Old Fashioned Recipes - Wool Wash

Wool Marketing: Wool is sold by the pound. Some sheep keepers are into spinning and weaving, and they keep the animals mainly for their personal wool crop, which they'll card, spin, and weave themselves. Many sell to other hand spinners or to a larger wool buyer. In general, hand spinners like wool in interesting colors like black, silvery, brown, or blue, and will pay 2-10 times as much as commercial wool buyers, depending on how pretty—and how scarce—the color and texture of the wool is. Ask around to find out where other wool growers in your area are selling. You may find some willing to combine with you to make a commercial-sized shipment. The price of commercial wool depends on what is happening on the international wool market, which fluctuates and cannot be reliably predicted.

Of Wool and Market Lambs: These will provide 3-5 lb. of fleece each at a 5-month shearing. After a private butchering, those sheep hides can also be tanned for sale. If the lambs had unusual colors or very nice wool, these tanned hides can be as profitable as the meat. (When sheep are sold for meat to commercial buyers the grower can't get the sheepskin.) Your county extension agent may be able to help in this marketing area.

cleaning a Fleece: A spinner can take a clean fleece and spin it before washing—it's called spinning "in the grease." But some people prefer prewashing. And many fleeces aren't that clean.

About Lanolin. Any "raw" wool fleece has a greasy feel from the natural sweat and lanolin wax. The older the wool gets before it is spun, the stiffer the wax on it gets, and the harder it will be to spin. Once you have your wool cleaned, it will weigh 30-60 percent less than it did before, because of the weight of the grease removed. But don't try or expect to get out all the grease. Leaving some permits easy spinning and creates a desirable water-resistance in your finished product. Since wool for dyeing must first have all the grease washed out to enable the mordant chemicals to take hold, many spinners seek out naturally colored wools: not just white, but also the shades of brown, black, and gray. Natural wool with some of its oil left in retains its water-repellent qualities. So don't wash all of the lanolin out of the wool. However, wool that you're planning to dye does have to have almost all the lanolin washed out or the dye won't set. To make homemade lanolin, boil a batch of sheep wool, and drain the oil. The lanolin is the oil. If you handle newly sheared wool you get your hands loaded with lanolin. It's very soothing and healing to the skin. Degreased Wool. If you do remove all the grease in your cleaning process, or if you are working with purchased "scoured" (degreased) wool, you'll need to replace some oil. Sprinkle several drops of olive, mineral, or tanner's neat's-foot oil on your fibers, roll them up, and let them rest at least a quarter-hour before spinning. Cautions When Cleaning Wool. A problem with wool is its tendency to be damaged by harsh treatment. When cleaning it, never agitate it in the water. Never wring or twist it; it is all right to squeeze or press it. Always change temperatures gradually. Never immerse it in any strongly alkaline solution: no bleach, no "super-cleaners" (use mild soap, mild detergent, or washing soda). Don't use too much soap. If the water is too hot, the wool will shrink and wad up into little knots and you can't even card it. Wool isn't that different fresh from the sheep or in the sweater. Remember you've got 100 percent wool! Dry the wool in the shade, not in the sun. Or if you choose to dry in the sun, minimize its exposure to a few hours. Don't let the wind blow it away. Wool-Cleaning Steps

1. For this first step, you'll want to work with the wool over a newspaper outdoors. The fleece is probably dirty and has seeds and the like in it. Pull the strands gently apart and let that kind of thing simply fall out. While you're doing this you may want also to sort the wool somewhat. Any fleece contains more than 1 quality of wool. The shoulders and upper back tend to have the finest, softest strands.

2. Put wool in a tub or other container with warm water (95°F) and a very mild soap or detergent. Let it soak in warm water 10 minutes, drain, soak again, and drain again.

3. Add your cleaning agent to warm water, and make sure it is thoroughly dissolved before adding wool. Some people gently wash the wool, pulling it apart with their hands. Some just let the wool soak in this mixture another 10 minutes, drain, soak in fresh cleaning agent water again, and drain again.

4. Rinse twice using the same procedure as in step 2.

5. Dry by spreading the wool on paper or by hanging it in the shade.

6. At this stage you dye the wool, if you want to. Some dyes don't require a mordant (a dye fixative). All the lanolin must have been washed out if you use a mordant. You can mordant the wool before, during, or after dyeing. For further information on wool dyeing, see Growing Herbs and Plants for Dyeing (1982), and other books and magazine articles probably available in your local library.

