Sunday, May 13, 2018

Spring cleaning

I set aside some time today to wash fleece. I do NOT want to put my fresh fleeces away on a shelf and get back to them who-knows-when… I want to process them and learn right away! So today, that particular learning process began. I started with Tamarind’s fleece, thinking it might be easier since it is more uniform in color.20180506_161942 crop

Spinners have opinions when it comes to how to clean fleece. I watched videos and listened to podcasts. I really liked this technique, but it relies on a utility sink, which I do not have. In the end, I followed the instructions that my fleece barn guru, Adrianne, described to me. Like me, she has a large, top-loading washing machine and municipal water. I decided to give it a go.20180513_095957

This technique involves lots of mesh laundry bags (which I ordered online last week). I weighed the fleece before loading the bags so I could keep track of how much weight I lost in cleaning (goodbye, heavy lanolin). Adrianne suggested washing about 2 pounds at once, which was another reason I needed to keep track. I weighed in grams because it’s more precise in small batches. In the end, I washed 910 grams of raw fleece, which is just a hair over 2 pounds.20180513_100023

I arranged the locks neatly in these zip bags (it turns out this was a waste of time – more on that later) and piled them up. This is what my bags looked like before I headed down to the basement with the machine. I’m not sure if I should have put more in them or not. 20180513_110326

Earlier this morning, I cranked up our hot water heater as high as it would go (and then warned everyone to be careful). I ran the machine full of hot water, added 2 Tablespoons of Unicorn Power Scour, and set it to soak. Then the bags went in (I poked them under with a spoon because the water was so hot). The water immediately looked pretty dirty.  I set a timer for 20 minutes and went back upstairs, but I left the basement door open.

At one point, I thought I heard agitation. I flew downstairs, but the machine was still. Maybe it was something else I heard… like the hot water heater firing up? Some minutes later I thought I heard it again. This time I got down there so fast that when I opened the washer lid, I could still see a little movement in the water. I realized that my “soak” setting has an intermittent, very slow agitation. I needed to push the control knob in to “stop” it from doing anything with the lid down (I wanted to close the lid to help regulate the temperature and keep it as hot as possible during the soak). Lesson learned! After 20 minutes, I advanced the machine to the spin setting and waited. When I opened the lid, it looked pretty yucky. The bags were covered with blobs of I-don’t-know-what, and there were clumps of the same in the washer:20180513_114140


Hmmm. What is this stuff? I honestly could not determine whether it was very small bits of fiber that had worked through the mesh holes, or vegetable matter, or sheep poo. If this fleece weren’t a deep brown color, I might have had a bit more information. I wiped out the machine and shook the clumps off the bags.

I did my second wash the exact same way, but with only 1 Tablespoon Power Scour. There was still this brown clumpy stuff, but not quite as much: 20180513_121615

I had planned only to do two rounds of cleaning, but I did another because I just wasn’t sure about this stuff. I worried about drying out the fleece, though. Here’s how the machine looked after round 3:20180513_124618

Round 4 was a rinse soak, with just hot water and 2 cups of white vinegar in it. Round 5 was another rinse, with hot water and 1 Tablespoon Unicorn Fibre Rinse (which is pure fabric softener).

Here is what the bags looked like after all that. Notice that the spin cycle spun all the fiber into a blob and it is not at all organized in rows of locks anymore. I should have seen that coming, I guess… lesson learned! 20180513_134538

I emptied all the bags and spread them out on this window screen we found in the garage. It’s over our clothes drying rack, under a ceiling fan in our studio. I know a lot of folks dry fleece outdoors, but the pollen here is wicked right now, so I wouldn’t dream of it. Plus, it’s raining today.20180513_134751

Tomorrow it should be dry, and I can weigh it and start playing. I plan to start with my flick carder.

I decided not to wash the other half of my bag of this fleece today (which was a half fleece to start – Dave has the other half), because I want to see if I can improve on the process. Plus, it took a lot of time. I cleaned the washing machine afterwards and then the next laundry load was my son’s sheets (nothing delicate or, in fact, nothing that is mine!). And I turned the water heater back down to its normal level. Stay tuned for more fleece fun!

In other news, I finished a sock and continue to seam the sock yarn blanket. I am going to love it so much when it’s done.20180504_194351



  1. I never would have guessed that I could find multiple photos of an empty washing machine and clumps of "stuff" so intriguing and educational, but I did! I'm looking forward to your next episode of Fun With Fleece.

  2. very interesting! if I weren't on a septic system I might try this.
    last fall I tried the fermented method on my fleece.

    1. I hadn't heard of that method before so I read about it at Fascinating. There are so many ways to do things!