Sunday, July 29, 2007


I hope this knitting funk is over soon. Yesterday was another day with no knitting. Not only that, but while visiting a few yard sales, I passed up 2, that's TWO!, opportunities to purchase knitting needles (one of them even had a large bone (probably whale) crochet hook circa 1920s) and I passed them by.

With no knitting being done, I had to satisfy my need for fiber somehow, so I washed some of my new fleece that I picked up at the Salt Spring Island Fiber Fest. Here's what I did.

Last week I spread out the entire fleece on a tarp and sorted through it. It was then I learned why one uses gloves when handling raw fleece. I cut my finger on some invisible bit of dirt, and promptly remembered where I stored the rubber gloves.

There is a huge amount of variation. Some areas are jet black and quite coarse, most of it is grey with golden tips, but some of it is a fluffy light grey, almost like sunshine in a dusty room.

After picking through every bit of I could, looking for vegetable matter, this is all I found. She had said it was well skirted, but I had expected a lot more. Not bad for seven pounds of unwashed wool.

Speaking about unwashed wool. It was difficult to know how to turn dirty wool into clean wool. There seems to be an infinite number of ways to wash wool. Alden Amos in The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning, has a rather large chapter on scouring wool which involves an in-depth study on how soap works and how best to utilize a system of half a dozen bath tubs set up on your back lawn.

Spin to Knit: the knitter's guide to making yarn by Shannon Okey has an cursory look at washing yarn which if memory serves me correct includes includes some rather harsh shampoo or even (gasp) sunlight soap (that stuff is so hard on the hands and even worse on the earth).

So yesterday, I opted towards a modified method told to me by Brenda (my spinning instructor from the Victoria Fiber Festival). First off, I found a couple of those net bags designed for washing 'delicate'. I put about half a pound (225g) of wool in each bag.

Then I filled two tubs with hot water and home-made eco-friendly soap

I carefully pressed the bags of wool into the tubs. Notice the gloved hand? I tell you, that water was hot! But they tell me that's what wool wants.

The tub on the right side has had the wool pressed into it, the one on the left has only had it placed gently into the soapy water.

I let this first wash sit for just under half an hour. In the end it looked like a tub of mud with some wool in it.

The second rinse had half the amount of soap, and came up much cleaner. I left them in there for about ten minutes.

The third tub, just clean hot water. As you can see, almost all the grime is washed out of it. I kept it in this rinse for about two minutes.

I wuzzed the wool still in the bags - that is I took the bag firmly in hand at one end and swung it around in a circle to get out the excess watter.

I had considered laying my wool out on a flat surface to dry, but two things stopped me. First off, the wind was picking up, but second and most importantly, I remember the Yarn Harlots adventure with a devious squirrel (see here and especially here).

I know it will take longer to dry in the bags, but I feel much more secure drying it this way.

There was quite a lot of water, considering that I used eco-friendly soap (which doubles as a pest repellent), I wish I could have done it at my allotment garden and given the rinse water to the plants. Sadly, there is no hot watter there. I suppose it will just have to keep going down the drain until I have my own place.

Other good news, I'm starting to sleep at night. Some nights this week I've had five or even six hours sleep. Don't you dare suggest that there is an inverse correlation between knitting and sleeping (ie. less knitting = more sleeping), because it's just not true. It can't be and that's that!


Miss Scarlett said...

Wow - that fleece was harbouring some dirt!
I can't wait to see what it looks like all washed up.

I have a question - what kind of soap do you use for your laundry soap (the ingredient that says 2 cups shaved soap)
I try to be eco-friendly and I buy only chem free laundry detergent but I would love to make my own.

Reasoning E'Bert said...

Thanks, good question. I'll post here so that other's can know as well.

I use olive oil based soap, unscented ofcourse, as natural as I can get - either imported from the middle east or a more refined version from the health food store. So many soaps are made with petroleum products these days, it's just yucky.