In the summer of 2010 I worked in an ecological museum with a garden. The owners were two hippies (sorry, there is no other way to describe them), eating ecological peanut butter, sour dough bread and selling biological pizzas. The lady who owned it was wandering around the place, one day, with three sacks of sheep wool. Straight of the sheep. Somehow we got talking about it, and I mentioned that I knitted and was interested in learning how to spin. One of the bags contained leftovers and she gave them to me for free.
Now, admittedly, that bag was left unopened for about those 2.5 years since I received it. The couple of times it was opened, the smell was quite.. interesting?? The past two weeks I did not have to go to school, although I did have some homework I should finish. However, freedom makes you do strange stuff, so instead of the homework, I located the tutorial online (this one) that could tell me what I needed to do with ‘my sheep’, as I have since named it. It said that I should have washed it as soon as I got it, I didn’t of course, but now I decided to tackle the problem. First, one has to remove all the dirty bits (straw etc.), which I did halfheartedly in the first batch, a bit more vigorously in the second batch, and I started on a third batch:
You might wonder why the pictures that will follow have different colour wool in it, that’s because I only remembered making pictures once I had the first load done, and was halfway through the second load.
So you pick out all the bits, and fill the bathtub (our bathtub fills very, very, very slowly and it needed to be half to 2/3 full of hot, hot water). You then spread the wool in a single layer over the water and push it up and down in the water, careful not to agitate it too much. This ‘first rinse’ results in some really dirty water. Pick the wool out and let it drain. Fill the tub again (this is what makes it take forever to do this in my house) and add some detergent, do the pushing up and down and drain and repeat the process if the water is still icky.
If you decided you’ve done enough washing because your back is killing you from bending over the bathtub too much, or because it really is clean, it’s time for the rinse. Again fill the bathtub and now add half a cup (whatever that may be) to the water and dump the wet wool in it and push it up and down. Drain it again. Now it’s time for drying. My first batch was small, since I wanted to test it out. I found some chicken wire in the garage, draped it over a laundry basket and spread the wetish wool out over it. The second batch was much larger and since I’d given up because of said back I draped the entire chicken wire mesh over the bathtub to catch the falling droplets.
I did the washing 2 days ago and it’s been drying since. I should take it down some time soon, since it’s feeling pretty dry. The next step will be ‘carding’ or getting the fibers to align for spinning. I’ve been asking around for hand carders, but they do not seem readily available anymore. (Go figure!) So I need to buy some of the internet and then the next leg of the journey can start!
Someday people, someday I will have my own homespun scarf (I’m not going to bother with a sweater, much too difficult!).