Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I've been washing fleece.  No, I have not had my flock sheared yet.  I'll wait until the end of May to do that again this year.  As much as I used to be a staunch believer in shearing before  lambing, I am most definitely a convert to the "wait longer and you'll get a nicer fleece that comes off much easier" camp.  For years, I was convinced that  having lambs would destroy the fleece and it would be so dirty that one could never get it clean.  The reality is, I've found it to be just the opposite.  By waiting until  the end of May to have the flock sheared, they have all been off of hay for a month.  Which means that all (well, at least many) of those bits of chafe have worked their way out of the fleece.  They've also been rained on (and then shook the water off) which certainly helps to clean the fleece!  Only  the wool directly under the ewe's external genitalia,  does  get dirtier from lambing. I clean that us with a bucket of soapy water.  I know my girls well enough that I have no problem telling who is getting close to lambing.    Anyway!  I was saying that I've been washing fleece.  LAST year's fleece!  And in the case of one, white fleece:  2009's fleece!  I know.  Isn't it terrible?    I found a big, plastic bag (with holes punched in it for air circulation) in my basement, the other day.  I looked inside and there was a big, white ~ or what had at one time been a white ~ fleece in it.  The entire cut side of the fleece was a deep, dark, yellowish gold.  Lanolin.  Yuck.  This was Flash Flood's 2009 fleece.  It had been a gorgeous fleece.  Now it looks ruined.  I know from past experience that no amount of hot water and detergent is going to remove that yellow crud.  I wish I had taken a picture of it so that you could see how the who fleece was discolored...

But, I didn't.  I did, however, decide to try another method of cleaning the fleece.  I filled a Rubbermaid tub with cold  water, in my back yard, and put the fleece into it:

Then,  I remembered my camera!  The water instantly turned a dark golden brown.  It was like the yellow stuff was just sucked out of the fleece.

I let the fleece soak for an hour or two.

Then I put the hose into one corner of the tub, under the fleece and let more cold water trickle slowly into the tub.  I didn't want to let the fleece soak in that dark water for TOO long!

After about a half-hour of the rinse water trickling into the tub, most of the dirty water had run out.  Flash's Fleece was white again!

And I didn't use a drop of hot water or detergent!  I'll probably do one wash with detergent & hot water, just to make sure all the dirt is out but I am absolutely amazed and thrilled at what a wonderful  job cold water soaking did on this fleece!

I now have one, lovely, "fawn" fleece (Chance's) drying on my skirting table in the backyard:

I love the soft, fluffy, silvery taupe color of fawn fleece!  It's a good thing too because I have plenty of them!

I also have more fleece soaking in buckets:

This is from Hunter!  How long ago did I sell him??? 

I've also got two more buckets of fleece soaking in cold water, in the back yard, one in the washer and several more bags of nasty stuff to go...

DREAM says...

"How come I look so green in this picture, Mom?"

I'm sorry Dreamer.  You were standing in the door to the barn and the light was behind you.   I know that my camera tends to give things a slightly yellow tint and I guess I overcompensated, trying to correct it.   I'll try to do better this afternoon...


  1. I suppose that cold water is nature's way so it's bound to be best? The fleece would naturally only get rain. I think your fleece came up really really well and will look wonderful when it's dry.
    I saw a short film of a ten year old sheep in the hills of Scotland. The sheep had a very very thick fleece because it had never been shorn - reason - no one could catch it! and it looked extremely heavy and cumbersome and matted.

  2. Wow- that is amazing that it became that white again.

    I too am opting to wait until after lambing to shear. I actually don't have much choice..finding a shearer to do my small flock is challenging and the guy that did it last year wants to wait till he is in the area to do mine. Can't say I blame him- but I'm at his mercy. I hope all goes well when my girls start lambing- they are getting very close. Any suggestions?? I haven't crotched them either. Not even sure I would know how.

  3. I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who still has fleeces from last year. Yours look great! :)

  4. I don't crutch my girls, as a rule. Most are friendly enough that I can pick off the loose fleece along the inside of their thighs ~ but my girls aren't due until mid-to-late April. I don't know if it will be loose on your girls, Kathy. If not, or if they won't let you pull their wool (I also like to 'massage' their bellies and touch their udders) I wouldn't worry about it. I've yet to have a lamb that had any trouble finding the milk supply, no matter how long the fleece! And you'll get such pretty Mom & Lamb pictures afterwards!

  5. I guess there are others out there who find it hard to just discard a fleece because it is long past the time when it came off of a sheep. I, too, have fleeces from long ago that need to be washed.

  6. I'm amazed that cold water released the lanolin from the fleece. Why do you think this happen?
    It's great that you will be able to save any of the fleeces that are in that condition because the wool is so beautiful. You certainly wouldn't want to throw them away if you can clean them this easily.

  7. I'm not really sure why the cold water works better than hot for releasing lanolin unless it's because I'm on a well so my water is, essentially, like rainwater. But that doesn't make sense because my hot water comes from the same well ~ it just goes through the water heater! Beats me, but I'm glad that it works!


    Heading out to sit with my sheep, wash some more fleeces and take lots of pictures!

  8. My Mama the Genious!! Good work :) No wonder you've been so "silent" lately, you've been busy! I can't wait to see the results.

    Ps -awww, hunter fleece!

  9. Neat! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Marilyn10:53 PM

    I am going to try this on some of my "saved" fleeces. Glad to know I am not the only one who has fleeces with some age to them.
    I never thought it was a good idea to shear before lambing. Didn't do much cruching either. Did trim the backsides rather than wash.
    Lambs alays seemed to figure things out.

  11. Very interesting! I would have never guessed that would work like it did. I have several white merino/dorset fleeces that are a few years old. I might try that on them to see what happens. They are pretty greasy to start with though..

  12. If anyone reads new comments, I just wanted to let you know, my Mom hasn't foresaken her blog, or her friends! She had a nasty accident and will have surgery on her arm on Monday. Hopefully she'll be healed up quickly, but please keep her in your thoughts, she's a hurting lady right now.

  13. sorry about the accident. hope mom recovers quickly.

    Tammi: you may need to soak your fleeces for up to 48 hours to get all the 'stuff' out. just change the water when you want or let it just sit. either way will not hurt the fleece.

    ps: I wash individual fleeces for spinning for some ladies in my neck of the woods and that's how I do the first cleaning: a good soak!

  14. Nancy,
    My prayers are with you. What a hard thing to have happen, here at spring time, no less. Take care,

  15. Anonymous7:58 PM


    Beautiful white Flash Flood Fleece! Amazing! May you recover well from your surgery. Saying prayers for you and your Drs. I posted to your blog yesterday but must've forgotten the last step--it's not here. Not surprised, as ditzy as I've been lately getting the house ready to sell. See my e-mail, too.


  16. Great job on saving that fleece...Sorry to hear you are hurting especially with all that work waiting for you, I know being a motivated woman that is just got to be driving you nuts...BUT don't let it...Your job right now is to get well again...the world keeps spinning without us...or at least so they say *wink*
    Blessings and prayers coming your way.

  17. You're putting me to shame Nancy! I still have all of my fleeces from last year and MUST get them washed ready for woolfest in June! Well done :o)



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