the mysticism of our craft.

There is a certain mysticism about washing fleece. At least there was to me as I entered the world of spinning yarn. I mean, I could (and did) watch YouTube videos, read books and blog posts, and talk to friends who had done it but until I actually took that leap myself, I felt that it was this mythical thing that only ‘the experts’ did seriously. Who would have thought that little old me could wash, prep and process raw fleece with my friends over coffee. Humina-what-now?!

Time was actually my initial hang-up with washing fleece. I couldn’t imagine spending the amount of time it would take to process an entire fleece by myself when I could be spinning instead. However, time and a little bit of elbow grease goes a long way with a nice quality fleece — the finished product just doesn’t compare when you know that you processed it yourself. This seems that, for me anyways, to be an important part of my fibre journey – I appreciate commercial top and roving, but understanding the process and learning from those around me seems to be an integral part of a larger journey towards discovering what type of spinner I ultimately want to become.


I never thought I would actually enjoy the process and I certainly didn’t think I would ever … oh I don’t know … choose this route over buying pre-processed fibre. But you know what? I love processing my own fibre: prepping the locks and sampling to see what I can create? Yes, please! It’s also a wonderful opportunity to have coffee or tea with a dear friend!


My friend, Diana, lives in a beautiful old farmhouse with lots of natural light from north facing windows so I wanted to a photograph our fleece cleaning adventures this past weekend! Through our guild, we had bought a ~3.5 lbs Merino/Romney cross from the Interior of British Columbia (Salmon Arm to be exact, for those who know our province!).


First, we separated out a bunch of the individual locks and laid them in rows within laundry bags for washing. The bags sunk quickly into the basin of hot tap water – because of the Merino content, the lanolin coloured the water immediately!


Leaving the locks to soak for roughly 20 minutes, we moved onto washing some other individual 100% Merino locks on bars of Sunlight soap. This was really fun – it sounds completely tedious but I really liked doing this! I think there will be lots more individual lock cleaning in my future …


Finger sized batches of ~16 micron Merino locks for washing.


Bar of Sunlight soap, rubber gloves to protect against the boiling hot water, and a pot of hot hot hot water!


These lovely Merino locks on a drying pan – lying in the sun to dry!


Diana holding up our lovely cleaned Merino locks while they were still slightly damp – they looked like cozy little mice!

So, back to the Merino/Romney cross. After letting the locks soak, we dug them out of the hot water and gently squeezed the water out. After assessing the cleanliness, we decided to rinse the locks after adding a splash of vinegar to the water to neutralize the locks after soaking in the alkaline soap.


Gently squeezing the water out before dumping the hot water in favour of fresh, hot, vinegar water.


The soapy locks in their laundry bags await their rinse.


Rinse, rinse, rinse!

The damp locks were lovely! I am so excited to start sampling once some of mine are dry. Diana and I are going to continue to work our way through the fleece, sampling as we go. I hope to have enough to eventually spin for something soft to wear against my neck – an airy shawl or cowl.


The Merino/Romney locks laid out to dry.


These lovely locks were soft, crimpy and a beautiful creamy white colour once they were cleaned.

Lastly, we chatted for quite a long time about flax of all things. I have recently received my January 2015 Hedgehog Fibres’ Fibre Club, which was a lovely Merino/Flax/Silk blend. From the reading I have been doing online, the best way to spin these flax blends is to spin based on the principle fibre. In this case, the Merino is the principle fibre so therefore, based on my reading, I should spin it as if it were 100% Merino.


This discussion got Diana and I discussing flax cultivation, retting and processing of flax, and ultimately the different types, ways to spin and techniques associated with flax spinning in general! Because, of course, we have to spin all the things!!! Right?!


I will leave Diana to tell you on her blog about her journey of growing, retting and ultimately processing her flax that she grew last summer, but suffice to say, it is pretty damn cool.


In her excitement and passion about spinning all the things, she sent me home with some flax to play with myself! I haven’t told M yet – I’m wondering what he will say!

All this to say, while the true mysticism of processing my own fibres is starting to wane, I think this whole new world of fibre and yarn creation is starting to open up in amazing ways. What a wonderful craft we share together – I hope the mysticism we all experience when we are first learning our crafts continues to awe and inspire as we continue to learn more and more!

Happy … crafting, processing and creating :)

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  1. Reblogged this on Adventures in Learning New Skills and commented:
    I couldn’t imagine spending the amount of time it would take to process an entire fleece by myself when I could be spinning instead.

    This is always my problem, thus the reason I hold out until I barely have anything to spin. (Of course, nothing to soon means half a fleece!)

    Any way, good explanation of the process of turning smelly grassy clumps into wonderful material with which to be creative.

  2. Haha i love your comment “smelt greasy clumps into wonderful material” — what a perfect summation of the process!!

  3. What a great blog post with beautiful pictures – thank you!

    1. Thank you, Melissa & thank you for reading!!

  4. I felt the same, WHY spend all that time washing when I could be spinning?? Then I calculated the cost savings. And now after investing that time, it’s my most precious fibre.

    It’s not an onerous task, the air gets nice and steamy too. Do you always dry in the sun? I’ve read that it’s not good for the wool. Do you notice any difference?

    1. You are so right about the cost savings!! And the fact it becomes so precious – and fun to spin I think because it’s up to you what you make: combed, carded, flicked, etc.

      I actually have never dried in the sun because we have so little sunlight! I end up using a drying rack in our upstairs usually because our rooms are slightly warmer. I’d like to do a comparison in the summer, though!

      1. I can’t remember where I read it about drying in the sun and damage to the wool… maybe in Beth Smith’s fleece prep book!

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