As a knitter, weaver and spinner I can truly say that I enjoy the whole process from sheep to shawl. But in this day of speedy technology, there is something to be said about the 'slow and laborious' process that wool has to go through in order to be enjoyed by the end user. Over the next couple of days I am going to take you through that process, with the hopes of creating a greater appreciation for wool, our wooly friends and all those who labor in the industry, both past and present, to give us the beautiful fibres that we can relax and create with, in our leisure.
Day 1: Washing the Blue-Faced Leicester Fleece
Before the wool actually gets washed, a fleece has to be 'skirted', that is, all the matted and dirty fibre from the outside of the fleece gets taken and thrown away or composted. Then, using 3 kiddy swimming pools (or big rubber maid containers), on these HOT spring/summer days, makes it nice and easy to get HOT water. I fill the pools with water the night before so the water can be air temperature the next morning, and as the day heats up, so does the water, to a significant temperature! Around noonish, I put in a couple of tbsp of Blue Dawn dish soap and throw in the fleece. I let it sit for about 1/2 hr. I put some Blue Dawn in the 2nd pool, swish around, then lift fleece and squeeze as much water from it and place in 2nd pool and wait a 1/2 or more. Then proceed to pool 3, the 'final rinse' with no detergent.
Ryan has built a drying frame with a screen on it, to allow for air flow around the wool in order to dry faster. It may take up to 24 hours for the wool to dry depending on air temperature, but so far it works great and gets the job done!