Sunday, July 15, 2018

Tamarind continues to teach

When last we left off, I had rewashed my Tamarind fiber only to find that it weighed the same. This implied that no more lanolin had been removed and that perhaps my work was a waste of time. This past week, I carded some rolags from this batch of fiber. Carding went fine, but spinning still wasn’t what I wanted it to be. The fiber was a bit sticky and that made drafting both uneven and uncomfortable. I do NOT want to spin a sweater’s worth of yarn like this – it will hurt my hands.

I watched some more YouTube videos to expand my knowledge of how other people clean fleece. Based on these and further reflection about my own experience, my takeaways were:

  1. Bad bags? Perhaps my mesh laundry bags had a mesh that was TOO fine, and the dirt/grease couldn’t escape well. This thought was confirmed when I washed my kids’ backpacks after the school year ended. A website recommended putting them in bags so that the straps don’t get tangled in the agitator, so I did. And those mesh bags had a LOT of dirt trapped in them at the end. Gross!
  2. Pre-wash. Many spinners begin washing fleece by soaking fiber in cold water with no cleansing agent. This initial soak removes a lot of dirt, but none of the lanolin. Still, by removing dirt before introducing the cleansing agent, you let the soap really focus on the job that only it can do: cutting grease.
  3. Hot water temperature. I learned that lanolin melts at 100F and you want to make sure your water never gets close to that… either at its initial, hottest temperature or as it cools during each wash cycle. I didn’t know how hot my hot water heater made my water, so I resolved to measure it next time.
  4. Smaller batches. Since I wasn’t happy with the washing machine approach, I decided to try the next batch using the kitchen sink.

I ordered some baskets with mesh bottoms and sides (it’s kind of hard to find ones with mesh bottoms, I learned) as well as some dish bins. The measurements listed online were deceptive, because the bins are wider at the top than at the bottom, and because the advertised width was the outside edge-to-edge measurement rather than the opening. The baskets, on the other hand, advertised their inside dimensions and didn’t account for the handles. This meant that my baskets did not fit all the way into my bins. But I forged on anyway. This is what my setup looked like:20180714_130145

There are two baskets nested, with fiber in the bottom one. The top ones holds the fiber in (it wants to float out), and the mug weighs down the baskets so that everything stays underwater when I want it to. The pre-wash really worked – here is some dirty water after a 15-minute soak:20180714_131745

Since the dirty water was cold and only contained dirt, I dumped it into the large potted plants on my patio.

Next I ran the hottest water possible, which my hot water heater makes 130-140F (I used two different kitchen thermometers and didn’t get the same result). Each basket is holding 1/6 of a pound of fiber (75 grams), so I added a scant 1/2 teaspoon Unicorn Power Scour. I probably could have done more fiber in each bin if the baskets fit in there better, but this is what I did on this round. I soaked for 20 minutes and then dumped the water in the back yard (not wanting the lanolin to go down the sink). I measured the cooled water, too – it gets down to 120-125F after sitting for 20 minutes. That should be in the safe zone.

Then I did a hot water rinse for 20 minutes, also dumping the water in the back yard when done. Because these amounts were so small, I was able to spin out the water in my salad spinner.20180714_141445

I did two bins like this yesterday and laid them out to dry on my screen under a ceiling fan. This morning, I eagerly weighed the dry fleece. Remember I started with 150 grams of raw fleece. The clean fleece was only 102 grams, so I had a 32% loss. When I did the initial batch in the washing machine, I only had a 23% loss. So this method definitely got the fleece cleaner. Hooray!

But the proof is in the pudding. I carded a couple of rolags and spun them to be sure. And reader, they drafted smoothly and easily. This is fiber I could work on for a whole sweater. 20180715_102600

Today I washed three little basket-bins of about 75 grams each. I did it almost exactly the same as yesterday… my only change was to add 1/4 tsp of Unicorn Fibre Rinse to the final rinse. Fibre Rinse is pure fabric softener. I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to calculate my loss and learn if it’s similar to the first batch. I’m keeping a little “lab notebook” to keep track of all these little things.20180715_103616

I’m pleased that by starting with a pre-wash/soak cycle and working on small batches, I can get away with only one wash cycle. Now if only I could submerge my baskets properly in the bins….  (I think I will be ordering more bins tomorrow)

In other fiber news, I finished another pair of socks while we were on vacation earlier this month. This is a plain vanilla pair for Boy 1, made from the humble and hardworking Patons Kroy sock yarn (which I think I picked up at A.C. Moore once). S1 says they remind her of the Pendleton blankets a bit.20180709_104942

And seaming continues on the I Love Leftovers blanket. I put on row #9 this morning (out of 16), so I’m over halfway done!20180715_121846


  1. I love how you're developing your own fiber cleaning process, equipment, and writing it all down. Very scientific!

  2. I can really relate to your fibre washing process; I have done the same down to finding the right containers! I now wash 500g a time and soak it overnight first with a squirt of washing up liquid to loosen the dirt. I find I can manage these quantities and the soaking means I only have to do 2 washes with power scour. It is all a learning curve ! Thankyou for sharing your thoughts.