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October 30, 2007



It is not ruined all you have to do is tease it. Comb with a metal dog comb pull out the guard hairs and it will be just fine to spin from the lock.


It may be the way you are pulling. I have found that washed fleece teases better if you don't pull lenghtwise. IE instead of pulling on the tips and butts, pull a little on the front and back to open it up, then pull the tip or butt.
I personally seperate my tog and thel before I wash.


Oh my god. It looks like you did unspeakable things to a Yorkshire Terrier.

Alas, I have no words of wisdom to help you. I wouldn't know a thel if my tog fell over one.

So.... how 'bout I just say "I miss you."

Lorraine Smith

Congrats on just going for it! I agree with the teasing suggestions others have made--don't give up just yet. Also make sure the fleece is completely dry before trying to tease it open--any moisture can make it harder to pull apart. All is not lost. It's a beautiful fleece and you can still do stuff with it. Try teasing open a really loose cloud (say two locks' worth) and carding it with hand cards. This will combine tog and thel of course. See if you like what you can spin with that. Just thinking out loud.

Two more thoughts: Beth Abbott teaches Icelandic stuff (among several other key topics) at the OHS Spinning Certificate course. In case you were looking for other excuses to do the program. Also, why spin in the grease? To be on a Wool Challenge team, of course!!! ;-)


That was starting to read like a children's book. Entertaining for me, not so much for you.


I also agree that you will most likely be able to tease out the locks with a very small comb (like a dog brush?)
About the only thing I ever learned with washing fleeces is that the water temp must never vary more than 15 degrees, and that felting does occur if this happens. What it meant is that I would not let the fleece sit so long in the bath or the rinse, and eventually (at the last rinse or so) I would be rinsing in virtually cool water. it didn't seem to matter. It still got clean.
More gunk will come out when you wash it after it is spun - no worries, by then it is stable enough to give a wonderful wash to.
spin in the grease? oh my.. that is rather ick... and tends to ruin one's wheel.
Don't compost it.. if need be, you could send it off to a mill to be combed into batts.


Dear Ted,
yes, you managed to suck me into the spinning world, but I am very, very sure that I am not tempted to try what you are trying to do with that, ahem, stuff. I did, however, order some more roving from Carol that she lovingly dyed. And, even though our acquaintance is built on only two days of FFN, I do share her last mentioned sentiment.


An Icelandic saga, to be sure. Oh. My. God. I love you, Ted, because you do the things I wouldn't (and don't) have the balls to do. If it were me, that hairy thing would have taken its anointed place in the garbage. I know, that's sacrilege. But I have the patience of a gnat sometimes.

Comb away, dear one. Keep us posted. Having untangled a small blonde child's fairy-fine hair for many years, I think my combing days were over in 1982.


Well, Ted, you can knit beautiful lace and you write like an angel, so maybe it doesn't matter too much that you didn't manage to do this. Knowing nothing whatsoever about spinning or preparing fleeces, I can confidently assert that it is really a matter of deciding whether you faff about with it all winter or whether you should get it off your hands as fast as possible. Compost might be a good idea.


I think you have some expert spinners in your area no? A guild? Tap that resource and find out what can be improved for next time...i.e. sequence of adding soap (do you need to create all those bubbles?) temperature differential between wash and rinse.. impact of water ph in your area...addition of vinegar in rinse water...

Expertise is learned acquired through experience and lots of research..as you know.


I'd tease with fingers (or borrow a picker, if you can - but you might have some tearing), card lightly, and spin semi-worsted. I'm not crazy about combing a dual coated fleece. The top you pull off in this case will start with tog and end with thel, with much blending in between.

As for suds - that's why I use laundry detergent (the cheapest stuff w/no whiteners) and never use dishwashing detergent. Suds get trapped in the locks, and in subsequent washes, the fibers float *above* the water. It's not exactly an efficient way to wash wool, let me tell you. :)


While I can offer no help at all, I can comiserate with you. I will be posting a blog entry later this week with a somewhat similar quandry, except with Cormo instead of Icelandic.

In short, I "scoured" two batches of cormo and layed it out to dry, only to realize it's still no where near clean.

I will not be stopped however, since I need to get my money's worth from my new drum carder.