7. An optional further cleaning and preparation step is working with the wool using cards.

Wool Preparation Steps

wool Carding: Wool cards are rectangular pieces of thin board with a simple handle on the back, or at the side. To this board is fastened a smaller rectangle of strong leather, set thick with slightly bent wire teeth, like a coarse brush or currycomb. In the early days, the leather back of the wool card was pierced with an awl by hand, the wire teeth cut off from a length of wire, slightly bent, and set one by one. The carder takes 1 card with her left hand and, resting it on her knees, draws a tuft of wool across it several times until a sufficient quantity of fiber has been caught upon the wire teeth. She then draws the second wool card across the first several times until the fibers are brushed parallel. Then by a motion, the wool is rolled or "carded" into small fleecy rolls, which are ready for spinning or to fill quilts. Making a Wool Quilt: Start with a layer of cheesecloth. Put the wool on the cheesecloth. It should be a VS-inch thick for a regular quilt, but for a thick comforter the wool layer can be 1, 2, or even 3 inches thick—or as thick as you wish. Put a layer of cheesecloth on top and coarsely stitch it into place with a pattern of diamonds or squares. This prevents the wool from shifting to the corner. The prepared layer can then be covered with cotton, sateen, outing flannel, satin, or whatever is desired. It can be tied with yarn or baby ribbon or coarsely stitched. The cover should be removable because you want to avoid washing the wool very much. I guarantee, if you keep the cover clean, the wool inside the cheesecloth won't get dirty in 25 years and will stay fluffy, light, and warm. felting: This fairly simple craft turns wool into wonderful hats, boots, rugs, clothing, etc. Check out Feltmaking by Inge Evers; Felt Craft and Felting by Hand by Sue Freeman; The Felting Book from Louet Sales, PO Box 267, Ogdens-burg, NY 13669; 613-925-4502; fax 613-925-1405; [email protected] louet.com; www.louet.com; and Feltmaking by Beverly Gordon.

NOTE: For tanning and dyeing information, see Chapter 8. Spinning and Weaving: "Spinning" means making yarn, cord, or rope by twisting small pieces of fiber (cotton, straw, wool, hemp, etc.) around each other enough so that they then stay together; by spinning you create a far longer, stronger fiber than what you started with. It takes only a few hours, or less, to learn to spin, though the yarn produced by a beginner may have some imperfections. It's easiest to start learning on a hand spindle and only then shift to using a spinning wheel (which tends, at first, to whip the yarn out of the apprentice's hands disconcertingly fast). Incidentally, a sheep that was in very poor health at some time during the year may give wool that can be broken and thus won't spin well.

A spinner is concerned with basically a 3-step process: drawing out fibers to be spun, twisting those fibers together, and arranging the already-twisted fibers. A wheel supplies the twist and may also arrange the spun yarn. I'm not going to tell you more than this of spinning or weaving because, first, I'm not personally knowledgeable; second, on this subject there is a wealth of information in your library already; and finally, this is very much a living craft, with groups of dedicated spinners and weavers to be found in almost any community.

Weaving is the next step, wherein you set up threads on a loom and weave them into cloth.

You'll learn fastest and easiest from friends rather than out of books. To locate such friends, ask at your local "needle nook," or look in your yellow pages directory under "spinning," "weaving," or "crafts" for leads, or visit your county fair home economics exhibit, find the handmade fabrics section, and sleuth out names and addresses to contact from there.

Suppliers in U.S.

Alden Amos wrote the Spinning Wheel Primer and The Book of Spinning. He makes custom spinning wheels and sells supplies: 209-223-3602; 1178 Upper Previtali Rd., Jackson, CA 95642.

Green Mountain Spinnery: 800-321-9665; 802-3874528; PO Box 568, Putney, VT 05346; [email protected] sover.net; www.spinnery.com.

Harrisville Designs charges $10 for their catalog, credited if you order: 800-338-9415; Box 806, Harrisville, NH 03450.

Louet Co.: Contact in the U.S. at 613-925-4502; fax 802387-4841; 808 Commerce Park Dr., Ogdensburg, NY 13669. Their Canadian address is 3425 Hands Rd., Prescott, Ontario K0E 1T0, CANADA; [email protected] com; www.louet.com.

