Alrighty. Since that mountain of raw wool fleece in my closet isn’t going to process itself I decided last week to best get working.
A few folks have asked how I am storing the fleeces until I get to processing/spinning/crafting with them. Right now, they are in giant vacuum Ziploc bags. I know that I am probably going to need to rethink this way of storing them. The Spinner’s Book of Fleece recommends keeping raw fleece in plastic bin containers or in large garment bags, so that the wool is protected from moths but still has some air circulation to prevent mold/mildew over time. Until I decide the best way to store the wool with the space we have in our apartment, I’ve taped open the vents of the Ziplocs so that they aren’t completely air tight.
As I am so curious about the rare CVM breed, I decided to start with a small amount of fleece from Bianca, the CVM/Merino cross sheep. I remembered the words from my teacher, Melanie, from the Raw to Ready Fleece class that I took in December: Don’t feel overwhelmed because you think you have to work on a whole big fleece all at once. It’s okay to work on it a little at a time. The rest of the fleece will be there later.
For this test I took my small chosen section of fleece and examined its properties.
Some of the biggest things I observed.
First, the fleece was very clean. When I was looking at the full fleece after opening its shipment box, I found that there were some sections (probably from near the bottom of the sheep) that had some small amounts of vegetable matter. It didn’t take me long to pick it out, and the rest of the fleece is practically gunk free.
The next thing I noticed when I touched the fleece was that it was FULL of lanolin. That’s right, lovely, soft, and pillowing, but veeery greasy. This means that I will be scouring the locks of fleece, which means soaking it in scouring soap and hot water in order to melt the oils off of the wool. This will bring out the wool’s whiteness, too.
In this photo I am holding a handful of locks with the tops (the outer most surface of the sheep fleece) facing up towards the camera. You can see there’s a very small amount of grime and felting that occurred from where the sheep’s coat rubbed against its fleece. I have learned that this can be fluffed up with a flicker carder.
Another thing I discovered was that there is a lot of crimpiness in the fibers. Here are some close ups of some separated locks on their sides, and you can see the little cute curls running throughout. The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook recommends a light touch in processing the fleece of CVM sheep, because preserving the crimp will help spin a very bouncy, fluffy yarn.
After examining and deciding my approach, I separated the wool into smaller locks and then took my flicker (it’s actually a pet brush from the dollar store), and I flicked both ends of each lock.
To do this, I held the lock of fleece firmly with one hand and then brushed both ends with quick flicking motions with my other hand. Flicking not only separates and fluffs up the fibers, it also helps get any second cuts (too short fibers) and grit out of the locks. These unwanted woolly bits I am keeping in a separate baggie to use for other projects like dryer balls or wool fiber filling for toys.
And TADA! See the difference?
After I finished flicking, I placed the floofy locks in a lingerie bag, ready to soak.
In my next post I will show how I scoured my first batch of fleece. There will also be before and after photos. 🙂