Monday, November 11, 2013

Clean Wool

Good spinning requires clean wool. This is notice that I change my story, whenever, I find a better way.

I am back to something like what Alden Amos describes in the Big Blue Book.

I grade and sort the fleece, putting each grade in its own plastic bin. (Dirty fleece does not want to sit in a plastic bin for very long.  The lanolin will react with the plastic.) I turn the hot water heater up to 130 F.

Bin by bin, I  lay the grades of wool on a open wire rack and willow them to remove excess grit.

Hot water and "soap" is added to the bins of wool.  Soap may be either real soap or laundry detergent.

The wool is allowed to soak in the hot water/soap with minimum agitation untill the water starts to cool (15 minutes).  Then the bin is drained into a steel mesh strainer. (I use an elfa mesh drawer from the Container store).  The process is repeated a few times depending on how dirty the wool started.  Then the locks of wool are rinsed in tepid water. It is very important that the last rinse get all the soap out of the wool.

The locks go into a mesh bag and into the spin cycle in the washing machine.

The locks are dried in the sun. These "clean" locks are much easier to open and card than dirty locks. On some grades of wool, this means much less fiber breakage.  In any case, this first wash makes the rest of the job more pleasant.

The locks are oiled with a mix of olive oil, soap and water (AA's recipe for carding oil).  The locks are  opened using a wool card braced against the workbench and a "flicker" from the pet store designed for grooming dogs. The dog flicker is softer than a wool card.  I do not bother to maintain orientation of the locks. While retaining orientation of the locks makes the wool much easier to spin, I feel that random fiber orientation produces a much stronger yarn for a given grist/twist in both woolen and worsted preparations.  I am willing to put the extra effort into spinning to achieve a stronger yarn.

The opened locks are run through the drum carder twice.

The carded batts are washed again. (You will be amazed at how much more grit comes out of the wool after carding.)

I turn the hot water heater back down so I do not get scalded as I wash up after working with dirty fleece all day.  With a 40 gallon high-efficiency water heater, I can easily wash an entire Rambouillet fleece in half a day so that is dry by night fall. The next day, the locks are opened, carded, rewashed and dried.  Thus, a fleece takes ~8 hours over 2 days.

The batts are dried in the sun, and ready for storage. (Washing and drying the batts reduces bulk,) There are advantages to living in sunny California.  We have local Rambouillet and we have sun.

For woolen:
At time of use, the batts are oiled,  torn into short lengths and run through the drum carder sideways.  Those batts are torn length wise into thirds and passed through the drum carder a couple more times.  For woolen spinning, I tear the batts into rolags and spin from the rolags.  Each rolag weighs about 3 grams.  As the good fiber is drafted from each rolag, I am left with a small wad of neps, noils, & VM which I discard. I find that working with individual rolags and discarding the ends gives a better quality yarn.

For worsted:
The wool is oiled and passed through the drum carder with the grain. Then, the batts are combed, planked, combed and dized.  The sliver/ combed top  is wound onto my distaff for spinning.

Wool with AA's carding/spinning oil on it should be washed within 30 days.

I do not use long soaks, or any of the fermented processes.  I have in the past, but the above gives me better results.

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