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):
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:
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:
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):
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:
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:
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:
- NO agitation; not even to squeeze the water out of the fiber between washes.
- Reduce the amount of soap used in each successive wash (1/4 cup 1st wash, 1/8 cup 2nd wash, none 3rd wash).
- 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)