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.


  1. Hi,
    Interesting to see your form of washing in this manner. I a a beginning spinner and am washing wool from a fleece given to me but doing a small amount and using hot water in the kitchen sink with dishwashing detergent, soak for about 20 minutes, then rinse, drain then same process drain then spin in washing machine, then back to sink to hot water and added "Eucalan" a no rinse commercial product to take out the smell. It worked great and the wool came out clean and still contained some natural lanolin. I will take this wool to my second spinning class tonight to learn to "ply" with Barbara Gentry of "Stony Mountain Fibers".
    I am coming to SAFF in Oct. Look forward to seeing your booth there in Oct. Love your Cashmere Goats! Will you have some of their fiber for sale?
    Paige McGhee

  2. Thank you for the informative post. Do you then just "pick" the fleece apart before carding? I saw a "picker" tool on YouTube but cannot find one for sale.

    I plan on having some sheep in a couple of years (if not sooner) so I will be in need of ways to process their wool efficiently.

    Take care and happy spinning!!!!

  3. I see ur full blog and I just wanna say, u r a gem.

    I am a studant of phd & working on arsenic in INDIA.
    Will u please give me ur email adress ?
    If yes then send mail on

    Gud Buy & take care.