|Beautiful Cormo crimp.|
In early February, I tried picking some of the fiber. I found that all the bits of grass and dirt just stuck to the fiber. In fact, the fiber felt greasy still, and kind of sticky itself. I tried carding and spinning up a tiny bit, and it was pretty frustrating. Carding wasn't too bad, but didn't get rid of the foreign material. Spinning was hard because the fibers were sticking together. I decided that if this was "spinning in the grease" it is not for me.
|Washing the sample. See how dirty it still is?|
|Washed sample looks cleaner, but is uneven because of the stickiness, and still has particulate matter in it.|
I decided to read up some more on washing fleece, and a little more on cormo in particular. What I found is that cormo, along with some other fine fleeces, is really greasy. Also, it is best to wash the grease out right away; if you don't, it can get old and "sticky".
So, I knew I was in for another wash job, but didn't know for sure what to try next. There are so many opinions and styles of washing fleece, and I was so afraid of ruining my fleece by felting it up. I decided to do some experimenting on small portions before I washed my whole fleece again.
|The raw fleece before any washing. It didn't look quite this dirty in person.|
|First washing in a mesh bag.|
For all samples, the initial wash (well, this is really the second, as the whole fleece was washed in dish soap in October) was in 140 degree water. This was reported a few places as best for Cormo fleeces and their greasiness. I let each soak long enough to cool some, drained it, then added the hottest water that came out of the tap as rinse water (except for Sample 6). I ended up rinsing 4 times. I varied the samples as follows:
Sample 1: Dish Detergent (Dawn Pure Essentials)
Sample 2: Shampoo (Herbal Essences)
Sample 3: Laundry Detergent (All Free Clear)
Sample 4: Laundry Detergent + Baking Soda
Sample 6: Laundry Detergent + Cold Water Shock
Sample 1: Dish Detergent
This fleece is so much better after an additional washing, it is hard to criticize. There was still quite a bit of vegetable matter, but it mostly shook free in the picking. The fleece is much fluffier, and felt clean, not greasy. The fleece combed ok, but had little dense areas (almost neps). The vegetable matter that still remained didn't fall out in the combing, and was still hard to pick out. When I spun this little bit, I was disappointed that the fiber didn't spin out smooth. There were little bumps and neps that made an even draw difficult.
|Dish Detergent Sample after drying|
|Dish Detergent Sample after carding|
Sample 2: Shampoo
Picking this bit of fleece right after the one washed in dish detergent, it was clear that it was softer and smoother. It didn't feel greasy in any way, just softer to the touch (like conditioned hair would). It picked easily and released a lot more grit. Combing went well, and the fleece was cleaner than the bit I washed in dish detergent. It spun more easily than the first sample, but still had a bit of grit and tiny neps of fiber.
|Shampoo Sample after drying|
|Shampoo Sample after carding|
Sample 3: Laundry Detergent
The first benefit to the laundry detergent is that it doesn't suds up like dish detergent. The sample felt about the same as the shampoo sample to the touch--soft and smooth. As I picked though, there was a big difference. This sample came apart much more easily as I picked. It is my clear favorite so far. The locks seemed to fall apart and fluff up, dropping remaining grit and dirt as I went. Combing was a dream: easy, with no sign of neps, just an even beautiful batt. It spun up smoothly too.
|Laundry Detergent Sample after drying|
|Laundry Detergent Sample after carding|
Sample 4: Laundry Detergent with Baking Soda
I didn't notice an appreciable difference when adding the baking soda. I expected the fleece to look or feel a little cleaner, but it didn't. I think it feels a little less soft, and was a bit harder to pick than the sample washed in laundry detergent alone. It felt pretty much like the dish detergent sample. When combing, it was a little stiffer than the sample without the soda. Spinning was not quite as smooth as without the soda.
|Laundry Detergent and Soda after drying|
|Laundry Detergent and Soda after carding|
Sample 5: Laundry Detergent with active washing and agitation
I've been so careful about all of my washing because I'm so afraid of felting my fleece. I decided to treat this one sample roughly and see what happens. I actively swished this sample in the hot water many times, turned it, picked the tips apart, and rubbed any parts that looked dirty. I'm amazed by how good this sample looks in the end. There might be a couple little spots that are tighter looking. It was a little harder to pull apart in picking. When combing, the fiber stayed uneven longer, with areas that looked like neps, similar to the sample washed in dish detergent. My take-home from this is that at least with this fleece, I can do some gentle swishing of my fleece while washing and not worry at all.
|Sample with plenty of agitation (not much cleaner)|
|Agitated sample after carding (you can see it's still has debris)|
Sample 6: Laundry Detergent wash shocked with ice water
Everyone says not to shock your wool with cold water, as the scales will suddenly close up and cause felting. I decided to go all the way and went from the hot soak water to ice water dumped on the sample. I then repeated the hot wash and cold rinse. There is no striking amount of felting in this sample, though like with the agitation, I could tell in the picking that it was a tiny bit harder to pull apart. The combing went well, with the fiber just a little more resistant than my ideal sample washed in laundry detergent. The most interesting thing to me about this sample is how clean it is. It is noticeably whiter than all the other samples. It's hard to see why this would be true. Perhaps the cold water closed the scales on the fiber shafts and allowed the wool to rinse cleaner?
|Cold Shocked Sample after drying|
|Cold Shocked Sample after carding|
|The right-hand sample is the cold-water shocked one. Can you tell in the photo that it's whiter?|
You can tell in the final yarn that some of the samples were cleaner than others. It's hard to show in the picture which is which, but the cold shocked sample is the really white one on the right-hand side of the bobbin.
|Singles in order: 1-6 go sect to right.|
|You can see the samples that were easier to spin, and the one that's whiter.|
Laundry Detergent all the way!
I will always wash in laundry detergent in the future. I believe I will also try a 24-48 hour cold water soak as my first step, and hope that I get some of the benefits that I got in my cold water shocked sample. I also think I'll take a small sample and wash and agitate it before I wash the rest so that I know how worried I need to be about my treatment of the fleece.
I took these results and washed the entire fleece again, did several rinses and then dried it. This time, I let the fiber float freely in my sink, but I had the mesh bag floating below it, so I could pick it up to drain. After drying, I found the fleece STILL felt greasy, so I went through the whole process again. I think part of my problem was that I only used the hottest water the tap would produce, instead of heating the water to 140 deg F.
Now that the fleece is clean and I've done some picking, I really think that lots of my problem with neps is the fleece itself. It has little bits of short fiber (don't know if they'd qualify as second cuts, but probably), and I don't think I got the best part of the fleece. I also don't know if the neps and bumps in the carded fleece were caused by my inexperience with carders. At least it was an inexpensive investment for me to learn on!