Sunday, July 11, 2010

Washing the fleece

So, I finally overcame my fear and put the fleece bags in the wash.

After reading various opinions from lots of different fiber arts bloggers, I decided that since this was just a single pound divided into several lingerie bags, I could put it all into the machine at the same time.

I used my top-loading machine and ran a large load full of hot water and put a generous squirt of Dawn dishwashing detergent, which was the brand most mentioned in blog posts on how to wash fleece.  Then I added the bags of sorted and arranged locks one at a time. I was careful not to agitate the wool. I let it soak for about 20 minutes and then pulled it out to drain the machine. The water was pretty brown - about like weak coffee with a little milk.

I ran a second load of hot water, added a generous squirt of Dawn again, and added the bags of fiber. After letting it sit for another 20 minutes, I pulled it out again, drained the machine - more like weak tea (no milk) this time. I re-filled with hot water once more. This time I left out the detergent and just put the bags back in. After 20 minutes more soaking, I switched the machine to the spin cycle and spun out all the water, which was clear.

I don't know if I did it right or not. Two things seem to have gone differently than I expected. One, when I pulled the bags out of the machine, my super neat rows of locks were gone and in their places were clumps, e.g.:

Maybe I didn't put enough wool in each bag. I did all the sorting and bag-filling according to what I thought I'd read, but then when I looked back through posts on the subject, it seemed that people had loaded a lot more wool into each bag, with layers of tulle (tutu netting) between layers of fleece.

When I removed these clumps from the bags, though, they did not appear to have felted, which was my biggest concern; I wasn't so focused on keeping the lock structure after I found how difficult it was to separate the locks in lots of cases. I spread out the contents of each bag (re-formatted into rows of locks) on top of the bag to dry.

The other outcome I think was wrong was, the tips of the locks were still brown. The lanolin was definitely mostly removed by the washing, that much is certain - I can't feel any grease on the locks now. But it still looks like the fleece is dirty on the tips. I thought the tips of the locks would be dark gray/silver/white after washing, but that brown was still there. I don't know if that means I should wash it all again or not - but I really don't want to. I don't think it would be bad for the wool to wash it again, but frankly it's a huge pain in the neck and I just want it to dry so I can try hand carding it and spinning it.

I'm glad I tried this, because I would rather have tried the process for myself than just depend on mills to process wool before I spin it, unaware of what work has gone into getting it from the sheep to my spinning wheel. But I doubt I will want to do it again, at least not by myself. I bet there are ten important things I did wrong. I bet there are ways I could have done it so the locks didn't get mashed up into clumps in the bags. I bet if I'd used the sink instead of the washing machine it would have been a totally different experience. So I'm not closing the door on the possibility of taking a class some time from somebody who knows what the hell they are doing.

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It's my birthday weekend so I decided last night to make chocolate chip cookies. Once again I followed the recipe from "The New Best Recipe" for chewy ones, although I did add about a half cup of butterscotch chips to the mix.

They look great, and they were chewy, which I love, but the butterscotch morsels ruined them - they were WAY too sweet and cloying. I think if you are going to include butterscotch chips, you need to have dough that is less sweet. Also, these delightfully chewy cookies, when you put them in a storage container overnight, become rock hard by morning. This is the second time I've used this recipe and I'm here to tell you they do not store well. If you are going to use it, make sure you make the cookies as big as they say (otherwise they cook too fast) and only make the ones you are going to want to eat right then. You can make the rest into balls and keep them in the freezer for the next time you need some CCC's. (I ended up taking the leftovers to my meeting this morning. They got eaten.)

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