So there was this one day when my friend dropped off 6 large bags of raw baby doll sheep fleece… She had texted to see if I wanted it, and I told her “sure, why not?”. The
“why not” would be that my *side* yard would smell like a *barn* yard for a couple of weeks, and I wouldn’t figure that out until later.

First things first, I had to pick all of the debris out. Some were easier than others. This took a loooong time — even when I used my fiber picker. I also picked out the shorter pieces of fiber because there is no easy way to spin them. The coarse hairs also went by the wayside — nobody wants coarse yarn against their skin!

3 bins of mostly picked fleece. There was no easy way to get all of the vegetal matter completely out.

Somewhere during this time I realized that I did not have enough drying racks to process all of this fiber. I put the call out to my neighborhood “Buy Nothing” group to procure some wire mesh, and fortunately someone had some on hand. Scrap wood paired with wire mesh made some decent drying racks.

Drying racks squared away, I started the laborious process of washing the fiber. You have to get it REALLY HOT to wash away the lanolin. The cold water from the garden hose wasn’t cutting it, so I wound up running a hose from the kitchen sink to fill the buckets of fiber. These hung out for about half and hour before draining and rinsing. Each bucket needed at least two soaks before it was ready to go on the drying racks.

Lather, rinse, repeat… literally…

Each rack needed a couple of days to completely mostly dry out. Once the fiber was dry, the process of picking and fluffing began again in order to get the fiber ready for spinning.

Fast forward a couple weeks of spinning yarn, binge-watching Netflix, and leaving fluffy wool tumbleweeds in my living room. All in all I think I came away with 3 or 4 skeins before setting it.

Setting the yarn involves soaking the yarn, smacking it against something hard, then hanging to dry with a light weight at the end. I think I may have whacked it a bit too hard against the pavement while setting it because it wasn’t as silky smooth after it dried.

Only thwack the wet yarn skein against a smooth surface. Do not use pavement to set the yarn.

Porch before and after

I’m not sure that I ever want to do this again. It took forever and made such a huge mess. Yes, there are ways to wash fiber in washing machines. My front-loading washer is not optimal, and I may have been told that under no circumstances would I be allowed to clean a barnyard animal fleece in the same appliance where our kitchen towels are washed.

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