bet, if we had close neighbors, they would think I am completely nuts by this point.
I had enough time before going to work to start the whole process over again once more. Even after messing around with this much water, thanks to all of the lanolin, my hands weren't dried out at all! Unfortunately, I didn't have quite enough time to finish the whole fleece because I definitely wanted to take a shower before going to work. That evening, I had to bring everything in even though it wasn't dry because we were supposed to get rain. I think I found a new way of drying out a fleece. Put it in your basement where there are 3 dehumidifers running and that sucker will be dry in no time at all! I wasn't able to wash the final third of the fleece until a couple of days later. Now, everything is washed and I've started flick carding it (pdf link). I'll edit this post later to add some pictures of that.