A few weeks ago one of the women in my knitting group got a hold of about 50 pounds of raw wool (as in, straight off the sheep). I suck at telling stories that aren't mine, so I'll spare you the details, but her husband thought she had somehow bought 50 pounds of pot...the cops came over and everything. She had to show them the giant bag of wool in her SUV for them to believe her.
ANYWAY. So she wanted to get everyone together to learn how to process raw wool. Now, this isn't something I'm really interested in per se, but I would like to be able to say I've done everything except shear the sheep (maybe someday I'll shear a sheep. Who knows.). So here's my portion of raw wool, inside the old pillowcase it came in:
Yeah, that's dirt and grass and a little poo in there. It smelled awful. Scott was especially disgusted, but to be fair, I had warned him that at some point there would be raw fleece in the house...
Anyway, so you put small bits into a lingerie bag and put it through a series of soaks with soapy water, plain water, and vinegar. Each soak takes about ten minutes, so we're talking about a full hour of soaking total.
After it's "clean" (I say "clean" because the dirt and poo all comes out, but the bits of grass don't), you can either let it dry or go on straight to dyeing it. I decided to dye it:
I then baked it at 200 degrees to set the dye, and then drained and rinsed it all. I didn't let the dye set long enough (I got tired and wanted to get to bed), so the blue didn't take all the way and came out a grayish blue. I like it, though, so even though it wasn't what I intended it's fine with me.
Then all I needed was to lay it out on a towel and let it air-dry for a few days. It would have dried faster, but we keep our house pretty well air-conditioned.
I had my indie-dyer friend "flick" (brush out all the veg, a.k.a. grass and such) and card it into little batts for me to spin. I could have done that myself, but she has the proper tools and it only took her a fraction of the time it would have taken me.
I'm thinking I need to spin this into one long color changing yarn, then make myself (or someone very special) a scarf from it.
Now I've done everything except shear the sheep. And I'm in no rush for that.