Fair warning, if you're having your morning coffee while reading this post, or if you have a delicate constitution, you might want to stop now. There are feces below.
I've been buying some wool fleeces lately. Most are "raw" meaning they're straight off the sheep and aren't washed. Some of the fleeces have been "skirted" which means that the really dirty stuff from near the tail and belly area (if you know what I mean) have already been pulled out. Sheep, as you may know, live outside and tend to get dirty. They also eat hay which gets stuck in their wool, as well as grass and other "vegetable matter". It's normal, and expected that when you purchase these fleeces that you'll need to do some washing and picking.
Some more than others.
I've learned a lot in the past few weeks. I think I was lulled into a false sense of security when I processed my first fleece. I had watched it be sheared off the sheep and while a bit dirty, it cleaned up easily and had minimal vegetable matter. It wasn't skirted but there wasn't really any "recycled food" to deal with.
Then I ordered this fleece that was, in all fairness, described as dirty and taggy. (meaning it had some poop on it)
And it changed things for me. Some poop...maybe a bit more poop than I had anticipated. I had stupidly pulled out about a pound's worth and soaked it in the tub rather than outside like I would normally do. When I poured off the first soak, this was my tub.
That's a lot of dirt for not a lot of wool.
Also... that'll learn me.
And... it ruined afternoon coffee for me.
Lastly... I pulled out the bleach after this.
I've realized that these descriptors are highly subjective. While some fleeces are totally in line with what I feel constitutes "some" vegetable matter or "some dirt", some are vastly different.
Some fleeces are so jam-packed with vegetable matter that I think they must have dragged the sheep around behind the tractor for a few miles in the field before shearing them.
My point is not to complain, so much, (though that is what I'm doing, right?) but to share the experience with those of you that haven't had the pleasure of cleaning a fleece. Think of this when you purchase pretty roving or yarn from someone who processes their own fleeces. It takes work to get from here...
A lot of smelly, dirty work.
I no longer wonder why that pretty wool roving is so expensive, do you?
Hats off to all you fleece-cleaners out there.