Good fleece-washing weather, OK?

What do you do on a warm and sunny Bank Holiday weekend? You start the day by getting up to your elbows in sheep muck, that’s what.

And there are some of my friends who think I’m mad.

Last year I acquired my first fleeces, and I’ve been on a very steep learning curve. One of the things which I hope I’ve learned is that no amount of work will improve a rubbish fleece; sometimes you just have to give up and put it in the compost bin / leave some out for the birds / use it to line hanging baskets.

Another thing I’ve learned is not to put fleece in the washing machine.*

And that’s why I spent the recent glut of public holidays hauling wet fleece around the garden. One of the fleeces I’ve been preparing was left over from last year’s shearing (and had travelled all of three miles), but it’s still beautiful. It’s a Blue-faced Leicester / Texel cross. The other was the lurrvly Manx Loaghtan that I bought at Wonderwool.

Weather good. Time to go.

Put dust sheet down on the picnic table, haul first bag out of shed, heave enormous fleece out of bag, attempt to do so in organised way. Not possible in wind. Fleece ends up on lawn.

Assemble fleece again. Fleece now difficult to sort; fortunately generally good and not too hairy (or full of grass). Fleece not quite as well skirted as had thought at first glance, so contains more semi-dried poo than had expected. Ergh. Retrieve rubber glove from fleece, replace hand in glove. Get muck bucket. Get skirting.

Divide fleece into workable quantities and realise this means at least two loads. Put one load aside. Find trugs (whole process improved enormously since purchase of large plastic trugs). Fill first trug with hot water and some green Fairy Liquid; Ecover just doesn’t cut it.

Return to picnic bench and remove next door’s cat from fleece. Place fleece in trug and submerge. Resist urge to add next door’s cat. Remove gloves, make coffee. Drink coffee. Gloves back on. Fill second trug with hot water, haul wet fleece out of revolting manky water, allow said water to drain back into first trug. Put fleece in second trug.

Empty first trug into drain using buckets as trug too heavy to lift without creating interestingly vile waterfall effect (don’t ask me how I know). Put lovely clean water in first trug. Finish coffee. Haul fleece out of second trug, drain, put into first trug. Make more coffee, then drain fleece and transfer to empty bucket. Get drying doobery-whatsit from house, leaving great wet footprints everywhere.

Spread out second dustsheet, place clean(er) fleece on it, gather up ends. Whirl dustsheet around head, spinning like unusual whirling dervish and allowing excess water to spray out everywhere. Fall over next door’s cat. Retrieve fleece from hedge / lawn / tree. Suspend drying-hanging thingy from tree, spread fleece out on it.

Get gin.

And so on, and so on – but I got there in the end. And I have some lovely fleece, fleece that will be a complete delight to work with (plus the cat still lives). This is the BFL/Texel, with a delightful sheen and fabulous colour:

and this is the Loaghtan, which is incredibly soft:


(There is another fleece lurking in the shed  – but I’m waiting for less windy weather to sort that one out. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.)

*Washing machine not as mad as it sounds. Some fleeces can stand it, but I find my machine strips out too much lanolin and leaves fleece too dry. I may revise my position on this one, or cat-proof the garden and wash fleece in full wet-weather gear.


8 thoughts on “Good fleece-washing weather, OK?

    1. kate Post author

      How can I put this? No! 😉

      I hate fleece washing, though it’s less painful than it used to be. It would be even less painful if certain cats hadn’t developed a wool fetish.

  1. Knitsister

    I have always know that you don’t mind getting stuck in…but this sounds very hard work to me. Not surprised you needed the Gin!!! 😉 but clearly all worth it, as fleeces look fab now and can’t wait to see what it looks like when spun.

    PS: I am back on-line – hurrah!!

    1. kate Post author

      I keep telling myself it’s worth it (through gritted teeth, mostly), and I do think it is… But I need a fortnight in the Caribbean to recover. Two down, one (at least) to go…

  2. Harriet

    Bloody hell! What a performance! I’m suprised you waited that long before the first gin!
    Still trying to get a handle on the hackle. Need to sit and study and learn.
    You put me to shame living as I do surrounded by sheeps and yet visiting my LYS (only recenty worked out what that acronym stood for !) for knitting supplies. I need more hours in the day!

    1. kate Post author

      Was very tempted to substitute gin for coffee, may well do so next time!

      Using local wool has another unanticipated effect, too (apart from making me turn to gin). I take my wheel to craft fairs, etc., and the fact that I use local wool is what a lot of people focus on, especially the children. They can’t quite believe it comes from sheep they might have passed on the way to school… makes them realise there’s more to sheep than cute lambs and Sunday lunch.

    1. kate Post author

      I think I must have a masochistic streak… but you’re right, it is worth it (and it is unique). I shall try repeating this to myself when I tackle the remaining fleece!


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