Susie Benitez; ACRE Student: From Fleece to Yarn

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            Early one morning, Professor Trimpey and I started to wash our fleece. We started with half of the East Friesian ram fleece. There are five basic steps in washing a fleece: pre-soak, wash (with Dawn dishwashing liquid), rinse #1, rinse #2, and air dry. The water for the soaks/rinses has to be consistently around 140-160 degrees in order to break down the lanolin. Also, as Linda of “R Ewe Spinning” warned us, the temperature of the water can’t change drastically between steps because the wool might felt.

We lined up three large tubs in the parking lot, put on some gloves, and began heating the water for our rinses. Special thanks to Jeff Lieder and Gail Wolfenden-Steib of the Utah Shakespearian Festival because they allowed us to heat water using the large die vat. This really saved us a lot of time in the washing process because we could heat enough water to fill about two tubs to the temperature we needed in about a twenty minutes to a half hour.

We filled up the first tub for our pre-soak and put the fleece into it. We let it sit for about twenty minutes and you could already see the difference in the color of the fleece and the amount of dirt that was in the water. Professor Trimpey and I continued the washing process and let the fleece sit for about 20 minutes in the wash tub and the two rinses. By the last of the rinses, the water was practically clear which showed just how much cleaner the fleece was then when we started.

Professor Trimpey and I decided to come up with an easy way to dry all of the fleece that we had washed. We took a couple of the small garment bags that you use to wash delicates in the washing machine and filled them with clean fleece. We then took them and swung them around as fast as we could to force some of the water out. We also went to the hardware store and bought hardware cloth which resembles chicken wire or fencing. We tied the hardware cloth to a garment rack at one end with wire and carried it to my porch where we tied the other end of the hardware cloth to the porch. We spread out the clean fleece on our “drying contraption” and covered it with a “quilt” that we made out of cut up garment bags. We tied the “quilt” to the hardware cloth with twine to be sure that the fleece wouldn’t blow away. Professor Trimpey and I screwed hooks into the doorframe of the apartment and used those to tie the garment rack up so that the entire thing wouldn’t fall over. The whole contraption was rather elaborate, but it allowed the air to go through the drying fleece on all sides so that it would dry evenly and quickly.

While we waited for the fleece to dry, Professor Trimpey and I decided to explore Cedar City a bit. We drove up to the top of Cedar Mountain and went for a short hike to a lake. It was my first time hiking, so it took me a while to get used to it. The mountain was beautiful. You could look out for miles and look into the canyon. Professor Trimpey showed me what plants you could eat if you ever got stranded on the mountain. I also touched snow in the middle of the summer which was pretty cool.

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Comments

  • Sue Edelman  On July 13, 2013 at 4:29 am

    Susie, do you get to bring home a sample of all your hard work?? I would to see the finished product! Sue Edelman

  • Susie Benitez  On July 20, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I get to bring it all home actually. We will definitely have to get together so I can show you the yarn and fleece samples.
    -Susie

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