Friday, February 15, 2008

Washing Garments, Yarns, and Fibers

I am asked over and over, How do you wash wool garments? When do you wash your spinning fiber? What should I do to wash the wool? There are several good answers to this. Wash wool in a mild detergent, with no chlorine bleach, in comfortable water, with absolutely no agitation. The other answer is to fill your washer with water to the desired depth, add a little detergent, with no chlorine bleach, toss in the wool, let it soak, spin it out and repeat. Those are the easy answers.

Now for the harder part: What kind of detergent? This depends on your budget. There are a lot of good wool washing products on the market and some are scented with lovely herbals to repel moths. You can also use your regular laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent or my favorite the same shampoo you use on your hair! When using either laundry detergent or dishwashing detergent, make sure by reading the label that it contains absolutely no chlorine bleach. There are a few brands out now that do contain bleach and this weakens and destroys animal fibers. The chlorine in your water is not strong enough by itself to do much damage. It would be far better to use non-chlorinated water, but most of us have no choice in that matter. Your hair shampoo is made to be mild to animal fibers. After all, isn’t your hair an animal fiber? It works very well to clean any type of animal fiber, wool, alpaca, vicuna, camel, llama, dog, cat, human, mohair, angora, anything that grows a long enough fiber that can be spun.

I use water of a very comfortable temperature. If you can put your hands in it comfortably it won’t shock the fiber. To heck with the idea of cold water. That hurts my hands, so I expect it will hurt the fibers as will hot water except in a few instances. Baby bath water is just such a lovely temperature. Add a cap full or about a teaspoon of shampoo or detergent to the water, swirl it around a bit to blend well. Toss the fiber or garment on top and let it soak for about fifteen minutes. This will remove most of the dirt without removing the spinning oils or the natural oils such as lanolin. Squeeze out most of the water. Remove the fiber or garment to a towel or another bowl. Empty the dirty soapy water. If needed repeat this washing as many times as needed until the water is no longer dirty.

Rinse with comfortable, baby bath, water the same way. Never run water over a fiber garment. This has a tendency to felt the thing. Rinse as many times as needed to get all the shampoo or detergent out of the fibers. Final rinse, use your hair conditioner. It is made to control the static. Put a capful or about a teaspoon of conditioner in the water as it is running into the bowl. Swish it around a bit to blend so there are no clumps of conditioner. Squeeze the water from the garment or fibers.

When you have squeezed as much water as possible without actually wringing the fibers, roll the fibers in a large Turkish bath towel. Now you can wring the towel with the fibers safely encased in it. Do this about twice using a dry towel for each roll up.

Spread unspun fibers out on a nylon screen to dry. Hang yarn, colors in the shade, to dry. Spread garments out on the back guest bed on a plastic table cloth covered with a couple of Turkish towels. Stretch the garments to match the drawings you made of them before washing. Turn these over daily until dry.

Store all animal fiber garments, yarns, and fibers with aromatic herbs and/or cedar chips. Do not let the cedar chips touch directly the fibers. The fibers will absorb the oil in the chips and probably get discolored. For aromatic herbs, I like lavender, cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and sage leaves. Most work as long as they are strong smelling and you like the smell of them. Moths don’t like them. NEVER store a dirty garment, yarn or fibers. They attract the nastiest of critters.

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