The wool goes into a mesh bag after it is picked and is ready to be washed. It keeps the fleece in one place and makes it easier to work with.
It then gets put in the wash sink full of hot water to soak for about 20 minutes. The water needs to be hot (we use about 160 degrees) to get the grease out of the wool (also known as lanolin). You do not agitate the wool as it is being washed. Hot water and agitation cause the wool to felt.
No fancy soap needed. When I did a survey of wool washing most people used used Dawn Dish detergent. Whatever soap you use the PH level should be between 7-9
After it has soaked, the bag gets put into an extractor. After the water is spun out we put it in a sink of hot water for the rinse.
This process is repeated twice. Our fleeces are generally pretty clean and the Border Leicester wool does not contain a lot of grease so two washings is more than enough.
The fleeces are laid out on tables to dry. Mike has been working on some drying racks to save on space.
|You can see the bleached tips on the dark wool|
The next steps are picking and carding. I had a table sized picker and hand carder that we have used to make small batts. Now, we have this large intimidating machinery. Well intimidating to me, Mike being a machinery kind of guy, is not intimidated at all. He is the reason the mill is happening in the first place. I look forward to when things are finally up and running smoothly. Mike has been pretty much on his own through this whole process. Eventually, I will be "trained" on how to use the machinery but until then I am just the "cheerleader" trying to give encouragement to the guy who has been working non stop to make this whole thing a reality!
When we get to that point I will add some more post about picking and carding the wool...
Wish us luck!
**After washing a lot of fleeces, I find that I like to wash twice and then rinse twice. Just a preference.