How to Wash Wool and Fiber…. without felting it!
I was going through my old posts the other day and realized that my tutorial for washing wool is totally inadequate! That was a special — washing wool with rainwater — post. Well, the timing is perfect since I just bought a bunch of fleeces at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Fest which are filthy and have to be washed.
The really fun part is that unless you know the animal, you don’t really know what color the fiber will be once it’s washed. It’s usually much prettier than I expected.
This wool cleaning method works great on all animal fiber including sheep wool, goat (mohair), alpaca, llama, etc. The trick is to wash your wool or fiber without felting it.
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What makes wool and fiber felt?
Have you ever accidentally put your favorite wool sweater in the washing machine? There you go! The two things that felt wool are:
1. Agitation (moving wet fiber around)
2. Drastic change in water temperature
Skirting the Fiber
This is optional but I highly recommend it. What is skirting? It’s removing anything you don’t want in your final fiber such as hay, poop (ha), short cuts or matted fiber.
Place your skirted fiber in the Mesh Laundry Bags.
Fill the bucket with HOT tap water and then add a few squirts of soap. (Don’t add the soap to running water or you’ll have a mess of bubbles).
Place the mesh bag with fiber in the bucket and gently press down to submerge. Careful, the water is HOT! Make sure the fiber is completely covered with water but don’t agitate or move the fiber around in any way. This will cause it to felt! Let sit for 20-30 minutes.
Refill your bucket with clean water and add a squirt of soap. Remember to make sure that the temperature is about the same as the water was when you pulled out the bag. It may have cooled somewhat.
Soak for 20 – 30 minutes. If the water is still dirty, repeat, but don’t add any more soap to subsequent soakings. Once your fiber and water are clean, add about 1/2 cup of vinegar to the final soak. This will neutralize any remaining soap residue which can degrade your fiber over time.
Squeeze out the water and lay your fiber out to dry on an old table or screen.
All clean! What am I going to do with these Teeswater locks? Dye them, of course! Come back next week when I show you how to dip dye them.
Did you see my Tutorial on Kettle Dyeing Wool Locks?