I bought an Icelandic fleece last year and since I was too ignorant to be worried, I washed it like I normally wash fleece and it came out fine. I had read that Icelandic fleece is low in lanolin, so I kept the water temperature lower than you did. Also, I find that less detergent is better--I use shampoo in small amounts and fill the sink slowly so that it doesn't get all sudsy.

I would hate for you to throw this one out, the color is magnificent. I use a small metal comb (from the drugstore) for combing out the locks. I seem to remember with my fleece I just took one end of the lock in each hand and gently pulled to separate the thel and the tog.

I'm not sure trying to blend your fleece through a drum carder at this point would work. But I think you could (with much patience) do lock-by-lock preparation. Slow but it is such a nice fleece I'd hate to see it go to waste. Good luck!


I concur, once it's thoroughly dry, try teasing it a bit and combing to separate the tog/thel. I believe combing is the traditional method for separating the two. Do you have a stationary comb, or can you rig one up? I'd lash it onto a stationary comb; you should end up with tog in your hand & thel on the comb. Then you can card the thel (or not).

I know you not as well as I'd like, but well enough to be sure you can get into the Zen of saving this lovely fleece. It will just take time, and there's nothing wrong with doing a lock or two at a time, and spinning as you go. I'm betting you'll get quite a bit of spinning from even a couple of locks of thel.

Oh, and are you sitting under your daylight lamp yet? Hmmm? (Hint: I've been using mine for at least 2-3 weeks, and I'm quite a bit south of you, as you know.)


I just finished washing a couple batches of MerinoX- very fine, very greasy, and very very prone to felting. It washed up nicely, with no mats, and here's what I did:

Place fleece in mesh lingerie bags, a single layer about 3" deep. Run a tub of hot water (I use dishwashing tubs because they fit my lingerie bags) and AFTER the tub is full, add a couple tablespoons of "soap" (Dawn liquid dish detergent, in my case). Stir it around with your hand or a spoon to distribute the detergent. DON'T froth it, because you don't want any foam. As you found out, it's almost impossible to rinse out foam. Just gently mix. Place 1-2 lingerie bags per dishwashing tub and gently push down. Walk away for 45-60 minutes. Tie yourself to a chair if need be, but don't poke at the bags while they're in the hot soapy water. After 45-60 minutes, lift out the bags, keeping them as flat as possible so the wool doesn't slide, and spin them out in the washing machine (I have a top loader, so this works well). Don't try to press out the excess water before spinning, just lift the bags into another container and carry the whole drippy mess to the washer and transfer the bags as gently as possible. Run a new tub of hot water, gently place the bags in, push down, and walk away for 45-60 minutes. Spin out, and repeat the rinse. You can add a glug of vinegar to the last rinse if you want. Spread out the now clean wool on a rack to dry, and don't mess with it until it's dry. I just dump the wool out of the bags onto the rack and leave it. Don't try to tease it or open the locks until it's completely dry.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but this method is easy (except for the "no poking" part) and works very well for me. A very greasy fleece may need two soapy soaks. The key points are adding the soap after the water so you don't get bubbles, and not moving the wool much when it's wet.

Good luck, and like the others have said, don't give up on this batch of wool!


Yeah - Sue posted what I was going to say.

It's very important to add the soap/shampoo etc after the tub is full of water.

another thing that I learned recently is that if the water is not hot enough, the wool will try to float (especially true for high lanolin wools).

If the water is hot enough, the wool will be sucked down into the water, instead of floating on top.

If all else fails and you are frustrated with this wool, try calling the guys at Wooly Knob fiber processing for help. I have asked them before about small batch processing and they were very encouraging. Plus they seem like cool guys doing cool stuff.


Barb B.

I feel for ya Ted. This whole saga is why you will be receiving your black Finn fleece in roving form...as soon as it comes back from the mill.
I quite like the tog and thel blended together as long as the fleece is from a younger animal with softer fleece.
(I finally have internet again, and can comment!)


Oh, Ted. I'm so sorry! (giving you a hug) It's just not fair, is it? We do the research, we read the Googled information, we talk to people, and those damn fleeces still won't do what they're supposed to do!

Do you have a hairdryer? You can dry some of the locks, and work with them, while waiting for the rest of the locks to dry. The fleece should be much easier to work with, once it's nice and dry.


