Washing Merino (or Other Fine Wools)

Well, its about time I introduce you to how I wash greasy wool. Originally I planned to do this all with pictures. But since my kitchen is in a perpetual state of clutter I thought it best not to take pictures.

First of all examine your fleece you want to wash. Take it out of its bag, roll out on a sheet and examine it. This is the opportune time to remove large pieces of vegetable matter (vm), second cuts and any stuff that really not worth washing.

I then take 6-8 oz worth of fiber and place it in small drawstring top lingerie bag and close tightly. I then take a large stockpot that is dedicated to washing wool and fill it up about 2/3’s full with the hottest water I can get from our tap. It comes out about 120-140 degrees. I then place it on my stove with the burner on low. Just low enough to keep the water at 140-150 degrees. If the water at your house doesn’t come out of the tap that hot, allow the water to heat up to at least 140 degrees.

I use Dawn dishwashing liquid to wash my wool. With hard water I find that it does the best job. I have tried Orvus paste in the past, but it is better as a wetting agent and not for actually removing grease at least with my water situation. You will need to experiment how much Dawn to use, once again the hardness and pH of your water is going to affect how well how well it works. About 4 seconds worth of squirting is what I use. I then mix it up and check my water temperature.

Once it is hot enough and the detergent is well mixed in the water I drop my bag of wool in. I try and let the wool sink into the water on its own, but will push the last little bit and start my timer for 10 minutes.

After the time has elapsed, I then dump the entire pot into my top loading washer, set it to spin. While the wool spins out I start filling the pot for the second wash. Most every wool I wash needs two washes, some will take more though. Repeat this process for the second wash and then check the wool. Is it still greasy or dirty? Then a third wash will be needed.

Once the wool is clean then you will want to rinse the batch. I simply fill the stockpot with hot water from the tap, push the wool down into it and then spin in the washer. Once again, rinse twice and check. If there is still some soap residue then rinse again. On the final rinse you will want to set your washer for a full spin only cycle. You are only using the washer to remove water from the wool.

After washing all the wool, I then take it to my basement where I have a screen set up for the wool to dry on. Spread it out and allow it to dry. After it is dry you will want to shake it out over the screen to allow more of the vm to fall out.

That’s it! It takes time and those pots get heavy so if you have a bad back it might not be such a good idea to use a large stockpot, but you will need to cut down on the amount of wool you wash at one time if you use a smaller one. Maybe a better idea is to send it out to someone else to process. Personally, I prefer to wash most of my fleeces myself, even if I later send them out to be made into roving. By doing that I run the risk that the processor will re-wash the fleece if I don’t wash it well enough, but that hasn’t happened very often.

I spared myself holiday knitting and weaving. My niece was the only one to get anything handknitted and that’s been done for over 6 months. It was a baby surprise jacket that I had bought and promptly lost 2 sets of buttons for. I decided that the jacket was not meant to have buttons on it and gave it to her before she outgrew it.

I finally ran out of yarn for the main body of the Falling Leaves scarf. I now have started the edging and have finished the first short side and the corner heading up the long side.

The PI shawl with the Shetland/Shetland blend also got some progress done on. I’m up the 96 row stage! That means I will work about 50 rows and then start the edging. I did move it over to a 47″ circular needle out of self preservation. Elizabeth Zimmerman may have been happy to work it on a 29″ needle, but I certainly am not! At least not yarn as thick as I’m working with.

Happy New Year everyone and may it bring you joy and promise. The dogs and I have a lot of work ahead of us this coming year. Agility, obedience, rally and flyball. We have goals, but nothing is set in stone, we will have to see how training progresses.

As you can see, I have my work cut out for myself.


6 thoughts on “Washing Merino (or Other Fine Wools)

  1. Hi Ellen, Happy New Year from Oz (Australia) …. do you think that OUR name and stashes have some mystic link???? hehehe I too have a stash that I never seem to dip into much.

  2. Great tutorial!

    I usually add a splash of vinegar to one of the rinses. It helps get rid of the soap in the wool and it counteracts the alkalinity, which protein fibres don’t really like.

    Great blog!

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