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June 08, 2008



Do you think the lanolin coagulated?


I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that looks like dandruff. It represents a time of stress for the animal and the spot where the dandruff is can be weak and break during spinning. It is also very difficult to get out of the fleece. Most of the time it will not wash out at all but it can drift out during carding. I would pull on both ends of the fleece and see if is breaks at the point where the dandruff is. If it does you'll need to decide if the lock is still long enough to card and spin.

I usually go through all the lock and just cut them with scissors at the weak spots, otherwise you can get neps during carding from the short pieces. I had a lovely fleece with dandruff that I ended up having to toss, it was just too much work.

I'm no expert, but I have had this happen to me and got a lot of good advice from members of my guild. Hopefully someone else will answer and prove me wrong and then you won't have so much work ahead of you *smile*

Good luck!


I'm not sure but could it be the lanolin, especially since you said it smeared.



I'm inclined to agree that it could be a form of dandruff, or scurf, as a result of the sheep having mange. I had a fleece with a similar lot of white spotty stuff, and it wouldn't wash out, nor did it just drop out as I spun. I had to physically pick them out - very laborious and not too pleasant. I ended up discarding the rest of the fleece. Not good.


yeah.. not good news. looks like dandruff from the animal. It is extremely sticky and hard to get out. Often I have foudn that if I overdye the fleece, it will fall out when spun, since it is heavier and picks up the dye.


I believe that is scurf. My understanding is that you cannot get it out. If it's a free fleece, and you don't have your heart set on processing and spinning it, I'd just toss it. I don't know about you, but my leisure time is too limited to spend time on a fleece with such a defect.

Lorraine Smith

If you comb it, does that stuff stay behind and just give you nice smooth fibre? If so, I would carry on. Combing is an amazing process that really can work wonders. It might mean you have more waste than otherwise (since those fibres full of the icky stuff will get trapped in the waste) but if it's between tossing the whole thing and tossing some of it, it could be worth a try.

Definitely do not give up spinning! Book keeping has its pitfalls too I'm sure ;-)

Deborah Robson

My first thought was scurf or dandruff, but I'm not sure.

Because it's a fine fleece, I wouldn't give up on it without a test-wash using hotter water and a more assertive cleansing agent.

Run water in from your tap, then up the temperature with hotter stuff from a teakettle. You don't want scalding water, but you do want it at "Hmmm, it might be more comfortable if I were wearing rubber gloves, but *maybe* this is okay" temperature (it's not cheating to put on the rubber gloves).

And try something like Dawn dishwashing detergent (I use the standard blue stuff that's been around longest).

Do this with a few locks--choose some that have the worst problem. Do be sure not to agitate, and let the wool soak for 15 minutes or so in each wash (two?), but *don't* let the water temperature cool off much at any stage of washing or rinsing.

See what you get. It *might* be a miracle.

All of the suggestions about breaks and the like are good checks in any case.

Abby Franquemont

I second everything Deb just said.


Well first off, I'm glad it's not bugs/moths. I stored the fleece in my trunk throughout the entire Winter just in case (if freezing really works...not sure if it does).

Second of all, you have some of the most knowledgeable spinning readers I've ever come across.

Third...you know I have no problem if you throw it out...I would have done the same if you hadn't taken it.

Finally...truly sorry if this has become an albatross.


Are the white things all the same size?
(I assume they're sticky since they smear.)
Someone told me she once had what she called "sticky dandruff" but was told that it was bug eggs; strong shampoo removed them.

Or it might be shampoo that did its job but somehow didn't get rinsed out.


good advice. i'd go with the scurf. you can tell if it's lanolin by doing another wash. i would do less than 15 mins, OR use a thermometer and ensure the temp of the water doesn't go less than 180-190ish--not sure of the exact temp where the lanolin would re-adhere to the fiber). if the water stays really hot and the stuff disappears, it may be lanolin.

i had a fleece that had dandruff in it, i threw it out. i spent way too much time trying to clean it manually. ugh..

i do have about 11 pounds of cormo or polwarth (mostly likely cormo) pure white roving if you want some. really. email me. xo chris


I third Abby and Deb. The fact that it "smears" would tell me to try way hotter water before giving up.


I fifth Stephanie, VTKnitBoy, Deborah and Abby! Cormo can be some greasy stuff. It is not one of the easier breeds to clean and process. Cut yourself some slack on this one. Most home hot water heaters are not hot enough, so you have to do the teakettle supplement. Be careful not to burn your hands.

Sigh, this is why I am a processed fiber kind of guy. Raw fleece? Maybe when I'm 67. ;-)

Don't start with this "I am going to give up spinning" crap. You are way too good at it. No turning back now. ;-)

Barb B.

Thirding or fourthing what everyone has said, and adding this.
Do you have a crockpot? They are wonderful for a job like this. I shove the locks in there, carefully measure in one or two darn good squirts of Dawn (if it works on oil covered ducks, I say use it on wool!)and top up with water. I turn it on "low" and once its hot, leave it for an hour or so. You don't have to worry about the temp. falling, too hot etc etc.

I had some beautiful Icelandic with the "dandruff" scurf or whatever. To me, it had a yellowy tinge. And once the other dirt etc had been washed out, and I gave it a good sniff, it had that smell like that kid who used to sit in front of you in school and didn't bath enough...that dirty kind of hair smell? I tossed it.
You are saying white....I'd try the simmer in a crockpot thing.
And your black Finn roving will be coming to you one of these days (seriously, as soon as Sheila gets 10 minutes free) so you don't need no stinkin' cormo if it IS dandruff.


Looks like scurf. Use something other than hair shampoo to wash the fiber. Human hair shampoo is not formulated to handle the loads of lanolin found in Merino or Cormo fleeces. Hot, hot water and Orvus paste. Or hot, hot water and a laundry detergent like All free or any other laundry detergent that doesn't have perfume, added bleach, baking soda, or fabric softener in it.


If it scurfy dandruffy stuff, I've had people recommend trying to wash it with some alcohol. But I wouldn't try this until after you've tried hotter water and a stronger cleaner.


Note that the alcohol is for the fleece, not for you.

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