Margaret’s Fleece

19 July 2014

Over Memorial Day weekend I went to Wooster, Ohio for the Great Lakes  Fiber Show.  They have many wool fleeces, many Border Leicesters.  I like Border Leicester fleece to spin for my backstrap weaving; long and strong.  Nice luster too. While I was there I bought a fleece for Ximena so that she didn’t have to bring raw fleece with her from Chile.  After the judging, I found this very nice  fine fleece that was only 5 pounds.  All I know about the fleece is that I liked it (fine, dense, lots of crimp, NO vm and white or near white), the judge liked it too and the card inside the bag said Margaret. It does not look at all like a Border Leicester fleece!   I assume it was a ewe.   When we started the Yarn to Fleece workshop we inspected the fleece again.Margret's fleece As you can see there is NO, and I mean NO vm.  The tips are all the same length and blunt so we think that the fleece was coated.  The tips are dirty and it has a fair amount of grease.  It has very nice crimp too, sorry it is not so visible in the photograph. What do we have to do to this fleece to get it ready to spin?   First we tried  soaking it in some hot, boiling, water for about 10 min., 1g fleece in 100ml water.  Then we tried more water (1g:250ml water), everything else the same. For the third trial we added some ORVUS Paste to the water before adding the fleece.  We got the best cleaning action when there was enough water for the fleece to open up as it enters the hot water.


I bring the water to a boil, turn off the flame and add the fleece piece by piece so that it has a chance to open up.  Cover and let stand for 10 min.

You can see how brown the water turned.  The fleece is removed and the dirty water spun out.  Dump out the water while it is still hot, so the grease doesn’t coagulate.  There is lots of dirt and grit in the bottom of the pot.

No soap or detergent and no moving the fleece in the bath = no felting!

Fine fleeces felt easily.

Here are the samples.       margret's washing samples The one on the left did not open and still has dirt in the tips. The next two are fine.  We were going to dye most of this fleece the fleece after this, which is another hot water bath and will remove more grease and dirt.

Here is a before and after picture:

Marget's comparison

You never know until you wash a fleece what color it is.  This one is white, not cream like a lot of wool.  White gives brighter colors when you dye it.  Dyes are transparent and allow you to see the fleece color through the dye color.

The fleece does still have some grease, I like that.  I prefer a bit of grease when I am spinning.  I don’t like dry fleeces.  The remaining grease  washes out of the yarn easily.  You may have different preferences and you can adjust your washing process to get the amount of grease you like for spinning.

I tested some of the washed fleece to see how much preparation I liked for spinning. Here are four 2-ply skeins all spun with the same set up and wheel: bottom to top

  1. spun from the lock
  2. hand carded a little
  3. drum carded, one pass
  4. drum carded, 3 passes

Margeret's spun samples

All skeins have been washed in hot water with ORVUS Paste to sett the twist and bloom the yarn.  The one skein that was carded 3 times on the drum carder was grey before washing but is nice and white now.  The other 3 yarns are more textural with only slight differences.

If I were going to do a project with this fleece and did not want a textured yarn I think I would card it 4 times,  3 passes was not quite enough.


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