(The) Unicorn is the U.S.'s largest mail-order distributor of books on basketry, beadwork, crochet, dyeing, knitting, needlepoint, tatting, weaving, spinning, etc.: 800289-9276; 1338 Ross St., Petaluma, CA 94954. Their 11 x 17 in., 75-pg Unicorn Textile Book Catalog is $3 and worth it.

Vermont Dept. of Agriculture lists fleeces, tools, patterns, etc., direct from Vermont homestead producers, online in the "Vermont Fiber Producers Directory" at www. vermontfiberworks.org.

Webs: America's Yarn Store offers a $2 weaving/spinning/knitting catalog. Contact: PO Box 147, Northampton, MA 01061-0147; 413-584-2225; fax 413-584-1603; [email protected]; www.yarn.com.

Woodland Woolworks: Free catalogs: "Knitology" and "Spinology." Good prices on spinning wheels, books, etc. PO Box 850, Carlton, OR 97111; 800-547-3725; [email protected] com.

Yarn Barn sells supplies for weaving, spinning (spinning wheels, looms, books, etc.): 800-468-0035; 930 Massachusetts, Lawrence, KS 66044; [email protected] grapevine.net; www.yarnbarn-ks.com.

Suppliers Outside of U.S.

Ashford Wheels and Looms offers a full range of fibercraft equipment. There will be an Ashford dealer near you. Their factory/showroom is at 415 West St., PO Box 474, Ashburton, NEW ZEALAND; phone 64-3-3089087; fax 64-3-308-8664; [email protected]; www.ashford.co.nz. "Send for our FREE Wheel & Loom magazine." They also offer instructional books and videos.

Louet Sales Co.: 3425 Hands Rd., Prescott, Ontario KOE 1T0, CANADA; [email protected]; www.louet.com.

Pat Green Carders manufactures quality drumcarders and wool pickers. "Sales are primarily to the U.S. The price list is in U.S. dollars with no tax, duty, or shipping charge. Free brochure." 604-858-6020; 877-898-2273; 48793 Chilliwack Lake Rd., Chilliwack, BC V4Z 1A6, CANADA.

Treenway Crafts sells spinning fibers and weaving, knitting and stitching yarns, especially silk! 250-653-2345; fax 250-653-2347; 888-383-7455; 501 Musgrave Rd, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 1V5, CANADA; [email protected] treenwaysilks.com; www.treenwaysilks.com. More Fiber Info

Magazines: Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot is an award-winning quarterly for members of the Handweavers Guild of

America. Join for $35/yr: 770-495-7702; Two Executive Concourse, Ste. 201, 3327 Duluth Hwy., Duluth, GA 30096; www.weavespindye.org. Interweave Press publishes SpinOff, a quarterly magazine devoted to spinning ($24/yr); and Handwoven ($27/yr, 5 issues): 800-272-2193; 970-669-7672; fax 970-667-8317; 201 E. Fourth St., Love-land, CO 80537; www.interweave.com. Fiberarts (5 is-sues/yr) is available from 800-284-3388; 828-236-9730, ext. 702; 67 Broadway, Asheville, NC 28801; www. fiberartsmagazine.com.

Books: Interweave Press also offers a free, fascinating spinning/weaving book catalog, including Spinning Wheel Primer, by Alden Amos; Hands-On Spinning and Linen: Hand Spinning and Weaving, by Patricia Baines. Paula Simmons wrote Turning Wool into a Cottage Industry (1991) for home spinners who also raise sheep; and Handspinner's Guide to Selling, Spinning and Weaving with Wool, etc. For spinning info, read Fleece in Your Hands, by Beverley Home; The Art and Technique of Handspinning, by Allen Fannin; and Hands-On Spinning, by Lee Raven. For weaving info, see Hands-On Weaving, by Barbara Liebler; The Key to Weaving, by Mary Black; and The Weaver's Book, by Harriet Tidball. Directories and Websites: Buy a directory of festivals, spinners, supplies, associations, processing mills, tanners, etc., from Buynne Tramutola, PO Box 216-A, Fountainville, PA 18923. The Organic Fiber Directory lists companies that handle organic cotton, flax, hemp, and wool: Organic Fiber Council, PO Box 547, Greenfield, MA 01302; [email protected] ota.com. An Australian website tracks online info on wool, including markets, technology, spinning/knitting, conferences, and discussion groups: www.dpie.gov.au/agfor/ wool_vl/whome.html. The Association of Northwest Weavers' Guilds maintains a website of fiber-related links at www.anwg.org/resources/links/index/html.

Continue reading here: Sheep Butchering

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