Friday, August 13, 2010

Fermented Suint Fleece Washing - Part II

The two parts of the Jacob fleece I described in the last post are both dry. The one that just recieved a hot rinse with no regular washing smells very nice to me, a faint lanolin odor. The section of the fleece that was subsequently washed in the regular way (one hot soap soak and two rinses) has no odor at all. They feel different as well - the fermented, not washed one feels softer and more "alive" for want of a better way to describe it; whereas the one that was given a conventional wash feels harsher and dryer, although the handle of the fleece is still reasonably nice. They card up about the same based on the two ounces of each batch that I have done so far. At this point, I like this method of non-washing; what I still want to do is spin up the samples I have carded and try this method with a fleece that is higher in grease. I also still want to track down and read the original article in which it was described.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fermented Suint Fleece Washing Part I

I have been hearing about this method of fleece washing on various lists and blogs. There is also an article about it published that I have not yet looked up, although I have read many blog postings. Comments on the method have ranged from it being a smelly, disfunctional disaster to having some potential. The appeal for me is that it seems passive, relatively easy, has the potential to save water (and hence energy) and spare the washing machine the worst of the mess of cleaning a fleece. The fleece I selected for this venture is an expendable one - from Pixie, the one coarse Jacob from Gary's flock. This fleece is well-skirted and relatively free of vegetable matter, moderate in grease and not too dirty. Having read rather graphic descriptions about the mess and smell of handling a wet fermented fleece. I stuffed the fleece into a large washbag so I wouldn't have to handle it quite so much once it was removed from the bath. I filled an old plastic tub (that had once contained goat feed supplement) half full of rainwater from the cistern system, dumped in the fleece, covered it with a screen and then covered the screen with an old board. It stayed covered for 9 days, during which outside daytime highs were in the 90s. When I opened it I was pleased to find no evidence of mosquitos, mold and only a slight odor. The water was quite filthy with visible scum and tiny bubbles (see the accompanying photograph). When I lifted the bag out, a wave of stench arose that caused me to re-name this the fermented sewer method. I hung the bag and let it drain (outside) and then dumped the fleece out of the wash bag into a laundry basket. The bag stayed outside and the fleece went into the house for a short (20 min) hot water soak and subsequent spin in the washer to remove the excess water. The resultant fleece looks fairly clean and best of all has only a slight sheepy odor that is not unpleasant. Half this fleece is now drying and my plan just go ahead and see how it feels and works up once dry. The rest will go through a normal, but hopefully ligher wash and drying out, so that I can compare the two batches.