Raw wool! What a gorgeous, smelly material. My friends in PA set me up with some two weeks ago and I've been madly researching the cleaning process ever since. Last week my mom and I donned our rubber gloves and began the process of washing the wool.
There are approximately four steps that you must take to process raw wool before you start spinning it into thread:
- Skirting (picking out the large pieces of dirt and "VM" - vegetable matter)
- Teasing (removing the rest of the VM - there are other ways of doing this, but teasing is the cheapest)
- Carding (fluffing the wool out and aligning the fibers so it can be spun and there are no weak areas)
I skirted the wool with the help of my parents last week, so it was ready for washing when we tackled it on Friday. Here are my supplies; washing bin (large tupperware), draining basket (laundry basket) rubber gloves, dish detergent, mesh bag filled with raw wool (laundry bag), and thermometer (not shown):
The first step is to fill the washing bin with really hot water (about 160 degrees F), which we did by filling pots with hot tap water, and boiling some water on the stove to mix with it.
Next, you add the detergent until the water either turns cloudy, turns the color of the detergent, or feels slippery to the touch. Our water was distinctly green after I finished adding the detergent. We added the bag of wool, letting it slowly sink into the soapy water because too much agitation in the hot water will make the wool felt together.
As soon as the wool hits the soapy water, the lanolin starts coming out of it. I really didn't expect that, but it was so cool and disgusting to watch it actually move out of the bag and into the water.
We drained and rinsed the bag a few times, washing it with cooler and cooler water each time.
And finally, we drained the wool and set it out to dry in the sun.
So now it's dry, and a lot whiter. And it smells like Palmolive. Which I don't actually like very much, but hopefully that will go away, or else I will use a different detergent next time.
And now the next step is to tease it. Hee hee.