We live in an instant gratification society. Everything is now and how fast. Cleaning fleece is the exact opposite of this. It takes time, patience, and a lot of soap. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to process my own fleeces, and the payback has been more than just fiber. This fleece is Romney, from my new sheep friend over at Grape Hollow Farm. I’m learning to take my time and breathe a little while I’m working. With any luck, I’ll have this and the other Romney (different farm) and alpaca (also a different farm) fleeces ready to be carded by September. There’s no instant gratification here, but I’ll have a wonderful selection of fiber to spin through the winter.

Skirting the fleece
The fleece was sticky with lanolin and just a dream. I can’t wait to spin this up over the fall and winter.

I bought the fleece unskirted. I spent an afternoon picking through the it, cutting off the gross parts and dividing the rest into two groups. The majority of the fleece is beautiful… very little vegetable matter and just so soft and wonderful. This portion of the fiber will take minimal washing and processing. The second group was the dirty fiber… it’s full of vegetable matter and just will need more processing to make it usable. I’m up for the challenge. It’s a great side project. I can only crochet and design so much before I need to do something else for a little bit. This is filling that void, because we all know that I’ll do anything else fiber before I break down and start cleaning.

The first greenhouse soak
This smelled so gross after the few days in the greenhouse. It was like the sheep was hanging out in this little 6X8 greenhouse with no ventilation.

I started with the dirty portion of the fleece. This will need more than a few baths. I started it in a cement tub in the greenhouse. I poured in the soap and called it a day. The sun has been heating the water and releasing the lanolin. I have been giving this part of the fleece 2 of these greenhouse baths, each with 3-4 days of sun. It’s then been laid to dry on my greenhouse rack. I’m working in batches, because I only have the one cement tub.

I wanted to make sure I removed a good chunk of the vegetable matter before I took this part of the fleece to the final bath and picking. I don’t have a picker, so we made something that would do the work for me. Another afternoon was spent dragging the fiber through the screws, while the heaviest parts of the vegetable matter was removed.

Picking open the fiber
This was very time consuming. I pulled each portion through the screws, opening the fiber. The VM flew everywhere. It was messy but effective.
Homemade fiber picker
I may have Hubs add about 20 screws for the next round. It might speed this portion up a little bit.

The fleece is now ready to be processed for a final time. I will repeat the entire process, minus the greenhouse baths… I’ll wash it in the sink, to prepare all of this fiber for dyeing and carding and whatever else I end up doing with it. Each batch takes a few days to process to this point.

The cleaner fiber group will only need to go through the final processing. It is nowhere near as dirty as this portion.

This gets me outside, living in the moment more as I’m working, and I’m really enjoying myself.

Romney fiber after it's picked open
The hardware cloth was positioned as a tube. It was windy the day I was doing this, and I didn’t want the fiber to fly away. It’s like a fluffy cloud.

This is what the picking process setup looked like. I was covered in little bits of plants and dirt when I was finished. A little shade, some music, and a beverage or two was the perfect backdrop to doing some satisfying (and slow) work with my hands.

Fleece picking station
The little bucket on the side was for the fiber that just isn’t going to come clean, the little nubs, and any second cuts. It is all going into the garden and my potted plants to help keep them moist.

I’ll write another update as I’m getting ready to dye and card this fiber. I have a brown Romney fleece, my white angora, some white merino, and a white alpaca fleece to mess around with. I’m interested in seeing what mixes well, and how it’s all going to spin together. The possibilities are endless. For now, I’m looking at all the hard work as a pass for a fall and winter full of messing around creating some really awesome yarn and other fiber projects.

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{Behind the Scenes} Cleaning a Raw Fleece is Pretty Dirty
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