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Wash, Rinse, Repeat

posted Feb 22, 2010, 4:38 PM by Mary Powell   [ updated Feb 22, 2010, 4:49 PM ]
Second, fill a large container with very hot water, about one gallon for every eight ounces. Lanolin doesn't fully melt under about 130* so the water must be hotter than that. Here, I must admit I cheated. I couldn't get any volunteers to haul and heat forty gallons of water over a wood fire, and doing so by myself had not been a success in the past. I washed the wool in my bathtub at home. If anyone is extremely disappointed in me, I will be glad to let them haul and heat the water while I wash the wool.
There is a great deal of lanolin and other "stuff" in the wool, so a great deal of soap is needed. In the past, everything from urine to yucca root to soap has been used to emulsify the grease and lift it off the wool. I used a liquid soap, about three cups per fleece. Add the soap to the water, and mix gently.
Slowly add the skirted fleece to the water, pushing it down gently. Do not stir, swish, squeeze, or agitate. Once all the wool is in the water, just let it soak for an hour. Modern folk often contain the fleece in a mesh bag to make the next few steps easier, just don't pack the wool in tightly, give it room.
After about an hour, lift the wool carefully out of the water, drain the dirty water, and refill. Gently return the wool to the clean water, let soak, drain, and repeat until the water stays clean. In this case, it took about four rinses. It was a long day.
Once the wool is clean, it must be dry before it can be spun. Wool holds a lot of water, so I rolled in in towels, then transported it to Fort Boonesborough. I spread it out in my cabin floor to dry. It took about four days to dry completely, but it was a rainy week.
This is two of the three fleeces:

And close up: