I'd hoped to get all the remaining fleece washed this summer, but that didn't happen. If I get on a roll and have a good run of hot weather, I can get two done in one week. I selected the Babydoll Southdown (Rosy). I'm saving the remaining romney, the mohair and alpaca for a special project and will do them all at during the same period.
I wash them in the machine. So far, I haven't worried about keeping the locks intact as I regarded this as a learning experience. If I ever start spinning more expensive fleeces or fleeces where I want to keep the locks intact, I'll have to revisit this method.
Once I get ready to wash a fleece, I'll pick and sort it. Rosy was picked and sorted by the seller, who is a spinner, so she was ready to be washed. When I bought my first fleece, the shepherdess from whom I bought it, told me this was how she washed hers.
I fill the machine with hot water and a 1/4 cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid. Then I add the fleece.
Close the lid and turn the machine OFF. This is the most important step. Hot water + fleece + agitation = felt! I let it sit overnight. At this point I also secure an old stocking to the hose.
Ready to Soak
The next morning, I set the machine to spin and let the water drain. The spin cycle is centrifugal not agitation, so no worry about felting.
Water from Wash
Fill the machine again with hot water, TURN IT OFF, and let it sit for about 4 hours. Run through spin cycle. Look at the water.
1st Rinse Water - Better
Repeat the rinse process again. Normally I only do two rinses, but this one needed three.
2nd rinse - better still
3rd rinse water - YES!!
After the rinse water is clear, I take it out to deck where I dry them. I have a set of old sheets that I keep specifically for this purpose. I spread one sheet on the deck itself, spread the fleece and cover it with the second sheet to protect it from the birds and to keep it from blowing away. If it's windy I weigh the ends down with rocks from the garden.
All covered up!
With days in excess of 90 degrees, most fleeces will dry in a day. Today it's not going to get that hot so I'll set it out again tomorrow. After the fleece is thoroughly dry, I put them away until I'm ready to work with them. Old pillow cases are excellent storage, although I also use the bags comforters come in when you buy them.
Then I clean the machine. I forgot to take a pic of the tub after I removed the fleece, but think of a dirty bathtub. Fill the machine with hot water and 2 cups of bleach. Let it sit for a couple hours. This probably isn't necessary but since I want to scrub the machine by hand, this gives the water time to cool. I take an old wash cloth and just wash the insides of the machine, then run the machine through its regular cycle and a second rinse. I also scrub the utility sink. Probably also not necessary but if anyone sees it, they think I'm an excellent housekeeper, Not!
Clean sink. Stain is probably from dye.
I have a top loading machine, I don't know if this will work with a front loading machine. I think this is the third year I've done this and I haven't had a problem so far. We're on public water, no well or septic. Although I forgot a pic, there's rarely enough fleece in the stocking to cause a problem, I do it as a precaution. The fleece dries so soft and it retains the sheepy aroma that I enjoy. I don't get rid of a lot of VM, but since I'm picking and carding it anyway, I get most of it then. If we get a stray shower, no problem, I just let it dry. One other thing, the aroma of wet sheep does tend to permeate the house, so I keep the door to the laundry shut. I don't mind the smell but Harold does. I also warn any visitors.
The one drawback is that it has allowed me to have a stash. If I did it by hand, I'd probably buy and do one at a time. As it is, since I have so much, I'm not buying any more anytime soon. Right now I'm carding and hope to get a couple carded before it gets too cold to do it on the deck. Then it's on to spinning.
I think that's it. Post any questions in the comments and I'll answer them in another post.