I'd say your best bet is to call Professor Dumbledore and see what he can do. *grin* Or, just tease it out - but I'm really just copying that from the commenters above...


I tried to explain what I do with a pesky double coated fleece, but it became a monstrously long comment. So I grabbed a fleece and my cell phone camera and made a little demonstration. Here it is. http://flickr.com/photos/97078984@N00/1868811294/in/set-72157602924153798/
Sorry that the photo quality isn't the best, I didn't have batteries for the good camera. I tried to over simplify it to make it easier for anyone else who runs across it later, I'm sure that you don't need to be told that you can blend the coats etc.
Hope it helps.


I think you did a pretty good job with the ol' fleece washing and you have a lot of good advice in your comments, but here's my two bits. The only thing I can think to add is that when I was learning to wash fibre I was told to add the soap in after the water and gently swirl your hand around and to avoid making bubbles. You want bubbles when you felt you don't want bubbles when washing. Orvus paste does not produce a lot of bubbles but I frequently use dawn.
Another thing is the water temperature. You want the temperature to be consistent. You don't want to put hot watered fleece into a cool bath and vice versa.

Spinning Fishwife

To prevent all the suds, add the detergent/shampoo AFTER you've run the water into the container. Stir gently to mix, then add fleece.

Your washed fleece looks okay, actually, so don't despair yet. Have you got a flick carder or combs? You can tease matted locks out with them. Yup, you'll wreck a drum carder if you try to run matted fleece through it. Drum carders work best with open, flicked and free-running fibres.


Hm. Assuming you ever try to scour again here are some suggestions:

Use those mesh sweater bags to hold the fleece - they keep fiber under control very nicely. How much fleece? A low grease fleece can be stuffed quite full, a high grease like merino, far less per bag. A double coated one can be crammed, it keeps the wool from wiggling and ruining lock structure.

Use a very large pot of water, bring it to a full boil, turn it off then add 1/8 cup or so of Orvus or a bit less of dish detergent, not shampoo and the bag o' fiber. Let sit for about a half hour after gently poking the bag down. Ready a dishpan of fully hot dish water, lift the bag o' fleece out let drain until a finger's thickness of water is still coming out and dump it into the rinse. Your first two and perhaps three rinses are fully hot tap water, each time do not drain completely, you want the remaining water in there to cushion the fleece so it doesn't mat down.

When the rinse water turns merely cloudy instead of opaque start adding cool water to your rinses until it's still pretty hot but not scalding. With the bag underwater unzip, gently encourage the fiber to open up in the middle and get the dirty hotter center water out - with the fiber suspended in water it's less likely to felt. Felting danger is inversely proportional to the amount of dirt/grease/detergent in the water. If the fleece is prone to felting don't let the rinses drain completely before transferring to the next rinse, let the water cushion the fleece a bit.

When the water is clean, smash the bag o' fleece to get rid of a lot of water, dump the bag of fiber out on a towel, lay a second towel over it, roll and crush to remove the water. Lay the results out under a ceiling fan or under a table fan. Double coat? LET IT DRY COMPLETELY BEFORE FOOLING WITH IT. Pick up a finger's thickness lock by the butt, grab the very tip of the long guard hairs, ease them out; keep going until you see the guard hairs in your free hand and the soft fluff left in your other hand. Dump into appropriate containers, repeat until your fleece is seperated.

If you are paranoid about plumbing, pour your rinse water through a strainer down the drain - it will keep an apartment dweller from pouring too quickly and overwhelming the small vents in apartment plumbing to the detriment of the downstairs neighbor's home.

Pud Patterson

I am still in hysterics over your "engagement" with Islandic fleece. One has to have experienced what you went through to laugh that much! Love your way of sharing your humor AND your struggles. When I get a minute, I plan to return to this page, the comments, and see if I can learn something about my Lincoln fleece. I have a funny story about the five fleeces I moved to my "new" old home, stored in the attic, and a year later discovered case-making moths in the fleeces! I went into emergency over-drive! My neighbor asked me if I had had a fire since he thought all that stuff out on rracks and anything that would stand still in the front yard was wet insulation!!


Have a fleece combing party. Sort of like a 'help paint my house party' but not as tiring. The person that combs the most could get a prize.

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