Black Sheep Gathering 2011

We took off down south today to pay a visit to the annual Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, OR. Oh my was it lovely! It was the largest fiber festival/gathering I’ve ever been to. There was a large range of goats and sheep in pens and I really appreciated the opportunity to finally see some of the breeds I’ve been reading about in person. However. I must say that I like the roving for sale at Vermont’s Sheep and Wool festival better. That being said, we went to the fleece sale and I was blown away with the sheer number of fleeces mounding up on tables (I even… gasp… bought one! More on that later…). For now, here are some of the handsome devils we gazed at today…

And now it must surely be time to contemplate the fleece I mentioned earlier. After much mulling, hemming and hawing over the bags and bags of wonderful fleeces I finally picked a very nice white Romney fleece from Ramifications (oh yes, I know, isn’t it great?!). At nine dollars a pound, it’s really quite wonderful wool.

And wouldn’t you believe that I ran right home and washed it ALL in the tub?! But of course I did. This is the first time in two years that I’ve had access to a bathtub to do my wooly washing craziness in (as opposed to a kitchen sink) and I can’t believe how much easier it is to do it all in one go instead of teeny batches.

First, I filled up a bath tub with water that is good and hot… so hot that I could only just stand to put my hands in it. Then I added about 1/8-1/4 cup concentrated Dawn dish detergent and swish that all around. Last, carefully add your 8.39 lb fleece to the sudsy bath and gently push all the fibers under water.

I let it sit until the water was warm. Now, the tricky part was getting all the wool out of the way while I emptied the tub and refill with clean water. I used an old laundry hamper on top of a step stool. That allowed me to fish out the wool into the basket, let the water drain from the wool as it waited and kept everything neat and tidy while I was refilling the tub.

This fleece is the cleanest fleece I have ever worked with and the water was still really grubby after the first rinse.

But you can see how much cleaner everything is already!

Repeat the scalding hot water + dish detergent again (and again and again if you’re working with a truly filthy fleece) until the water is clear when you lift the wool out. I only had to do two really soapy washes, one slightly soapy wash and one clear rinse before I was pretty satisfied about the level of cleanliness.

Once the wool/water is satisfactorily clean, fill the bath tub 1/2 way with warm water. I keep all my clean, slightly soapy wool in the bin and take a handful of wool at a time. I gently submerge the handful of wool in the water to rinse the soap out, gently squeeze the wool to get most of the moisture out and place it in a bin next to the tub. Repeat until the dry bin is full…

And lay all the wool to dry in the sun!

So nice and clean…

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