Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Raw mohair up to my armpits part 1

Okay, so I decided it's time for a fiber related post. Long overdue. I got some (well, a TON) of raw mohair, llama, and wool from a local farmer recently. What can I say? I love fiber! During the scouring process, I sort of wondered what the heck I was thinking. How on earth was I going to process all this? This fiber was really really raw (which was disclosed to me prior to sale so I'm not griping!). Had I just bitten off more than I could chew? How much of this fiber would I be able to process into something useable for my purposes? So, I took a deep breath and decided to take a few samples of some of the fiber that was already dry to process. Turns out, it's really nice once it's combed. So, for all you fiber fanatics or fiber beginners who might have scored some really really raw unskirted and not coated fiber, here's my tutorial on how to make it work so you don't throw it out as a loss.

Step 1:
Take a deep breath and get organized! You can do this!! First off, you must skirt the fiber. I like spreading out in my driveway to do this. Trust me, you have to do it outside. It's going to be messy. Go up and down the fleece removing large bits of bugs, vm, and possible matted areas. Set your trash to the side. Grab the fleece and shake it out very well to get more vm and dust out. This may need to be done more than once depending on your fleece. Put all your "keeper" fleece in a clean bag and take a big long break. You earned it.

Step 2:
Okay, get yourself a plastic storage bin. I use a medium size one, a long handled spoon, and some liquid detergent. I recommend dawn. You might also want to have a mesh sink drain insert handy. Place your bin in your tub and fill with the water all the way on hot. Be careful not to touch in order to avoid burns. You might want to wear a pair of heavy duty dishwashing gloves to protect your hands. Fill your bin about halfway full and shut off the water. Squirt some dawn in and gently swirl it around with your spoon being careful not to create suds. Gently place your dirty fiber in the bin and use the spoon to dunk the fiber under the water. Be careful not stir in order avoid felting. Now, leave the fiber alone until the water is cool to the touch. This will take much longer than you think.

Step 3:
Once the water is cool to the touch, secure your mesh sink strainer around your tub drain (just in case) transfer your wet fiber to an empty plastic bin and dump the filthy water out in the tub. I recommend the sink strainer to protect your drain. You should also wear crappy clothes because you're definitely going to get messy. I personally use a handheld shower head to rinse my tub after each water dump to make clean up easier.

Step 4:
Fill your empty bin again with hot water but this time, do not add the detergent. Simply place your wet fiber gently in the bin and again allow to cool to touch for draining. This step should be repeated until your water is basically clear. If you still have some vm bits in the fleece, do not fear. We will handle that later.

Step 5:
You have a few options here. You can use your spin cycle to help drain water from your wet fleece or you gently press the water out of your fleece to aid in drying. A word of caution, if you have a very fine fleece (like merino) which is prone to felting, you may want to err on the side of caution and skip this step. It will take longer to dry for sure but that's better than accidentally felting your fleece. Find an area (in the sun if you can!) to spread out your fleece on a large sheet or even on old clean cardboard boxes to dry.

I'll follow up with a tutorial on processing that raw scoured fiber using a flick carder and hand combs on my next post. Above are some pics of my really raw fleece drying after scouring.


mrspao said...

I put vinegar in my rinse water to help with the sheepy smell. I can sympathise at a distance as I just scoured a load recently. It hasn't been sunny enough to do the last load though - but I'm quite glad about that.

Anonymous said...

Word of advice on has a coating called YOKE a waxy kind of stuff that if you let the water cool will redistribute onto the fiber and what a mess it can be. The Yolk protects the fiber and so it is worth the work ( learned all this the hard way). Trust me... you think the VM will be impossible to get out with Mohair but once it is dry it falls out pretty easily. Save big money! Buy 2 dog brushes one for getting out snarls in long coats and a slicker. Once you pull the locks out of the fleece (which are valuable as santa beards and doll hair). Use the dog brushes on any icky locks, keep the locks in tip end direction and you will have a spinners dream. the Mohair that is combed out (short pieces will spin nicely as well but not as perfectly)
HOT WATER THE WHOLE TIME! 150 degrees 125 will do in a pinch but you will get "Yokey" parts in your mohair
Hope M