So you have a fleece – now what?

This is post describes how I process a fleece so it is ready for spinning.

Step 1 Sorting – I recommend you wash a dirty fleece as soon as you can: moths love dirty fleece and damp fleece can go mouldy.

Tools – a large tarp/ old sheet or tablecloth and gloves as you wish.

If your fleece has been rolled up correctly after skirting, the head should be tucked into the roll. If not, you can usually tell the head from the butt because it will usually have more poopy bits. As you unroll the fleece often some second cuts will roll out. Throw these pieces out.

Not all fleece is created equal. Your fleece will have great parts and not so wonderful parts. It pays to sort the fleece because once you start you may realize that there are some parts you want to comb and others you want to card. I recommenced to start with fleece you don’t want to fuss with so you can see your results and try an sample – yes that word again.

unwashed fleece
Raw fleece ready for processing

Step 2 Separate the fleece into washable piles

Tools: a container with holes in it is idea. I use a cat litter tray I bought. It fits in my laundry sink perfectly..

I expect you now have 3 or 4 piles of separated fleece.
Now get serious about picking through it and separating it into washable batches.
Take out as much vegetable matter as you can, open up the fleece tips that are stuck – yes they do come cleaner if they are opened up.
DO NOT wash Poop or fleece embedded with hay or short cuts. It is a waste of water!

I wash no more than a pound in my tray at a time depending on how dirty the fleece is.
Less is better but there is a balance between saving water and having to rewash fleece that didn’t come clean.

Step 3 Washing your sorted batches. Use Hot water and always Hot water

Changing water temp from hot to cold will felt an nice fleece – this is not your goal.

Tools: Laundry sink and HOT WATER. Power scour or Dawn (blue) dish soap. I adjust the amount but generally for a pound of fleece you don’t need more than about a ¼ cup.
Start with less and add more if you think the fleece isn’t coming clean. Don’t add too much soap or you will have to rinse twice to get rid of the soap.

3A – First RINSE STEP: Fill the laundry sink about 1/3 full of HOT tap water. Slowly immerse your container with the fleece into the water and gently push the fleece under the water. You can add more hot water but RESIST the urge to stir, squish, or scrub the fleece; you don’t want felt. Let the fleece soak for 15 minutes or so.
Lift the tray of fleece up and drain that water, press down on the fleece to get rid of as much dirty water as possible.

Soaking the Fleece
The fleece is soaking in plain hot water.

Refill you sink about 1/2 full of HOT water add your soap the slowly immerse your tray of rinsed fleece into the soapy water. Top up the hot water until it covers the tray, so the fleece floats. Let it sit for about 30 minutes or longer. Do not leave it until the water is cold the grease and dirt will go back in your fleece.
Resist the urge to squish, squeeze or manipulate the fleece. Stirring a nice fleece results in a felted fleece!

Washing the Fleece
The fleece is soaking in soapy hot water.

Lift the tray of soapy fleece out of the water and let it drain. You can push down on the tray of fleece to it to get rid of the extra water.
You can start by letting the HOT water run over your fleece if you have a spray hose and can hold it near the fleece otherwise try not to let the hot running water pack the fleece down. Use about ½ a tub of water for your rinse and that should get all the soap out.
Save this hot water for the first rinse for your next batch of fleece.


Tools: spin dryer or other equipment that will spin the water out of the fleece

I have a spin dryer and it has been worth the investment. I did spin my fleece out in an old lettuce spinner for a lot of years. The dryer is much less labour intensive. If it is a hot day outside, you can gently squeeze the water out of the fleece then dry it on a window screen between two chars. It will dry amazingly quickly and you can separate it out as it dries. Don’t play until it is partly dry remember felting in not the outcome you want.

Drying Fleece
The fleece is clean and drying in the sun.

I store my dry fleece in old pillowcases with a label of the date type of fleece and when I bought it. Then I put the pillowcases in a large clear plastic bag out of the sun. Tie your bags up tight to avoid the dreaded moth problem.

Ready to Spin
The fleece is all clean and ready to spin!

Once I have a few ounces of fleece dry I like to hand card and spin it up so I can get a general idea what the fleece wants to be. Fleece does talk – a down breed with tell you how you should process it and a long staple fleece with lots of crimp wants to be something different.

Happy washing and learning about your fleece.
Cheers Cherry N.

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