Washing Hamlet’s Mohair

Last weekend, I washed the fiber I had just sheared (shorn?) from Hamlet. I spent a good deal of time beforehand reading as much as I could about the washing process – most of the literature is written for sheep fiber, but I assumed  it was pretty cross-applicable.

One of the major drawbacks of having used kitchen scissors is that the locks of fiber are mostly individual, rather than being tucked inside a large fleece of interconnected fibers. For this reason, I decided to put the mohair inside a sweater washing bag for the process. This is what I used (Tide should pay me for this):

Fiber Washing bag

I did the washing in my laundry room sink – very hot water and about 1/4 cup of  soap (I used Palmolive Free & Clear). You can see (between the bubbles) that the water started out VERY dirty:

First Washing

I let the fiber soak for 20 minutes at a time, then I’d drain the water squeeze out the excess water in the fiber, and refill with water & soap. By the 3rd washing, the water is looks much more clean:

Third Washing

The fourth and final washing I did without any soap – only hot water.  After I was finished, I squeezed out the extra water from the fiber bag and began spreading the locks of mohair on the tiers of a hand-washing dryer rack so that it would dry over several days (yes, I have a pink laundry room):

Drying rack

A close-up of the fiber after washing – It’s just kind of a wet mess…I think I may have partially felted it when I squeezed the water out of the fiber after each wash:

Wet fiber

After two full days of drying (with a fan in the room to help the process along), it looks much better; not nearly as felted as I feared:

Washed Mohair

This fiber is RIDICULOUSLY soft – I have the urge to rub it against my cheek every time I pick up a lock. I can’t wait to spin & knit it! I’m planning to find some raw sheep’s wool and some carders to blend them together at the Fiber Festival in Orange, VA in a couple weeks.  It’s REALLY hard to restrain myself from ordering some online before then…but I know I’ll be much happier with the selection of these items at the fiber festival.

In the course of this washing experiment, I’ve come up with a list of things I’d do differently next time:

  1. NO agitation; not even to squeeze the water out of the fiber between washes.
  2. Reduce the amount of soap used in each successive wash (1/4 cup 1st wash, 1/8 cup 2nd wash, none 3rd wash).
  3. Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the last washing (I read – after the fact – that this helps to neutralize the alkaline soap and get the fibers fully clean & residue free)

4 Responses to “Washing Hamlet’s Mohair”

  1. 1 Meghan 2009 September 21 at 12:55 pm

    Oh wow – how exciting! I can’t wait to see it spun up. Not only am I jealous of your fiber adventures – I am waaay jealous that you have a laundry room!! My washing machine (only – no drier) is in my tiny kitchen! Oh to be in the wide open spaces of America again 🙂

  2. 2 rosemary 2009 September 21 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks, Meghan! If I ever figure out what I’m doing, I’d love to send you some handspun 🙂

    I realize I’m totally lucky with this laundry room. It wasn’t here when we first moved into our apartment (which is built into the hay loft of an old barn), but I talked hubby into building one as an add-on because we had to go to his parents’ house to wash clothes (slightly embarrassing). It took him 2 yrs, but it’s been finished for about a year now and he did a fantastic job. I love being able to wash clothes without coordinating with his parents 🙂

    Wait, no dryer?! Can you line dry at your place?

  3. 3 Meghan 2009 September 21 at 3:30 pm

    I would love some Hamlet Angora one day! I promise to send you some alpaca once I’ve bought a farm… 🙂

    Love that you live in the converted barn! In the UK lots of people don’t have dryers. Scary, I know! We used to have a washing machine that also dried, but it died and we hardly ever used it. We use a drying rack… or the radiators. I suppose it’s one of those reasons why households in the UK have less of a carbon footprint than those in the US, but I really really miss being able to have wrinkle-free sheets, fluffy towels, and warm jeans right out of the drier (especially fluffy towels!!).

    • 4 rosemary 2009 September 21 at 4:07 pm

      Wow, I had no idea it was common not to have a dryer! You’re right, it’s not a wonder the US uses so much more energy. I can’t wait to have a house with a yard (and no home owners’ assoc) so I can go back to line drying…doing it on the farm would be a dusty, gross mess.

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rambleonrosemary [at] gmail [dot] com

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