Merino is by far one of the loveliest fibres to work with. It is fine, soft and has a consistent crimp that gives it some bounce. It is also prone to felting – some may think this is a good thing, but it is a caution when you buy raw wool and need to wash it.
Here’s a wee tutorial about how to wash Merino. First you separate it into finger width locks and stack them in a tray. Please note: the yellow bar is NOT BUTTER, it is a bar of Sunlight soap.
Cover your work area with a good towel. Fill three bowls/buckets halfway with the hottest tap water you have, then fill them the rest of the way with boiling water. Yes, boiling water. The heat is what is going to melt the lanolin from the locks.
Look at how dirty these locks are. You won’t believe how clean they will turn out. Just watch.
Here’s how you do it. You grab the first lock by the tip end (that’s the pointy and dirtiest end) and dip the butt end half into the hot water of bucket one. Then place the lock over the Sunlight soap and rub it up really good, add a bit of water to help get the suds action. It won’t felt at this stage because the soap is in the way. Then grab the soapy butt end of the lock and dip the tip end into the hot water of bucket one. Place this half on the soap and again rub up a storm to get the dirt and lanolin out.
Then grab one end and dip it into bucket two, swirling it gently to rinse it. Lift it out gently and turn it around and dip the other end into bucket two. That’s the first rinse.
Do the same thing in bucket three, dipping both ends, one at a time, into the rinse water. Then take the lock, gently place it on a towel, fold an end of the towel over the lock and gently press the water out. Lay it on a tray to dry. It will look like a flattened mouse, but in a short while, as it dries, it puffs up.
You can do about 10 locks at a time before the water gets too cool and too dirty to have an effect. So pace yourself. It may seem outrageously laborious, but Merino is so fine, a little bit of cleaned fibre goes a very long way.
And here below I am getting ready to spin. More later on tips for spinning Merino.