Saturday, February 09, 2008

Washing day

Ok, so I have this fleece. CVM (California Variegated Mutant). I even know the sheep's name; Lavender. Cool, huh? But it's filthy. Now, I don't have much (any?) experience with raw fleece. I know it's supposed to be dirty. But I've never heard of it being THIS dirty. So if anyone out there reads this and can tell me either what I'm doing wrong, or what is wrong with this fleece, please; fill me in!

To start, here's the raw fleece. There's about a pound; I didn't bother weighing it. I expect it's on the short side of a pound. Here's what the Oklahoma State University database says about CVM:

"Fleece C.V.M. color patterns vary widely, especially in the darkness of body wool. Unlike many sheep, the C.V.M. will not fade with age, but rather darkens from birth to their first year. With the wide variety of color patterns, including dark gray, black, brown, moorit, and spotted, not excluding the barred face badger pattern typical to the original C.V.M.'s, a breed description has been difficult.

Fleece should be bright, uniform and dense, of high yielding, long staple, fine wool. Sheep will average about 8 pounds of wool yearly with spinning counts from 60's to 62's quality. 12 month staple length averages 4 - 6 inches. Wool should have a well defined crimp from base to tip, be pliable to the touch and free from kemp or objectionable fibers.

High quality variegated fine spinning fleeces are in demand, as there are not many of them on the market. Spinners have a tendency to shy away from the fine count, but once they have handled and spun the wool, they enjoy the quality, softness and ease of spinning. The C.V.M. fleece is ideal for soft yarn that will not be scratchy to the skin."

I don't know if you can see in the picture what I'm talking about. Yes, there's VM, and lanolin, and dirt all through the fleece; that's what I'd expect. But the tips of the locks are caked together completely, and the white wool seems stained.

So here's what I did. I placed the fleece into two mesh sweater bags.

I filled my top load washing machine with the hottest water and added about a cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid. I measured the temperature of the water at 140 degrees F. I placed the bags inside, gently, and let them soak for about half an hour or so.

I pulled the bags out of the water gently, drained the machine, and set the cycle to spin only.

After it had spun the water out, I checked the wool. Parts had become beautifully white, and man did it smell better! But those tips still were totally caked together, and the white wool tips were yellowy brown.

I put them back in the machine to rinse, and then put them out flat to dry. Still, the tips of the fleece are caked, totally stuck together.

I took two locks, one gray, one white, and pulled the caked parts apart. Strand by strand. I soaked them again in the sink, in hot water and a lot of wool wash. Here's the result.


Can you see the crimp? Lovely. And it's wonderfully soft. But the gray is almost bleached brown, and the white is still yellowy ick. Is this permanent?

I'd really love to spin this wool. But is it realistic to pull strand by strand apart and still have it be discolored? I'd love to hear from more experienced people. Should I cut the tips? Should I compost the whole thing? Am I just feebling? Is this normal?


scullerymaid said...

The grey-brown is about the color I would expect in a CVM. If the yellow is sticky/tacky/greasy/hard, it will probably come out if you open up the locks by hand and wash it again. If it looks like a stain, and not actually a substance stuck to the wool, I'd consider dyeing it before I mulched it.

Ruth said...

Cheryl,see that band across the clean white staple? about halfway to the tip, where it's more yellow and the crimp hasn't fluffed out.

I'm thinking that looks like some pretty serious stress was on the sheep for quite awhile.

No, it's not normal, but it might still be salvageable. I agree with the scull, if it's spinnable consider dyeing it.

You get to decide if it's worth the effort. Are the tips felted, or just brittle? Definitely cut off any part that's not easily spinnable, play with the rest.

Jae said...

Have you tried oxy clean? Open the tips and then soak in oxy clean. I use a turkey roaster to wash wool, with a thermostat set at 180 for high grease fleece.

Amelia, belle of The Bellwether said...

I'd give the fleece an overnight soak in salted, tepid water (before washing it, but it's not too late to try that now). That will help hydrate and open any muddy tips before you wash it in hot-hot water (again).

I've had to put CVM through a wash-dry-pick-repeat cycle before due to muddy tips -- any high crimp, high lanolin fleece that gets carried through mud tends to get caked tips.

The yellow may be canary stain, in which case it isn't going to go away. You can still card/spin the wool, but it will end up a creamy color rather than a straight white. You could dye it, if you don't want the off-white color.

For really stubborn tips, I will get the fleece in super-hot water (165 F or hotter) and put on my "submarine gloves" (superlong, superthick) and rub the tips while the fleece is in the bath. This gets them to open and release their gunk. Slow going, but it works and doesn't felt the fiber.

The shot of the fleece is lovely, by the way.

Is the VM consistent throughout, and the muddy tips? Could be it might benefit from some judicious skirting, removing the worst parts, or at least separating them. I've separated out Shetland neck wool before (lovely soft stuff, but so VMy!) so it didn't contaminate the rest of the fleece, and picked through it by hand to remove all the hay bits and grass pieces before carding. I probably wouldn't have done it, except that it was such a lovely white lamb fleece, and I wanted it for a special project.

Anonymous said...

Try flicking the ends. Just get a slicker grooming brush, and run the ends of the locks over the tines of the brush. That should open up the locks. Then when you wash them (again), the ends should open up and get clean. Using the brush will also take off any ends that are brittle. I use Orvus for all my fleece scouring. Works a treat.

Cherizac said...

How much Orvus do you use in a washing machine?