Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Preparing My First Icelandic Fleece

Its been three days since the flock was sheared and it has been tough not being able to get to it and work with it right away.  But life happens and with two little girls ages 5 1/2 and 2 1/2, being troop leader, cleaning house and making fleece had to wait.  But this morning the little one slept in almost as if she knew mommy needed fleece time!!
I took the fleece from our yearling ewe Eliza Jane and began the skirting process.  This is my first time so I was not completely sure how much to remove and what really constituted a second cut or cuts that would not be good for handspinning which is my main focus. After some research online and asking around I hope I did it justice keeping what should be kept and tossing the tags and burr clumps.
Here is a picture of Eliza Jane's fleece before skirting and then one of the small batch after skirting. Even before washing it is so pretty.

It took me about two hours to skirt the whole fleece.  Any parts that I was unsure of keeping I set aside and will ask someone with more knowledge than I (oh Margaret) to see if it is worth keeping for handspinning or for other projects.  Now I was ready for washing!!! Soooo exciting!
I ran the washer and filled it with really hot water about 150 degrees, too hot for your hand.  As it was a small batch of wool I only set it to fill a medium load.  After it was done filling I set the washer to the "spin only" setting this way there would be no chance of  accidentally turning the washer to the wash cycle and felting the wool.  I then added a little less than 1/2 a cup of Dawn dish they say it even safely washes birds and penguins caught in oil slicks.  Not that Icelandic's have much lanolin, unlike other breeds but at least I know Dawn is gentle and cuts grease easily.  With a long stick I gently stirred  the water to disperse the detergent.  Now I lay the wool on the water gently and pressed it very very slowly and gently with the stick into the water.  I closed the lid to keep the heat in. 
After about 20 minutes I turned on the final spin.  When done I gently pulled it out (ooooh so happy) and placed it in a small tub while I re filled the washer with more hot water like before for the rinsing soak.  Once full, I placed the fleece back in the water, again very gently.  I let it soak about 10 minutes and then the spin cycle again.  Now it time to dry it.

Many folks use sweater stretchers to dry their fleece or homemade screens fitted with legs to get maximum airflow.  I had limited resources so I hunted in the basement for something that could work.
Like I said earlier, I have two little ones and so I found an old wooden baby gate that opens sort of like an accordion.  I opened it up and lay it on an old wooden table my husband uses in his workshop.  It seemed too flat and was afraid no air would circulate through the wool, so I found some old plastic baby food containers and placed them under the four corners of the gate to lift it up off the table.  WA LA!!!! Presto a wool drying table!!! I gently lay the fleece on the baby gate and now I wait patiently to see the results.  I know it has to be perfectly dry before I can store it so I will be washing in very small batches.
Here is a picture of my drying wool.  It is perfectly sparkling white!!! Its a beauty of a fleece!!!!



  1. Congratulations! It is great to see freshly cleaned fleece! Did you weigh your fleece? This is my first shearing of my Icelandics, but with my Colored Angoras I have always weighed it raw, after I skirt it, and after I wash it. Just to see how much I am really getting and to see if any changes I have made to diet has any effect on the fleeces. Just a suggestion. Hope you get to wash a lot more and get to start spinning it really soon!

  2. Thanks for the comment Marie! I tried to weigh it but the scale I have is not so good. I will weigh it again after its all washed up. Just did my second batch today and its drying nicely.
    This is our first year doing everything so I welcome ALL guidance!! Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

  3. Your fleece looks so nice and white. How lovely! I enjoyed checking out your shearing, too!